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How to Make Popovers: A Traditional American Recipe
Let me guess. It's homework time, you've had a long day and your son or daughter pulls out a crumpled paper informing you that tomorrow (yes, tomorrow), your child needs to bring in a food that celebrates their heritage to share with the class. The trouble is, your heritage consists of a hundred years, or more, of American life.
In the melting pot known as America, ancestral recipes sometimes get lost. Although those who have been here only a generation or two may still remember the foods of their homelands, some of us have been here quite a bit longer. In fact, there are families who have been here right from the beginning, sailing over with the Mayflower and plodding through the western states in a covered wagon. Some might be able to trace their ancestral roots to another country, like Italy or England. Others discover that their native country doesn't actually exist anymore, and they would have to know the city or township of their origins to even begin a country report.
It's a lot of work for a little kid; most of which ends up done by mom. And what did our ancestors eat? It wasn't the pizza we pick up from the local pizzeria. Many families have been a part of America for long enough for american food to become their own, personal ancestral food. That doesn't mean golden arches and flat boxes of greasy pizza. Just because your child doesn't have any green carded relatives to talk to about 'heritage' foods doesn't mean they should get off the research and cooking hook. They still need to complete their homework. Well, you're in luck. I bet you and the pioneers have something in common...an empty cupboard. Which is where popovers come in.
What's With the Rice Flour?
Although our ancestors probably didn't seek out gluten free flours, our family requires a gluten free lifestyle. Since I learned that pioneer women often made do with whatever flour they had handy, from whichever grain was readily available and already milled, I adapted the original recipe to use gluten free flours. I found that an even mixture of sweet rice flour and brown rice flour works really well for a tasty popover.
If you don't need to be gluten free, replace the rice flours with 1 cup of all purpose flour, sifted. For a richer popover, you can also replace the water with milk or milk substitute. My family is also casein free, so we use water. It's not as rich, but I've had no complaints.
The History of the Popover
Popovers are a very basic muffin descended from Yorkshire puddings. They are a puffed up, hollow pastry that can be made savory or sweet depending on your cupboard's contents, your mood and what it is you need them for! They can be simple or complicated. While you can find restaurants that serve up fancy versions that turn the humble popover into something you should never attempt at home, at it's heart, the version your ancestors made is something you can approach tonight. In your own home. Assuming you have flour and eggs of course.
The popover was first referenced in a letter dated 1850. The first printed recipe appeared in Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving by Mary Foote Henderson in 1876. Undoubtedly, this simple recipe was developed and handed down long before it was immortalized by printing presses. Once upon a time, when families had to grow their own food and spent hours toiling in the hot sun, there wasn't a lot of time for consulting cookbooks for recipes. Ratios were memorized and women (yes, usually it was women who did the cooking. These popovers were developed in an era before women's lib) would quickly convert recipes by doubling, tripling, or quadrupling them to account for the neighborhood help or lack thereof.
While specialty stores may sell popover pans, don't let the lack of any special bakeware stop you. Ancestral kitchens were stocked with basic needs, and your great great grandmother made do with the materials she had on hand. The original recipe for popovers is 1:1:1. This is the recipe handed down to me, and it has just one slight variation. We find that for those pesky, I mean, exciting heritage potlucks a mini muffin pan is the ideal baking tool; letting the kids each have just a small taste. Of course, big kids will like the ability to just pop a mouthful at a time. The recipe is easily doubled, encourage your child to do the math. It's also easy enough for a child to do almost all on their own, an adult should always supervise oven use.
|Serving size: 3 mini popovers|
|Calories from Fat||9|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 1 g||2%|
|Carbohydrates 9 g||3%|
|Protein 2 g||4%|
|Cholesterol 27 mg||9%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
- 1 cup water, *Note: You can use milk or milk substitute if you prefer.
- 1-2 tsp seasonings of choice, For a sweet dish, use cinnamon and nutmeg or allspice. For something savory, try italian seasoning.
- A few TBS oil or butter, You need just enough to coat the pan
- Preheat oven to 350* Use oil or butter to grease a mini muffin pan or a popover pan. Make sure it's well greased.
- Sift flours together. You can do this the old fashioned way with a flour sifter, or you can just shake up the container to loosen the floor, gently scoop out a half cup of each and put them together in a small bowl. Use a fork to stir. This will mix them together as if they were sifted. Shaking up the container before measuring helps to keep the flours from being too packed.
- Crack two eggs into a bowl. Add water. Beat eggs until the mixture is nice and frothy.
- Slowly stir in the flour mixture until well blended. It's okay if it's a little lumpy, but it should be mostly even.
- Season to taste. You can add a sprinkle of cheese and some italian seasonings for a savory popover, or a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice for a more sweet tasting popover. You can also add up to a teaspoon of brown sugar if you have a really sweet tooth.
- Fill each muffin cavity 1/2 to 3/4 of the way. A mini muffin tin takes a scant 2 TBS of batter per cup and makes around 3 dozen popovers.
- Pop into the oven for 20 minutes. The popovers will expand and 'pop' a bit over the top of the muffin tin. If you are using a regular muffin tin, they may deflate again. They'll still taste great.
- Remove from oven and quickly run a knife around the edge of each popover, then invert the pan. If they cool in the pan, they tend to stick.
- Serve warm with a bit of butter or margarine. Sweet popovers can be served with jam or honey. Savory popovers can be served with your favorite pizza sauce or a full flavored oil for dipping.