Charley pops with pride over his popovers
Today's guest food columnist is Charles Memminger, who has his own column three days a week, but has exhibited enough culinary fanaticism to be invited into this space.
Charley has long held an obsession I never knew about -- popovers. He even went Neiman Marcus' Mariposa restaurant for a lesson from the chef. That was three years ago.
Then a couple weeks ago came this e-mail: "I think I finally have figured out all the moving parts to successfully getting the things to 'pop' and not turn into dough baseballs." He attached photos of big, beautiful popover globes to prove it.
The two secrets, Charley freely reveals, are using high-protein flour and preheating the popover pan.
Secret No. 2 is easy -- put pan in oven until really hot before adding batter. Secret No. 1 involves reading labels. He found that most of the flour at his local grocery store had 3 grams of protein per quarter cup, but one had 5 grams. He also found a gluten flour with 23 grams of protein, used to add elasticity to regular flour. Adding 2 tablespoons of the gluten flour to his recipe did make for slightly taller popovers, so that option's there for those who really care about optimum pop.
Another thing: Use real butter and whole milk. "Whenever I have substituted with fat-free milk or margarine, the buggers no like pop."
Popovers are tricky little things, sensitive to room temperature, humidity, drafts, oven type and more. If conditions aren't perfect, they won't pop. Or they may explode.
In 1998, when Mariposa opened and started drawing a popover following, then-chef Doug Lum's gave me his recipe (http://archives.starbulletin.com/98/11/04/features/request.html), although he cautioned that it probably wouldn't work at home without adjustments.
He said it took five weeks and dozens of tries to perfect the Mariposa formula, and at one point he was throwing out trash cans full of failures.
Here's Charley's recipe, which works with electric ovens and Hawaii's humidity. And it doesn't have any baking soda, so that's not a mistake.
1-1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter (not margarine)
1-1/4 cups flour with at least 5 grams protein
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put popover pan in oven to heat.
Beat eggs, milk and butter with rotary beater or wire whisk (make sure melted butter isn't hot or it will cook eggs).
Sift flour and salt into egg mixture and whip until batter is smooth (don't overbeat).
Remove popover pan from oven and coat with cooking oil spray. Fill cups two-thirds full with batter. (Wipe away any drops or spills.) Bake 50 minutes. (Don't peek for at least 40 minutes. If they haven't "popped" by then, something went terribly wrong. But you now have some baseballs for a pickup game with friends.)
Dump popovers out of the cups as soon as they are done. Eat immediately.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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