And sometimes, unexpectedly, they rise gloriously, and when they do, popovers are sublime.
How to achieve the perfect popover? I'm convinced it has more to do with gremlins than science. Although the concept is simple -- flour, eggs, milk, butter, and salt -- the execution has a lot of variables. Must the ingredients be at room temperature? Do you mix the batter vigorously, or treat it tenderly as if it were muffins or biscuits? Do you let the batter rest? Do you pre-heat the pan? Change the temperature mid-bake? And what sort of pan do you use: a deep popover pan, a regular muffin tin, or (as I used above) a tin sized for jumbo muffins?
Recently and with great reluctance I further increased the variables by revising the popover to conform to a low-cholesterol and low-saturated fat diet (the reasons for which are tragic but boring). So, no egg yolks and no butter. I feared total, dismal failure.
Check it out. They popped! And the taste and texture were great. Sure, they're a little less eggy, and someone with taste buds more perceptive than mine would call out the missing butter. But for me, they're divine.
Cross Your Fingers and Squint Popovers (to make them pop)
3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups half-percent milk
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I have not yet tried whole-wheat, but I will.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon zero-trans-fat butter substitute, melted (I used Smart Balance)
Whisk together the egg whites and milk. Stir in the flour and salt, then the melted non-butter. Let the bowl sit on top the stove while the oven pre-heats to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (If your stove is like mine, it has a warm spot, good for bread dough and popover batter.) Pour batter into a greased 6-hole jumbo muffin tin and put in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake 25 minutes or until they're browning and smell good. Remove from pan and eat immediately with maple syrup or jam, burning your fingers and mouth but enjoying every single bite.