Popovers are a transformative food, I think. If you're having a bad day, a popover is a warm, eggy yet bread-y piece of goodness that comforts me. How can you not smile when you crack one open the golden crispy exterior to discover the buttery-yellow tender and warm inside?
I grew up eating popovers on special occasions - Christmas, maybe Easter or another family meal. We would make our own raspberry butter to go along with it. It was also a real fun and special back-to-school treat when my mom would take me and my sisters to The Zodiac at the Neiman Marcus shop at the Westchester Mall. With the complimentary chicken consomme to start the meal, the waiter would bring out the LARGEST perfect popovers with raspberry butter. I still aspire to re-create that puff!
Now, in my family, I've taken over the popover role. I seem to have pretty good luck with these tricky buggers! The trick I have found most helpful is to preheat the popover mold so it's hot when I put the batter in. Oh, and don't open the door. For that matter, don't jump, slam things, or hop. You can sneeze, though.
So popovers have a couple of basic ingredients - eggs, flour, salt, milk, butter. I use the traditional recipe from Joy of Cooking, but when my sister recently returned from Morocco, she wanted to try whole wheat popovers.
My reaction - wait, WHAT?! I worried that whole wheat flour would be too heavy to puff. So, I decided to play around and discovered a foolproof combination. Take whole wheat pastry flour (it's as light as whole wheat flour can get), throw in a teaspoon of salt and sift together. Then, in a bowl, beat four whole eggs (this is going to give the popovers their structure. I usually use less, and some butter for flavor and tenderness, when I use normal flour, but these guys will need a boost). Add a cup of milk (I used whole - I'm tempted to see what would happen if I added some cream to give it some tenderness). Mix, add the sifted flour, and stir with a whisk to combine. I ladled the batter into hot, pre-buttered (butter after the pan is hot or butter will burn!) tin and cook for about 20 minutes at 425 in an convection oven (I watched them rise and turn golden rather than look at the clock, so note).
When they came out of the oven, they shrank so darn fast! I punctured them to let steam release, but I'm thinking next time I wonder if they won't collapse as fast if I don't and just let the shell cool. Alas, this is the one downside to these popovers, as I tasted one with some homemade jam right after I popped them out and they are definitely tasty, with a slight nuttiness to the tender insides.
Healthy popovers? I'm still not quite sure if popovers count as a "healthy" food, but these get awfully close!