Popovers: A little buoyancy, a little gravity

The New York Times

Not too sweet and easy to make, popovers can be made healthier by adding buckwheat or whole wheat flour.
Not too sweet and easy to make, popovers can be made healthier by adding buckwheat or whole wheat flour. The New York T8imes

Every winter, I’m hit with two conflicting desires: a craving to spend time baking mountains of pastries to dunk in my tea, and that familiar post-holiday push to eat a little more healthfully.

I typically divide and conquer, alternating between roasting Brussels sprouts and baking snickerdoodles.

But this winter, I decided on a more united approach, baking things that are a bit lower in sugar than, say, your average brownie and adding whole-grain flour to increase their nutritional value – or at least, to give them a small nudge toward wholesomeness.

And this is how I got to popovers.

Not too sweet and a cinch to make, popovers are delightful both for breakfast and with a midafternoon cup of Darjeeling.

Adding a little whole-grain flour augments their fiber content. But using a combination of buckwheat and whole-wheat flours makes popovers utterly delicious – and maybe even better than the classic, white-flour-based version.

The buckwheat flour is the more prominent flavor, adding an earthy, almost woodsy character. The whole-wheat flour stays in the background, with gentler, warmer and nuttier notes. Together, they round out the egg-rich batter, giving it depth.

Making popover batter is incredibly simple, similar to a pancake batter in that you can just whisk everything up together in a bowl. The blender works, too, if you’re in a hurry and want to reduce your preparation time from five minutes to one.

If you own a popover pan, you will get especially gorgeous, feather-light pastries with a tall rise, a crisp crust and a custardy center. But muffin tins also work, although the popovers will be more compact and dense, and will not puff to the same degree.

If you read enough popover recipes, you'll see there is a debate about whether to preheat the pans before adding the batter. I find that it doesn’t make much difference to the final pastries, so I don’t bother. What does make a difference, however, is opening the oven door while the popovers are baking. Don’t do it until the last five minutes, or you won’t get as high a rise. Instead, monitor their progress through the window on your oven door.

Then serve your popovers warm from the oven, with just a little butter and jam if you’re in the New Year-New You zone. Or a lot of butter and jam if you’re not.

Buckwheat popovers

Makes 6

Total time: 50 minutes

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, plus more for pans (or use cooking spray)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons buckwheat flour

2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Brush cups of a popover pan (or muffin tin) with butter or coat with cooking spray.

In a large measuring pitcher with a spout (this makes pouring easier later), or in a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt until frothy. Add flours and whisk until mostly smooth, though a few clumps may remain in batter, which is fine. (If you prefer you can mix everything together in a blender instead of a bowl.)

Pour batter into prepared cups. Bake 20 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes until popovers are golden brown and puffed. (Reduce baking time by 5 minutes if using a muffin tin.) Keep tabs on their progress by looking through the window in the oven door. Do not open the oven door until the last 5 minutes of baking or they won’t puff. Serve warm.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee