The Secrets To The Very Best Popovers
A Minnesota pastry chef shares the secrets to a cherished restaurant’s ethereal, custardy-rich popovers.
Popovers were already on the menu when pastry chef Emily Marks came to The Bachelor Farmer in 2015. But in her five years at the beloved Minneapolis restaurant—which, sadly, closed permanently in April due to the pandemic—she learned all the tricks to the signature treat.
First, the definition: Popovers are like super-airy rolls. An eggy batter bakes in individual cups, ballooning in the oven to create a golden exterior with tender crevices inside. They’re perfect at breakfast or with a Sunday roast.
Most recipes are pretty similar, but Marks’ method is all about tiny, perfection-making details. Hand-whisking wards off dense, biscuitlike texture. (Her crew actually mixed with a potato masher.) Preheating the cups jump-starts the cooking. And then there’s oven temperature. “Initially you have it really hot, so you can create steam as quickly as possible,” Marks says, which is what makes a popover pop. But finishing at a cooler temperature ensures the outside doesn’t overcook before the inside stabilizes. Most importantly, don’t peek! Escaped heat can cause popovers to fall. Although, Marks says, “If they collapse, they’ll still be delicious.”
News flash! No special pan needed. We’ve adapted The Bachelor Farmer’s recipe to a standard 12-cup muffin tin.
Step One: Mix
Place a 12-cup (21/2-inch) muffin pan in oven; preheat to 450°. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups whole milk and 4 large eggs (both at room temperature), and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Stir in 2 tablespoons clarified butter or vegetable oil. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour in a couple of additions, mixing gently. (It’s OK to have small lumps.)
• This is key: You want the batter to get hot and produce steam fast. Gently warm milk on the stove or in the microwave. Put eggs in warm water until they don’t feel cold to the touch.
• Clarified butter lacks milk solids, so it won’t burn at high temperatures. You can buy it (sold as ghee) at large supermarkets or make your own easily, following online directions. Or just use oil: It’s less flavorful, but you’ll be buttering the popovers at the table anyway!
Step Two: Bake
Remove pan from oven and brush the cavities generously with about 2 tablespoons clarified butter or vegetable oil. Quickly fill the muffin cups to the top with batter. Place pan in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400°. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and pop out of pans. They taste best hot and fresh, but you can reheat the popovers on a sheet pan for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350° oven.
Tip: Don’t be shy with that batter. “The fuller you do it,” says Marks, “the bigger your popover is going to be.”
Step Three: Top
While the popovers bake, prepare Honey Butter: Mix together 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon honey and a pinch of kosher salt. (Or use salted butter and omit the salt.) Serve with warm popovers.
• The Bachelor Farmer’s popovers always came with this topper, but we also love apricot jam.
• Feeling more savory than sweet? Flavor the butter with chopped fresh herbs or cracked black pepper. “It never hurts to add a bit of cheese,” Marks says. Try a handful of grated Parmesan in the batter.
Get a printable version of this recipe here.
Extra popovers? Take a cue from one of Emily Marks’ sous chefs: “He’d take scraps of ham and cheese, put them in the popovers, then put them back in the oven to melt inside.”
A word on pans You can buy pans specially designed for popovers. They look like six-cup muffin pans, and the cavities are deep and narrow. If you have one and would like to try this recipe in it, divide the batter evenly among the cups (it will reach nearly to the brim) and plan for big popovers.
Get to Know: Emily Marks Studied fine arts. Competed on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Has spent much of 2020 at home gardening. (Sound familiar?)