When my mother asked me to make an hors oeuvre for Easter Sunday, I wanted to do something that would be low-stress but high-impact, and above all, light. Our family is Latvian, and holiday dinners always mean stuffing yourself beyond what you thought possible. My dish would need to be something that guests wanted to eat, but which wouldn’t fill anyone up before the main event. Then it hit me—popovers. Light and airy, easily made but seemingly fancy when dressed up with garnishes. Mine feature tangy créme fraiche and, in a gesture to my Latvian heritage, bites of earthy-sweet beets and fresh dill.
This recipe uses a muffin tin rather than a popover pan, since the specialized pan is less likely to be found in every kitchen. I’m sure that if you have a popover pan, though, you’ll achieve an even taller “pop.”
My secret for making popovers is to begin with a cold oven. There’s a lot of debate about this technique, as well as perhaps every other technique involved in making these deceptively simple goodies; but popovers rise because of the steam inside of them, and the quickly rising temperature of the oven coming to temperature generates that steam, giving the popovers their signature “pop.” So, pro-tip, DO NOT open the oven to check on them before the minimum times I give, because if you do, you’ll let out the steam that had built up from the heat, and your popovers will collapse.
While I haven’t found a way yet to reproduce the truly tall, dignified-looking popovers served in fancy restaurants or French bakeries, mine are consistently fluffy and hollow in center, a perfectly functional, tasty vehicle for whatever fillings you want. In the future, I plan to test the other methods and see which really does yield the best results. If you’ve cooked popovers before, what tried-and-true methods would you recommend?
Recipe for Popovers with Dill, Crème Fraiche, and Beets
1 TBSP butter, melted, plus more butter for greasing
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, at room temperature
½ tsp salt
About 10 oz. créme fraiche, mixed with the juice of a quarter of a lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and chopped fresh chives and tarragon*
1 can of pickled beets, drained, diced, and very lightly salted
Fresh dill, chopped, for garnish
Hard boiled eggs, diced, for garnish (optional)
Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter. Set the oven rack you’re going to put the muffin tins on to a spot just below the middle of the oven, to prevent the tops from browning too much. In a large bowl, add the two eggs and beat lightly, then whisk in the milk and melted butter, and then the flour and salt. You should aim to whisk them together only until just incorporated and there are no more big lumps (do not over-beat). Fill each cup of the muffin tin half-way with the batter (do not over-fill), then place the muffin tin in a cold oven. Set the oven to 450F. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and cook another 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the edges are crispy and just darkened.
Serve topped with the créme fraiche, diced beets, chopped dill, and hardboiled eggs (if you choose to).
*If you can’t find it at the store, you can make it at home, or you can mix together a 1:1 ratio of sour cream and whipped heavy cream.