Some people love chocolate, but I love lemon. It is, without question, my favorite flavor. As I peruse cookbooks, recipes, magazines any mention of lemons, lemon juice, lemon zest pique my interest. It’s that tart zing that it lends to everything that I love the most. The flavor is fresh and bright. To winter braises it adds a touch of summertime and with just a squeeze it can wake up a bland dish.
In the April 30th LA Times a recipe for popovers with lemon could not be resisted. The article recommended them for breakfast so I popped out of bed on Sunday morning to whip up a batch.
A note on equipment: When we moved to Charlotte, I couldn’t bring myself to pack my popover pan for storage despite having used it only once three years prior. What seemed like a waste of space at the time was now a must have. I checked several sources and all of them noted the importance of using a true popover pan when making popovers. The cups in a popover pan are deeper and narrower than the average muffin tin. Rather than forcing the popovers to expand wider, the popover pan’s narrow cups force the batter to rise, resulting in the fluffy crowns you expect from true popovers.
The popovers were very good albeit slightly dense for my taste. Where I was expecting light and fluffy I got heavy and doughy. I’m not sure if this is my blame or the fault of the recipe. Or, perhaps popovers are meant to be a bit heavy (I’ve only had them at home when I’ve made them). The flavor, however, was light and the lemon was subtle perfection. I was somewhat skeptical of the parmesan cheese topping, but it turned out to be the best part of the popover. The parmesan lends a salty crunch to an otherwise mild popover.
Wondering where I might have gone wrong, I researched popover recipes in my other cookbooks. Several noted that the popover batter should be mixed only until the ingredients are combined (as with most baked goods, it is important not to overwork the flour). The LA Times recipe says to mix for 1 to 2 minutes. Other recipes even suggest ignoring lumps. I whisked until all of the lumps were gone (a couple of minutes). In hindsight, I should have mixed the batter far less. Something tells me that allowing the batter to rest for 30 minutes (as with pancake batter) would improve the texture of the popover.
To be sure, the popovers were beautiful. They puffed up much larger than I anticipated, and they baked to a beautiful golden brown. If you have children, be sure to let them peak through the oven window to watch the popovers pop. They also fill the house with the soft, citrus scent of lemon. Who wouldn’t love that on a summer Sunday morning?
LA Times, April 30, 2008
Note: This recipe calls for popover pans.
4 tablespoons melted butter, divided
2 cups milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons finely grated Grano Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray the cups of two popover pans with nonstick cooking spray, then drizzle 1 tablespoon melted butter evenly among the 12 cups; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, zest and remaining 3 tablespoons butter until combined.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk thoroughly until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Divide the batter among the cups in popover pans, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the batter.
5. Put the pans in the center of the oven and bake, without opening the oven, for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until dark golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes more.
6. Remove the popovers from the oven and immediately poke each with a thin metal skewer, cake tester or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape. Turn the popovers out of the pan and dust with powdered sugar, if you like. Serve immediately, or reheat later in a 350-degree oven until just crisp.
Each popover: 174 calories; 7 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 8 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 121 mg. cholesterol; 154 mg. sodium.