Bad omen: Carter describing the orange-nutmeg popovers in the oven as “mashed potatoes shaped like Mount St. Helens.” They looked puffy and yummy, but we all know what happened to the picturesque Mount St. Helens. It’s rare that a recipe doesn’t work for me. The orange-nutmeg popover recipe in Savory Baking just didn’t.
The recipe said to “prick each popover with a small knife to let the the steam escape because this helps them from collapsing.” I pricked. They collapsed.
Did using a blender, instead of mixing by hand, affect the batter’s airiness in a bad way? Was the baking temperature, only 375˚F, compared to 425˚F in other recipes, too low to crisp up enough the popovers? This popover recipe didn’t have any additional notes on popover baking techniques. The popover recipes in BakeWise and Baking Illustrated are much more informative.
Aside from the technical issues, the real problem was the strong, off-putting flavor. For six popovers, the recipe included 1 teaspoon each of salt, fresh ground nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper, plus the zest of one large orange. The other ingredients were fairly standard: 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 cup flour.
Jeff took one look at the popover on the plate and requested one of the “puffy” ones. I had to explain that these were the (formerly) puffy ones. He took one bite, put it down, and said “too nutmeggy.” I thought they tasted too salty and peppery but powered through eating one, as I tried to pinpoint the flavoring errors of my ways.
I had trouble leveling off the teaspoons (I used a 1/4 teaspoon to measure because it’s hard to scoop up fresh-ground spices) of nutmeg and pepper because of their rough texture, and I wonder if I packed the spices instead of loosely leveling them, ending up with too much. That wouldn’t explain the salt, though, because I used table salt. If I were to try these again, I would cut all of the spices in half, but keep the orange zest.
I hope my successful popover debut wasn’t beginners’ luck, which I’m prone to. (Don’t ask my brother David about the first time we played backgammon, or my brother Tom about fishing in Virden, IL, for instance. )
I also hope my favorite little baker and budding scientist, who is feeling much better, will help me experiment with another popover recipe this weekend. Carter said to me the other day: “Mommy, I have a hypothesis, and I’d like to do an experiment to test it out.” I asked him if Daddy had told him what a hypothesis is, which wouldn’t be out of character. His answer: “No. I heard it on Dinosaur Train.”