Monday, February 22, 2010

From Pupcakes To Popovers

If I told you that popovers were just as, if not more labor intensive than pupcakes, would you believe me? Those golden brown, mishapen, not quite muffins, without any kind of icing or adornment. Those little known gems of American baked goods, Yorkshire pudding's upstart cousin in the New World. Man, they are not easy as pie, nor pupcakes. 

I first had them at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. I was a young kid spending a couple of weeks with my beloved aunt and uncle in Maine, and man was I wrestling with a wicked case of homesickness. I was pretty much a nightmare of a house guest, and the only thing that quelled my anxiety was hiking in the mountains of Acadia. When, one day after a hike up Bubble Mountain, we wound up at Jordan Pond House for afternoon tea, I was able to leave all my troubles behind. Tea and popovers can cure any manner of ills. 

In recent years my parents have been enjoying their retirement by visiting Maine several times a year, and I've been the beneficiary of several Jordan Pond themed gifts — a tea pot, strawberry jam, popover mix, and popover tins. Well, you know what those gifts mean: the pressure's on to have everyone over for tea and popovers. 

Several months went by and nothing. The thing about popovers is they're like belgian waffles, another specialty of mine. They must be eaten hot out of the oven or not at all. And the popover tins feed six. Too many for me and the mister, not enough for a proper brunch. But called upon to do something special for my mom's birthday, out came the special tins. 

The party was at her house, so I showed up a little early to help set up and make the batter. Little did I know that all told, those suckers would take about two and half hours! For six popovers, holy smokes! Making the batter, letting the batter rest, baking at one temperature for almost an hour, poking holes in them, turning the heat down to bake them some more, letting them rest for ten minutes! Still, we shared like good kids, they were delicious. 

Exhibit A:

I didn't use the Jordan Pond mix (I'm a mix snob, no matter what kind, though maybe not any more after I explored the alternative.) I followed the America's Test Kitchen recipe I found in Cook's Country, an excellent publication you get free when you shop at Hannaford. Those guys really know what they're doing, but man, are they committed to their cause. 

Maybe that's the difference between baking for a living and baking for sport.