I honestly can’t remember what I ordered for lunch that day. I don’t remember what season it was, what I was wearing or exactly how many years ago this lunch took place. All I recall is feeling extraordinarily special as I sat with my Grandmother at The Zodiac, warm from the oven popovers and sweet strawberry butter at our fingertips, while we sipped white wine, tucked away at a table for two. The Zodiac is located in the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas and is a mainstay for ‘ladies who lunch.’ My Grandmother – or Mimi, as we call her (you may remember her from such posts as 48 Hours in Dallas and A New England Inspired Birthday Celebration) – had told me tales of this beautiful restaurant and had promised to take me there during one of my visits to Dallas. She had made note of their classic offering, popovers with strawberry butter, and I was instantly intrigued as, at that time, I had no clue what a popover was. As these pillowy, Mad-Hatter-Tea-Party-esque muffins were placed before us, I was in awe. Steam circled gently into the air as I carefully tucked in, pulling the dough apart to reveal a hallowed, flaky center, warm and ripe for the sweet, strawberry butter spread. Mimi enjoyed her popovers delicately and with incredible ease, taking me back to a childhood enjoyment of watching Mimi have tea. I think this came from our time in London when Mimi and Punchy brought me along with them as an extra-special 10th birthday gift. We would stop for tea every afternoon and Mimi had such a natural way with what, to my 10 year old eyes, seemed like an intimidating tradition. It fit the profile of Mimi as she is very elegant and always proper yet with a soft edge, never too austere or cold, but rather warm, inviting and so, so loving to us all. Mimi is a writer and I like to think that is where my love for recounting my adventures in food, wine and travel comes from, at the heart of what inspired foodie-girl. These popovers perfectly exemplify both my Grandmother and what I hope foodie-girl is to those who follow along: classic and inviting with an ability to make you feel special. Thank you to Neiman Marcus for the recipe and to Mimi for my inspiration. I am most grateful.
|Mimi and me on my wedding day to Z|
I am working directly from the Zodiac’s recipe for this post – in this case I chose to ignore my foodie instincts and to not mess with perfection. To begin, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and pour three and one half cups whole milk into a pot. Set the pot on the stove and heat over medium-low flame, until warm to the touch but not boiling. While the milk is warming prep your wet and dry ingredients. It is noted that one of the keys to a flawless popover is for all ingredients to be room temperature, including your eggs. Crack six room temperature eggs into the bowl of a standing mixer and beat them, using the whisk attachment, on medium speed for three minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together four cups all purpose flour, one and one half tsp salt, and one tsp baking powder.
Once the eggs have been whisked and are foamy and smooth, turn the speed down to low and slowly add the warm milk. You want to ‘temper’ the mixture here, carefully adding the warmed ingredient to the room temperature eggs, allowing them to adjust to the shift from cool to warm without scrambling. Once all of the milk has been incorporated, turn the speed back to medium and gradually add the flower, whisking until fully mixed and smooth, for an additional two minutes. Allow the batter to sit, at room temperature, for one hour, before baking. It is noted in the recipe that the popover batter does not work well after the day it is made and that popovers do not freeze well.
Now, I sprung for a popover pan from Williams-Sonoma. At $20 I knew it was an addition to my kitchen that would prove it’s worth time and time again and popovers, as you now know, hold a special spot in my foodie-heart. While I have never attempted it myself, a quick google search tells me that a standard-issue muffin tin will work as well, although the end result may provide smaller, more compact popovers. But they should remain equally delicious. Whichever tin you choose to use, they must be properly greased, with either an ample spread of melted butter or a solid sheen of non-stick cooking spray (try to use organic spray, if at all possible). Pour the batter into the tins until almost full, just shy of the rim. Place on a cookie sheet and set in the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375, cooking for an additional 30-35 minutes until the popovers are voluminous and bursting over the edge.
While the popovers are baking make up a quick batch of the strawberry butter. Place one pound unsalted butter in a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment. Add one and one quarter cup strawberry preserves and mix until smooth and fully incorporated. When the popovers are finished baking remove them from the oven and allow to cool for just a moment, ensuring that they are still warm but not too hot to handle. Remove them from the popover tin and serve warm, with strawberry butter.
Makes 12 Popovers
*Recipe from the Neiman Marcus Cookbook
- three and one half cups whole milk
- six eggs, room temperature
- four cups all purpose flour
- one and one half tsp salt
- one tsp baking powder
- one pound unsalted, room temperature butter
- one and one quarter cup strawberry preserves
- melted butter or nonstick cooking spray to grease the muffin tins