What exactly is a Popover and why is it called that? A Popover is the American version of Yorkshire Pudding, a dish traditionally served with Roast Beef in England. Yorkshire Pudding is usually made in the drippings from a roast and is baked right in the roasting pan usually after the roast has been taken out.
Popovers on the other hand, are usually made in Muffin Tins; however the best vehicle for baking Popovers is a Popover Pan which is made so that each muffin cup can be surrounded by heat, which is crucial to making a good Popover.
Why a Popover is called a Popover? Well, when it bakes, the batter rises over the edge of the tins and forms a dome, thus it can be said that it Pops Over the individual pans.
Popovers are fun to make and it is especially fun to watch them baking if you have an oven with a glass door and an inside light. It is truly quite amazing to watch them as they blow up like a balloon.
What makes a Popover Pop? What comes out of a kettle of water when you boil it? Yes, that right! You guessed it! It is steam! But what creates the steam?
The basic 3 ingredients in Popovers are Eggs, Milk and Flour. Fresh or dried Herbs can be used for additional flavor and even cheese can be put into the batter. The Flour provides Gluten, which is needed for the walls of the Popover. The Eggs provide Protein which will hold in the Air and the Milk provides flavor and liquid to create the steam.
The key to making good Popovers that really ‘pop’ is to beat the batter like crazy. The more you beat it, the more air that will be incorporated into the batter. Since Popovers do not contain a chemical leavening agent or even yeast for that matter, the only thing that makes them rise is air. This is also true of Pate Choux, the batter from which Éclairs and Cream Puffs are made.
It is important to use at least All-Purpose Flour; anything softer will not contain enough gluten to form the shell of the Popover. Eggs, Milk and Flour are beaten together furiously, (it is best to use an electric mixer or you are going to have a very sore shoulder and arm when you finish) to get enough air into the product. The eggs are a conduit for air, (without them you will not have popovers).
While you are making the Batter, the oven and Popover Pan should be preheating at 450 degrees. If the pan is hot, the batter will start to rise immediately, thus preventing heavy, sodden non-Popovers. Each cup should be well greased, either with butter or a vegetable spray. If you put the pan in the oven at the same time you turn it on, by the time the oven is preheated and your batter is done, the pan should be hot enough.
Carefully, with potholders, remove the pan from the oven and either pour in a teaspoon of melted butter into each cup or carefully spray with the vegetable spray. Pour the Batter into a cup with a pouring spout and then carefully fill each muffin cup halfway. Immediately place in the hot oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking for at least 15 minutes more. The Popovers should be a medium-dark brown and should be firm on top. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING THE BAKING TIME!
Once the Popovers are done to the desired color, you can use a sharp knife to slit the tops and then return them to the oven for 2 minutes more. This will insure that the inside of the Popover will not be too soggy. (I for one, love that eggy taste that is inside a popover or a cream puff.)
Remove from the oven and then from the pan and serve immediately!
Do you need a recipe? Almost any standard Popover recipe will work, if you follow the instructions above. Your general use Cookbook will probably have a recipe or you can get one from one of many sites on the Internet.
- Beat the Ingredients well enough to incorporate a lot of air.
- Make sure the oven is hot! The Popovers need heat to start rising immediately or else they will be a sodden lump when removed from the oven.
- Grease the Pan before pouring in the batter.
Saturday, January 20th is ‘National Cheese Lover’s Day. How many different kinds of cheese can you think of? There is at least one cheese for every letter of the Alphabet, but most letters have multiple cheeses, many more than I could ever thnk of. I could only come up with about 45 different cheeses without having to look them up. I was flabbergasted when I did look them and came up with 613. There are probably even more than the ones I found. Granted, many of these cheese are variations on a theme. That is, there are several different types of Cheddars – it seems that each of the English speaking countries have their own. Then there are the variations on Bleu Cheeses, Brie, Swiss and on and on.
Cheese is usually made from Cow’s Milk but there are cheeses made from Goat’s Milk and from Sheep’s Milk. If you want to count them as Cheese, then there those made from Tofu – a product that is supposed to resemble cheese, but certainly does not possess all of the qualities of ‘real’ cheese.
I was going to write this blog on all the different types of cheese and the uses that we have for them, but upon second thought, I am going to limit it to America’s favorite Cheese and i am guessing that would be Cheddar. Unfortunately, some of our Cheese Producer’s have taken a really good Cheddar Cheese and then turned it into something that may or may not be considered Cheese by an afficionado.
Cheddar Cheese is usually a firm Cheese, dark Yellow in color. The color certainly has to be added and hopefully it is from natural sources. There is also White Cheddar and if I am not mistaken Irish Cheddar is usually white. Cheddar Cheese also comes in many taste variations. There is Mild, Medium, Sharp and Extra Sharp. The Sharper the Cheese the firmer it usually is and the reason for this is that to be sharp a cheese is aged longer and when it is aged longer, it becomes drier and therefore, harder.
American Cheese, which is made from Cheddar Cheese is a version of Cheddar that is ground up and has gum arabic added to it to give it the consistency that some of us are familiar with. Cheese Spreads are also variations on Cheddar.
Cheddar Cheese makes great sandwiches and toppings for Hamburgers. It is also the basis for one of our most popular dishes and that Is Macaroni and Cheese. Cheddar Cheese is also a popular cheese for omelets, biscuits, breads and one of our most popular and succesful snack products – Cheese Puffs.
I was going to write this blog on cheese which I did. But after finding out how many different cheeses there are, I have decided that I will do a weekly Cheese Blog on either one type of cheese and its variations and/or once having finished the variants, will concentrate on the alphabet starting with A or Z? Please let me know. Would be much easier to start with Z as there are only 3 different types of cheese that I could find starting with the letter Z.
Happy ‘National Cheese Day’ everyone!
Octber 13th is ‘National Yorkshire Pudding Day’. Yorkshire Pudding is not a pudding in the sense that most people think of as pudding. In other words Yorkshire Pudding is not a sweet dessert but rather a very eggy dish very similar to Popovers. Traditionally Yorkshire Pudding baked in the drippings of a Roast Beef and served with the Beef as a starch dish.
Yorkshire Pudding is probably one of those dishes that you either love or intensely dislike. I happen to love it. Yorkshire Pudding has its origins in old England. It is made with lots of Eggs, Milk and some flour and has to be beaten extremely well to incorporate the flour into the Eggs and Milk. By beating really well, you are beating lots of air into the batter and this is what makes it puff up. You do have to bake it in a very hot oven.
If you like Popovers, Cream Puffs or Eclairs, you will most likely like Yorkshire Pudding. For a different use of the Pudding, try my recipe for ‘Toad in the Hole’ which is another traditional English Dish. Toad in the Hole is usually made with cube steak or leftover roast beef which is placed in a dish of Yorkshire Pudding and then baked. When it is baked, the batter rises up over and around the Beef, thus making the ‘toad in the hole’.
The version in the ‘Breakfast’ Recipe section on this site is for a Sausage Version of ‘Toad in the Hole’ and is a fun dish for breakfast, or brunch, or lunch or dinner. It can be served with a fruit dish for breakfast or brunch and/or a salad for lunch or dinner. Try it and let me know how your family likes it.
July 14th is Bastille Day in France but in the United States it is Macaroni Day. What better way to consume your macaroni than in the All American Favorite – Macaroni and Cheese. There are many ways in which you can make this yummy dish and there is a whole range of pasta shapes that one can use. One of the favorites of my family is Wagon Wheels, the shape that is reminiscent of the American Pioneer’s trek westward.
Macaroni and Cheese is traditionally made with Cheddar Cheese, but the addition of other cheese gives more depth of flavor and creaminess. To make Mac & Cheese you will need:
½ lb. Pasta
½ lb. Cheddar Cheese
¼ lb. Gouda or Cream Cheese (for creaminess)
4 Tbsps. unsalted Butter
4 Tbsps. All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Milk, Cream or Half & Half
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Bring at least 4 quarts of salted water to a rapid boil. The salt adds flavor to the pasta and also increases the temperature point of the water, thus making the pasta cook faster. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the Pasta, stir and continue boiling (uncovered) for anywhere from 8 – 12 minutes. (This will depend on the pasta used) It can be just a tad undercooked if the Mac & Cheese is to go into the oven. All pasta should be cooked to ‘al dente’ which gives it just a little bite.
While the Pasta is cooking, begin making your Cheese Sauce. Shred your Cheese if you purchased block cheese and set it aside.
In the photo above, the Cheese is sitll in the Food Processor but with the blade removed.
Dice your Onion (about ¼ cup will do); using the Onion is optional but it does give nice flavor to the cheese.
Use a large Saucepan and melt the Butter over low heat; add the Onion and cook until soft. Next stir in the Flour and continue stirring until a paste is formed. Slowly add the Milk, stirring continuously. If the mixture seems to be a little lumpy, use your whisk to smooth it out. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens (it should be able to coat the back of a metal spoon). Once the White Sauce is of the desired consistency, add the Shredded Cheese and the Cream Cheese. If Gouda is used instead of Cream Cheese, this should be shredded along with the Cheddar Cheese.
Shut the heat off and continue stirring until all the Cheese is melted. Add the Mustard, Worcestershire and Salt and White Pepper to taste. (Approximately 1 tsp. Salt and ½ tsp. White Pepper)
Pour the cooked Pasta into a colander and shake out all the water.
If you don’t add the Cheese Sauce immediately, rinse the Pasta with warm water to keep it from sticking together. Return the Pasta to its cooking pot and slowly add the Cheese Sauce. Gently mix, over and under, to coat all the macaroni.
Transfer the Cheese coated Pasta to a baking dish. About ½ hour before serving time, place the dish in the oven and heat until the Mac & Cheese is thoroughly heated through. (This will take about 20 minutes) Mac & Cheese can be made early in the day or the night before, but be sure to refrigerate it until ready to use. If you do refrigerate it, allow the dish to warm up before baking or place it uncovered, in a cold oven and then turn the oven on. This will allow the dish to warm up slowly without being stressed to the point of breaking.
This is just one way to enjoy Macaroni. You can use any shape pasta you desired and any combination of cheeses. So enjoy Macaroni Day with your own creation of Mac & Cheese or a Macaroni Salad.
There are actually many types of Tubular Pasta. There is Penne, rigatoni, ziti and more. Penne is my favorite of the Tubular Pasta. Rigatoni are so big that for my taste there is just too much pasta to bite into at one time. Penne are considerably thinner than Rigatoni, but they are still tubular and hold a lot of sauce. One of my favorite uses for Penne is a Tuna Noodle Casserole, one of my husband’s favorite dinners. So, every now and then I will indulge him and make it for dinner. Usually there is leftover so he then can eat it for lunch in the next day or two.
To make a Tuna Noodle Casserole rich in creamy cheese you will need the pasta, 2 cups shredded cheese (your choice, but cheddar or jack is a favorite). I used a blend of Cheddar & Jack. You will also need 2 Tbsps. Butter and Flour and approximately 1 ½ cups of milk. The instructions following will make enough for 3 hearty servings; for a larger amount, just double the ingredients and follow the same instructions. The doubled amount will feed a family of four with leftovers or five to six for one meal.
The pan I used is a stainless steel casserole and is my favorite for just about everything. If you have a large family though you will need a bigger pan and a large oven-proof casserole to put the finished product in.
I also use diced Onion in my casserole for added flavor. Following is the list of ingredients for the smaller dish. For more, just double the given amounts and adjust the cooking equipment to fit the ingredients.
2 cups Penne Pasta
½ cup diced Onion
2 ribs celery, diced
2 Tbsps. unsalted Butter
2 Tbsps. Flour
2 cups Milk
2 cups shredded Cheese
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. ground White Pepper
1 (5 oz.) can Tuna, packed in Water, well drained
2 Green Onions, minced
½ Red Bell Pepper, diced
- Fill a 4 Qt. Saucepan with Water and add at least a teaspoon of Salt; bring to a boil and then add the Pasta. Stir to separate the Pasta and then cook for 11 minutes or until the Pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium skillet or the same pan the pasta was cooked in, melt the Butter and then add the Onion and Celery. Cook until the Onion begins to brown and the Celery is softened.
- Stir in the Butter until a paste forms; slowly add the Milk, stirring constantly.
- Continue cooking until the mixture thickens; add the Mustard, Salt & Pepper.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the Cheese just until it melts. Taste for seasoning. If desired, add a splash of Tabasco® or your favorite Hot Sauce.
5. Flake the Tuna and add it to the Cheese Sauce mixture. ( The Tuna can be doubled if you wish)
6. Add the drained Pasta to the Tuna/Cheese mixture and carefully fold in, making sure all the Pasta is
covered with the Sauce.
7. Transfer the entire mixture to a buttered oven proof casserole; top with the minced Onion and
diced Red Bell Pepper.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until all the ingredients are hot and the top is slightly
Yield: 3-4 large Servings
Note: This is a great dish to make early in the day, refrigerate and then just heat it up before dinner. If you are a working Mother, then you can make it the night before and when you come home, just put it in the oven, make a salad and dinner is ready!