Even before moving to the Northern California Bay Area, one of my favorite areas of San Francisco has been the Sea Cliff neighborhood. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the ruins of Sutro Baths is the famed Cliff House. The restaurant is a magnificent setting for breakfast and brunch. Along with the view, the Popovers they serve with breakfast/brunch are a major draw for me.
Popovers are thus another “Baking With Julia” recipe I’ve been meaning to bake for some time. Upon learning of Marion Cunningham’s passing, I felt baking them with the group would be a fitting tribute to a woman who did much to champion classic American cooking. Our hosts for this week are Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake With Amy. The recipe for Popovers can be found at either of their blogs or in the pages of “Baking With Julia”. On a hunch, I would suspect the recipe might be found in the pages of Marion Cunningham’s “The Breakfast Book” (Knopf, 1987).
Preparing the popovers is very simple: mix a few ingredients in a blender, food processor, or bowl with a whisk; pour the batter into prepared tin; and bake. The only time-consuming step is the two part baking process: first at a high temperature to get them to puff up; a second time at a lower temperature to help dry out the interiors. Having eating the Cliff House’s version many times, I’m okay with slightly doughy centers, I might be tempted to skip or shorten the second baking step.
I have neither a special Popover pan, nor enough muffin tins to only fill alternate cups. Instead I did as Marion does in the televised episode and baked them in small Pyrex(tm) custard cups on a sheet pan. Figuring the bowls would slide, I took the additional step of lining the sheet pan with a silicon mat.
After the first baking period the popovers at the back of the oven had browned a bit more, so I rotated the pan for the drying step. Ten minutes later a few of the popovers were on the verge of burning in spots, so I turned off the oven and left the door ajar.
After cooling slightly, the pan of popovers made for a nice little picture. This is as perfect as they would look. When it came time to remove the popovers, they stuck to the custard cups. More butter, or perhaps cooking spray might helped. Individual loose cups also worked against me as well as I could not simple tilt the pan and shake as one would with a muffin pan.
On a plate with some scrambled eggs, these were no picturesque popovers. However the taste and texture more than made up for their deflated appearance. Dry crisp exteriors with a slightly doughy center, in many ways these Popovers remind me of my favorite part of a Dutch Baby. One of my favorite brunch dishes, the ingredients and quantities in a Dutch Baby is very similar — whole eggs, milk, flour — although the recipe I use also has a slight amount of sugar and vanilla extract, and the butter is melted in a heated cast iron skillet, rather than incorporated into the batter. Unlike the Dutch Baby, the Popovers develop the hollow interior, likely a result of being confined in a muffin tin.
I will definitely make these Popovers again. Next time I might try them in a muffin tin for comparison. Perhaps if I had five barns like Martha Stewart in which to store my wares, I could consider obtaining a special popover pan.