Introduction: Cheddar & Garlic Mini Popovers

Many years ago, I had the sudden realization that I missed the taste of a warm, buttery popover.  Little did I know that attempting the recipes I found online was the surest route to an obsession that would damn me if I couldn't succeed.

For 2 years I tried every single recipe that I could find; online, in cookbooks, from friends. Still, I could never get my popovers to puff up. They always ended up as soft, little hockey pucks. Eventually, out of sheer stubbornness and temerity, I decided to break down the recipe, ingredient by ingredient, and get to the bottom of the perfect popover.

Along the way, I learned about patience, friendship, and the importance of preheating the pan.

Let's begin, shall we?

Step 1: Mise-en-place!

Mise-en-place is a French term meaning, "Everything in place."

This is most often used as a cooking term and I would consider it best practice.  Essentially, you want to measure, chop, cut, slice, and pour everything you'll need so that when the time comes to add the ingredients together, everything is prepped and ready to go.

I am, obviously, a huge proponent of this practice. I find that I'm less likely to forget ingredients and also, when cooking fast and hot, it allows you to grab things and add them when needed without overcooking something in the pan.

Here, it's used more as an organizational technique.

You Will Need:

~A nonstick muffin pan
~A whisk or fork
~A ladle or serving spoon
~Assorted mixing bowls

-3 Eggs
-1C. Water
-1 1/2 C. All Purpose flour
-2 t. Garlic Powder (or "to taste")
-1 1/2 t. Salt
-2 t. Dried Parsley Flakes (yes, yes, fresh is better)
~1/2 C. Finely Diced Cheddar

Step 2: A Note on Cheese:

I dislike using pre-shredded cheese. It's typically more expensive and usually comes with anti-caking agents which can really mess up a good cheese sauce.

Shredding a bunch of cheese yourself can be quite a pain, so I've taken to finely dicing it whenever I'm using it for baked goods.  The end result is just as good, and it's a lot faster than trying to grate into a bowl.

Unfortunately, cheese likes to stick to itself. To remedy this, after I've made the first series of slices, I dip each piece in a bit of the flour reserved for the recipe. This way, you can prevent the cheese from sticking without adding additional flour to the recipe which could throw the whole thing off.

Step 3: Combining, Part 1

This is important:oil/grease your non-stick muffin pan WELL.

I'm not kidding, these things will stick if you don't and they can be a nightmare to clean off. As long as your pan is suitably sprayed/rubbed down, everything will be just fine. I use a standard, generic vegetable oil, pour about a tablespoon in 1 cup on each of 3 rows, then take a paper towel, dip it in the cup with the oil, and use that to grease the rest of the cups in that row.

Once your muffin pan is all lubed up, place it in the oven on the middle rack.

Now preheat your oven to 450 with the pan inside.

This is also important: Make sure the pan is hot enough before you put the batter in.

I've found that having the pan hot enough, combined with well-oiling, makes these pop-overs climb higher and not stick to the pan.  I usually preheat the oven and pan for a good 12-15 minutes. If you can smell the oil, give it 2 minutes more and it should be hot enough to add the batter.

When I mix the ingredients for this recipe, I typically keep the dry and wet good separate until just before I pour the batter into the muffin tin.

In the above picture, I've added the cheese to the flour/salt mixture and the parsley and garlic to the egg/water mixture.

Step 4: Combining, Part 2

Quickly mix your wet and dry ingredients together. The consistency should be like a thin pancake batter, so add a little water if you need to thin it.

After mixing the ingredients, use a pair of oven mitts and remove your preheated pan from the oven.

Using a ladle or large serving spoon, distribute the batter evenly. It's easier to not fill the cups too high and simply go back and top them off later.

Note: When you pour the batter in the first muffin cup, it's going to sizzle. That's good. Work quickly, now, and fill the rest.

Now place the pan back in the oven for 17 minutes.
After 17 minutes, drop the heat to 350 degrees and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Extra Crispy Version:
There are times when you just want a nice crunch to these.  All I do to get them nice and crispy on the outside is adjust the times thus:  22 minutes at 450 degrees and 13 minutes at 350.

Step 5: Popped-Overs

Have a knife handy when you remove the popovers from the oven.

Using the flat side of the blade, gently press in to the middle of each popover, creating a hole for the steam to escape.  If you don't do this, the steam becomes trapped and they get soggy.

After poking holes in all of them, you have the option to fill them.

Since I prefer my popovers savory (as evinced by the addition of cheese and garlic), I like to add a little bit of butter, right in the hole while it's still hot enough to melt.

There is certainly room to play around with this recipe....

You could add a little basil and fill them with garlic butter, or omit the cheese, add some sugar and vanilla to the mix, then top them with a streusel after you turn the oven down to 350.

If you've got other ideas, feel free to post them in the comments.

Also, I'm entering this in the Snacks Contest, so don't forget to VOTE!

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