brass bra popovers

Have you been outside recently? It’s gives new meaning to the phrase “It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra!” Seriously, it’s the kind of cold that makes you want to pack the family up and buy a beach shack in Fiji. (The cost of living has to be better than New Jersey and think of all the tourist worthy souvenirs the kids will learn to craft out of coral and palm fronds!) Yup Fiji definitely seems to be the way to go, but until those change of address cards hit the mail I’ve been doing my best to keep the family warm with knit hats, flannel pj’s and giant comforting pots of hearty soups and stews.

I’ve been the butcher, baker and candlestick maker behind the famous (or is it infamous) beets and blue cheese dot com for three plus years, and in that time I’ve posted twenty-three recipes in my soups and stews category. Twenty-three… that’s a lot! I’ve given you everything from Fish Chowder with Bacon and Butternut Squash to Slow-Roasted Tomato BisqueHomemade Wonton to Curried Carrot & Parsnip. Creamy Broccoli & Kale to Cold Cucumber and Potato. Not to mention recipes for Chicken Stout StewTurkey and Bean Chili or good ol’ Classic Beef Stew. And with each recipe I suggest you serve it with homemade rolls or rosemary soft pretzels, bialys or blue cheese crackers; something wonderful and freshly baked. Usually I take my own advice and bake something yummy to serve on the side, but recently I’ve been feeling restless. I’m tired of the same old drop biscuits or cornbread, I want adventure!

Hello popovers.

Back in the day popovers were my thing to make at Thanksgiving. They seemed fancier than your standard roll, required special equipment (something this new cook was happy to go out and buy) and made everyone ohh and ahh when they came out right. When being the operative word. I’m still not positive which recipe I was following, my guess it was it mash up of two, but while they worked like a charm one day they were a giant flop the next. Annoying, aggravating and enough to make this gal shelve her popover pans for years. I came upon those pans the other day and since I happened to be feeling invincible, decided it was time to give them another whirl. However this time I went directly to the source; King Arthur.

When it comes it baking the folks at King Arthur really do seem to know a thing or two. They have blogs and hotlines, recipes and communities, products and classes… they are the undoubtedly the end all and be all of baking information. My family and I actually visited the King Arthur Flour Vermont campus this past summer and honestly if they would have agreed, I would have moved in. It’s an amazing place filled with baking, eating, learning and buying opportunities all set in the beautiful Vermont countryside. A total baking mecca. Anyway back to those popovers— According to the baking gurus at K.A. the ultimate popover is in fact not the result of starting them off in a cold oven, nor does it matter if you use a blender or whisk the batter by hand. No according to them it’s the temperature of your ingredients that are the key to perfectly puffy popovers. Interesting. So armed with some fresh popover baking advice and a King Arthur recipe I focused my attention on baking up a batch of my own. And guess what? Perfectly puffy popovers!

Oh yeah, I’m back baby. I am back.

Super Simple Popovers
These are truly so easy to make you’ll find yourself enjoying popovers all the time.

popovers4

4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot tap water for 10 minutes before cracking
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk, lukewarm
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups Unbleached Bread Flour
3 tbsp. melted butter

  1. Position the oven racks on a lower portion of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.  
  2. Thoroughly grease* a popover pan (or standard 12-cup metal muffin tin, one whose cups are close to 2 1/2″ wide x 1 1/2” deep).
  3. Traditional method: Whisk together the flour and salt. In a desperate bowl whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter. Add the flour mixture and blend until just combined.
    Blender method: Place the milk, melted butter, flour, salt and eggs, lightly whisked, into the jar of a blender. Blend on high for several seconds, 
    then stop to scrape the sides. Blend for an additional few seconds but do not over blend
  4. Pour the batter into the popover tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown.
  6. As soon as you remove the popovers from the oven stick the tip of a knife into the top of each to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Let the popovers cool slightly in the pan then remove and serve.

*I’ve experimented with several types of fat to grease my popover pans including butter, vegetable shortening and bacon grease. The bacon grease seemed to work the best, followed by the butter. But you be the judge.

**adapted from King Arthur Flour
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Move Over Kozy Shack…

A few weeks ago my daughter discovered the classic children’s book The Poky Little Puppy. It’s been her number one choice for afternoon reading and bedtime story ever since. She never tires of hearing about the puppies heading roly-poly, pell-mell and tumble-bumble down the hill. She tisk-tisks when the fresh puppies get scolded by their mamma and is delighted when the poky puppy gets to eat up all the rice pudding and chocolate custard. But I’ll be honest with you, The Poky Little Puppy is beginning to get on my nerves. Seriously, the same book every night for weeks on end— I challenge you not to grow weary too! But she loves the story, so we read it again and again and again. Anyway, thanks to a certain little puppy I’ve been thinking about rice pudding lately.

In my mind there really is no middle ground when it comes to rice pudding, you either love it or you don’t. And the same goes for whether you prefer it with raisins or you think it’s at it’s best unadulterated. Personally I can’t think of a more soothing dessert than a bowl of rice pudding (without raisins) topped with a nice dollop of whipped cream. Mmmm…

In the past I’ve made rice pudding with brown rice and coconut milk, and while it wasn’t bad it certainly wasn’t the rice pudding you remember from childhood. But this recipe is. It’s rich and creamy and not overly sweet, really it’s near rice pudding perfection with one exception… it only makes a small quantity of rice pudding! Now perhaps in your house this isn’t an issue, but in mine things could get ugly pretty quickly if someone feels they haven’t gotten their fair share. Naturally my solution was to double the recipe which not only made enough to satisfy the crazies I live with, but also gave me enough to share with my visiting parents. Happiness reigned! Oh and that night my mother got the pleasure of reading The Poky Little Puppy to her granddaughter before bed. It was a win-win situation all around…

Classic Arborio Rice Pudding
When it comes to rice pudding my family is a bunch of purists. In other words— no raisins, ever! But feel free to add them to yours if you wish. 

1 cup water
a pinch salt
1/2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
whipped cream, for topping

  1. Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, return to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Allow to cook, stirring frequently, until the rice has absorbed most of the water but it still al dente, about 8-12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile bring the milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the warm milk mixture to the cooked rice and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the milk and mixture starts to get thicken, about 15-18 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pudding to a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface, and allow to cool until set. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of whipped cream, or chill for a later date.

*adapted from the food network

Homemade Whipped Cream
It’s so easy to make your own whipped cream it’s really not worth wasting your time (and money) buying it.

1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Put all the ingredients in a medium high-sided bowl. With a hand mixer on low, whip cream until it begins to firm up. Slowly increase speed to high and beat until the whipped cream holds it’s shape when you lift out the beaters. Use immediately and enjoy!