Popover Sometime Transcript

The Study

    Each year, I suspect some 100,000 recipes are published worldwide, via books, periodicals, the Internet, and, of course, television. Add to that the billions of cookbooks written since the first English language cookbook titled, "This is the Book of Cookery: Where beginneth a noble book of feasts royal ... a book for princes' households or any other estates," was first published in 1500, and I figure that the planetary recipe collection is something like, I don't know, six gajillion. Even if you tried, say, a billion recipes, and liked a million of them, you'd still need a thousand big, three-ring notebooks to hold them all, and a staff of a hundred to manage the data input. I know. I've tried.
    I have found that the only way to face this onslaught without going insane is to maintain a core cuisine all my own. The applications—or how do you say, recipes—on these cards I have committed to memory so that I can pull them out at a moment's notice with neither thought nor hesitation. I keep the cards only to record the occasional change, improvement, and augmentations that may come about.
    [looking through his stack of cards] Ahhh! Here's one that has never been futzed with. Simple, versatile, universal. What does it make? You know, I'm not going to tell you. Because if you're a loyal Good Eats fan, you should be able to figure it out. I will tell you one thing, though. The results are nothing, if not ...

[Good Eats Theme]

The Study

    All right fair viewers, are you ready for my most favorite-est memorized recipe? Very well. gets up from his chair which rolls away and a blackboard rolls in at the same time showing the recipe] As you can see, simplicity. Two large eggs, one cup of whole milk, four and three-quarter ounces of all-purpose flourthat's by weight. Would be a cup by volume. A tablespoon of butter, melted, and a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt, all at room temperature.


    So what do we have? Well as you can tell by the high liquid to dry ratio, this is a batter, and a very wet one at that. That means it will be capable of generating a large amount of steam. Now, because it expands so dramatically and carries so much energy with it, steam is ideally suited to performing work.
    [on the floor] In fact, steam can power massive factories, drive nuclear submarines, generate electricity, and propel this amazingly cool steam-powered robot.

AB: [speaking to the robot as it passes] Tokyo is that way, big guy.

    Hmm. So what else do we know? Well, we know that the batter contains two structural elements or what we call "strengtheners": the proteins in the egg whites and the starch in the flour. Of course, different types of flour also contain different amounts of proteins, so which flour you buy matters.

The Beach

GUESTS: Weightlifter #1, #2 and #3

[AB stands in front of a painted scene of the beach where 3 men have their heads and hand poking through, below their heads are painted 3 weightlifters holding up various sizes of weights and in various body types from weakling #1 to super strong #2, to medium build #3]

    You know, in a way, flours are like weightlifters, okay? Now, let's take a low-protein flour, like pastry flour. It is structurally very, very weak. And baked goods that it produces, are extremely tender.

AB: Hey, you remember when the mommy deer dies in "Bambi"?
WEIGHTLIFTER #1: [the weakest of them all bursts into tears] Mommy!
AB: Yeah, yeah. Go, go get yourself a hankie.

    All right, high-protein flours, on the other hand, like bread flour, produce structures that are strong and tough. Watch this.

AB: Hey, you remember the last five minutes of "Old Yeller?"
WEIGHTLIFTER #2: [the strongest of the 3, shakes his head and snorts]
AB: No? Okay, what about "Brian's Song"?
WL2: Hah!

    Wow, that is tough. And that would be great if we were dealing with a high-gluten dough like you would put into a French baguette, you know? That's not where our ingredient list is leading us today. No, today, we need the perfect mixture of both worlds. We need a flour that is strong but tender, like, say, all-purpose flour.

AB: Okay, you remember, oh, Jim Brown gets gunned down at the end of "The Dirty Dozen"?
WEIGHTLIFTER #3: [shakes his head "yes", but shows no other emotion]
AB: No? Okay. How about of end of "Tombstone," when Doc Holliday's dying of T.B. in that sanatorium, and he says, "Wyatt, if you were ever my friend, leave and don't come back." Remember? Remember? Remember?
WL3: [starts to tear up, but does not bawl like]

    See? Strong but tender. That's all-purpose flour, and it's perfect for this application. Hang in there, big guy.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    [at the refrigerator] While we're on the subject of strong and tender, let's consider eggs, the perfect food. They are tenderizers, of course, because of the fat content of the yolk, and they are strengtheners, because of the powerful and flexible proteins contained in the whites, or albumins.

[AB turns to put the eggs in the blender blender]

THING: [slowly lowers a sign]

[AB continues to all of the ingredients and then blends them up]


2 Large Eggs, Room
1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter,
1 Cup Whole Milk, Room
4¾ Ounces All-Purpose Flour
1½ tsp. Kosher Salt

    Just as we suspected, a batter. But now that we have it, what do you think we can make with it, hmm?

T: [shows another sign above AB's head]
AB: [AB turns, but does not see it] Sorry.


Um, a cake perhaps? No, there's nowhere near enough fat in there. And besides, cake batters usually contain more flour than moisture. Uh, pancakes? Nah, no leavening, or is there?

Inside the Batter

    As you can see in this microscopic view, there are bubbles, plenty of them, albeit small.

The Kitchen

    Hmm. You know, if one was to apply high, fast heat to this, all that water might just turn to steam and quickly expand inside the batter. And if the egg proteins were to coagulate and the starches and the flour gelatinize and the milk sugars caramelize at just the right time, well, what do you think?
    [camera pans up to a large crepe pan] Hmm? Yeah? Hmm. Okay, then.
    [AB cooks the batter as he might a crepe, with disastrous results]
    Okay, what did we learn? Uh, this batter is too stiff and thick to be a crepe, but not thick enough to really be anything else. It seems that too much surface area may have dissipated any lift the mixture may have commanded. What's next? Hmm?

The first cookbook with a recipe for our "mystery" dish dates to 1876.††

Cook's Warehouse: Atlanta, GA – 10:17am

GUEST: "W", Equipment Specialist

AB: "W", I need a pan.
W: All right, "You're obnoxious entirely."
AB: Hah hah. Actually, I wasn't thinking so much of a critical review as I was a cooking implement.
W: Well, what kind of pan?
AB: You know, I'd rather not say.
W: [visibly annoyed] Well, what are you cooking?
AB: Ah, well, that I can tell you. I'm cooking two eggs, one cup of whole milk, four and three-quarter ounces by weight of all-purpose flour, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt, blended.
W: You want a crepe pan?
AB: Crepes? Two eggs and one tablespoon of butter? I think not. Look, I need something that can absorb heat quickly and provide a launching pad for vertical velocity. [as he sarcastically waves his hands] Yeah? Okay? Vertical?
W: Uhh! You're going to make ...
AB: Don't say it. Just lead the way.
W: I think this may be what you're looking for.
AB: Ah, these are funky-looking muffin tins.
W: Only the cups are deeper with steeper sides.
AB: Right. Heavy, too.
W: Mmm, for better heat absorption. Oh, and notice on this pan. The cups pop out for easy cleaning, or you can use it as molds for other things. In other words, a multitasker.
AB: Oh, I like that.
W: I also have it in a heat resistant, nonstick silicone model.
AB: Wow, that's certainly fun to play with. But you know, silicone is technically an insulator, so that's probably not going to do the thermal job that I need. And this, [pointing to the pan with the cups that pop out] this is very nice. But that non-stick surface is dark and it tends to lead to over-browning on the food. So I think I'm just going to go with this standard guy. Besides, you see the shape of this lip? That's going to make a very pretty ...
W: Shhhhh.
AB: Oh, yeah, you're right. I almost said the word...
AB: Yeah, I get it. You don't have to keep doing that ...
W: SHUT IT! [grins as AB exits]

The first pans made for our "mystery" dish were
composed of cast iron and called "cornbread pans".

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Three recipe writers

    Our hotbox is set to 400 degrees, and I have lubed the cups of the pan with a little bit of butter. Now since we're expecting quite a bit of expansion, I dare not fill these more than halfway. Oh and I should say, although we've taken certain liberties with timing for the sake of television, you would not want to whip up this batter until the oven and the pan were ready to go. And I'll tell you right now, that flies in the face of the opinions of many recipe writers who insist on letting the batter sit for ...

RECIPE WRITER #1: ... two hours at room temperature.
RECIPE WRITER #2: ... overnight in the refrigerator.
RECIPE WRITER #3: ... two days, under the bed, in the guest room.
AB: You know, this particular application is best suited to immediate baking.
RW1: You won't get enough gluten.
AB: I don't want much gluten.
RW2: Your flour won't be hydrated.
AB: Yes, I know that. But you know what? If I wait, I lose all of my bubbles.
RW3: These are going to be terrible pop ...

AB: [at the oven] Right into the middle of a 400-degree oven for 40 minutes. And no peeking, or you will impede your inflation. Don't you people have your own kitchen? Go on. Get out of here.

400 Degrees

    So, knowing what we know about milk, eggs, flour, and the ratio thereof therein, what can we hypothesize about what's going on in there right now?

[Thing's Sign]

    [at the blackboard with a diagram of a popover cup, containing batter] Well, I think it is safe to say that the high heat of the oven is rapidly penetrating the metal cups, causing the batter at the sides and bottom to rapidly set, a process aided by the fact that we started with room-temperature, rather than cold ingredients.


    Now this traps the batter bubbles, which begin to expand in the only direction they can go, upward. Now here's the cool part. The ratio of liquid to starch and protein is balanced so that as the top of the rising batter sets and splits and sets and splits, just enough downward pressure is produced to force the bubbles inside to fuse together into one über-bubble.

This bubble continues to push up and out, stretching what is essentially a hollow blister, until equilibrium is reached between the expansion of the steam and the elasticity of the batter, which then sets in the final expanded position. We call the resulting devices popovers! [reveals the name of the episode "Popover Sometime", written on the refrigerator blackboard] If there's a more versatile baked good on the planet, I don't know what it is. Get it? Popover some ... pop ...oh, never mind.

40 minutes later ...

    [at the oven] Ahh. Ahh, beautiful aren't they? But if their lofty countenance is to continue, we must act quickly. Come, darlings.
    Behold the beautiful paradox of the popover. The outside, [picks up a hot one] ahh, is crunchy, golden brown and delicious because, of course, the proteins and starches were cooked by the dry heat of the oven. Inside, however, it is a different story. [cuts one open] The inner walls of this big bubble are soft and moist, and that's because steam did the cooking. But this can also become a problem. If this moisture remains inside, it'll eventually condense and turn gooey. So it is important that as soon as you can handle these things, that you vent them. Just find a little crag in the top, and kind of punch a little hole in it with a paring knife or a skewer. That'll allow that excess vapor to go out and that'll keep these shelf-stable for, well, at least a couple of days if they are sealed in a plastic bag.
    Now those of you unfamiliar with popovers may be wondering, what's so great about a big hollow dinner roll?
    [at the table] Well, for one thing, popovers are delicious. And since they are fast, they are a fantastic replacement for dinner rolls, which are usually heavy, not to mention time-consuming. But, because popovers are hollow on the inside, they can house a host of things. Perhaps you'd like to butter one up and fill it with a luscious broth, or perhaps chicken salad, or chocolate pudding, lemon curdthat's a great idea. Fruit? Why not? In other words, a popover is a bread, it is a serving vessel, it is both. Now, this amazingly convenient device, not too surprisingly, is an American invention. But it was born of old English ancestors.

To reheat the next day, place directly on the middle
rack of a 400 degree oven for 3 minutes.

The Kitchen

    [reading the fictitious book, "The Big Book of Culinary Lore"] Hah! You know, food words are funny things. Did you know that in modern-day England, the word "pudding" doesn't always mean "pudding" per se? In fact, it can refer to any dessert item. That certainly sheds some light on this mysterious Pink Floyd-ism.

18th Century British Kitchen Hearth

SPIT JACK GIRL: [while turning the spit] If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

    But there was a time when pudding meant just about anything that was boiled or baked. Now in his 1577 blockbuster, "A Description of England," William Harrison wrote, "Each part of the country has its own puddings. Devonshire, white cloud. Gloucestershire, bag pudding. Hampshire, hasty pudding. Worcestershire, black pudding, and Yorkshire, Yorkshire pudding". Yorkshire, of course, a region on the northeastern coast, just below North Umbria.
    Now back in the Middle Ages up in these parts, meat, fresh meat at least, was actually pretty hard to find.

SJG: Especially since father went to the gallows for poaching a hare in Sherwood Forest.
AB: Oh, that's, uh, that's very sad.

    When large critter hunks or joints were available, they were generally cooked on a spit. Not over the fire, but just in front of it. Flavorful drippings, just rendered fat, were captured in a pan here on the hearth. Now somewhere along the way, a thrifty cook figured out that a little meat would seem to go a lot further if it was served with something else that was, well, kind of meaty. So the pan with the fat was placed onto the fire, and when the fat sizzled, a batter was poured directly onto it and baked.
    Now let's go take a look at an authentic 18th century recipe for Yorkshire Pudding.

AB: [to the SJG] Keep turning, kid. It ain't done yet.

The Kitchen

    Four eggs, two cups of milk, nine ounces of flourthat's two cups for the volumetrically mindeda teaspoon and a half of kosher salt, and a quarter of a cup of meat drippings, two tablespoons of which will be left in the pan. In other words, it is almost exactly double everything in our popover procedure. The only real difference is the use of drippings instead of butter. Of course, we could use butter instead of drippings, but then we wouldn't be making Yorkshire pudding now, would we? First, the meat.


    [at the oven] Ahh. Here we have a nice three-bone standing rib roast. Very nice. Now technically, any roast fatty enough to give you a few tablespoons of drippings will do. But beef or lamb or mutton, if you can get it, are indeed preferable. Now, as you extract the meaty goodness, go ahead and boost your box to 400.
    The meat will, of course, need to rest. So shift it over to a cutting board and cover it with a nice big piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. That will certainly keep it warm while the Yorkshire pudding bakes.

    Now you're going to probably have a quarter of a cup of drippings left. Two tablespoons of that, and that's one ounce, will need to go directly into the blender. Whatever, you know, remains in the pan can go back into the oven. But you're going to want to move the rack up to the middle position before reinserting the pan. And odds are, as this gets hot it's going to create a little smoke. That's okay. It's completely normal.

2 Tbs. Beef Drippings

    As to the batter, two cups of whole milk at room temperature are followed by four large eggs, also at room temperature. Nine ounces of all-purpose flourthat's two cups by volumeand, of course, one and a half teaspoons of kosher salt go in. Lid that up and let it blend for about 30 seconds, until it's nice and fluffy and frothy. You may have to scrape down the carafe, depending on the design of your particular model. There.

2 Cups Whole Milk, Room
4 Large Eggs, Room
9 Ounces All-Purpose Flour
1½ tsp. Kosher Salt

    [back at the oven] Ahh. Now carefully pour in the batter and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the device is puffy and golden brown. And again, no door opening, lest deflation be your aim.

400 Degrees

    [later] Ahh. Now ‘tis best to work quickly. As soon as the Yorkshire pudding is out, go ahead and cut your roast beast. I do like a standing rib roast. And I like to leave the bones intact so that you've got something to hold onto. Now see, this ought to be just enough for two people. Yeah, that's good.
    Traditionally, Yorkshire pudding is cut into squares, but I prefer to just tear off chunks of it, and serve it alongside slabs o' beast.

SJG: So, what's for puddin'?
AB: Oh, this is the puddin'.
SJG: You know what I mean.
AB: Yeah, I know what you mean, but that's another show.
SJG: You always say that.
AB: Eat your dinner.

Yorkshire pudding was originally called dripping pudding
in the 1737 book, The Whole Duty of a Woman.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Dutch Man, Dutch Woman, and Dutch Baby

    [early morning] Popovers make a great luncheon item. And of course, Yorkshire pudding, classic supper dish. But what of breakfast, hmm? Well, have you ever munched down on a Dutch Baby?

[camera pans to the Dutch family, as they gasp, horrified, the baby's feet are in way-oversized wooden shoes]

DUTCH MAN: [shouting] Hoe durft u probeert te eten mijn baby!

    How dare you try to eat my baby!!!

    Did you see the feet on that? Never mind. Doesn't matter.
    Supposedly the term "Dutch Baby" was coined by Original Pancake House owner Lester Hyatt, who was trying to think up a new name for a dish based on German pancakes.

    Now the parts list for our version, as you can see, is just a little bit different than our popover. We have two large eggs still. But we've cut back on the milk to only half a cup, okay? And we've cut the flour down to two and three-eighths ounces by weight. Don't worry. That's half a cup by volume. That's easier. We've got half a teaspoon of kosher salt, three tablespoons of butter, melted. And count them, three tablespoons of sugar.

3 Tbs. SUGAR

    [at the oven] Ahh. Now place two tablespoons of the melted butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Stash in a 375-degree oven. Let it heat for ten minutes before building the rest of the Dutch ... Well, you know.

2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter,

375 Degrees

[assembles the ingredients in a blender] 2 Large Eggs, Room
½ Cup Whole Milk
2⅜ Ounces All-Purpose Flour
3 Tbs. Unsalted Butter,
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
3 Tbs. Vanilla Sugar

    Plain old sugar is certainly fine. But if you happen to set aside some sugar in which you stash one, two, or maybe three vanilla beans for a few weeks, you would have vanilla sugar, which would be a very nice touch indeed. [blends the ingredients]
    [at the oven] Into the pan. Thirty to 35 minutes will do the trick.
    [later] Ahh, now that is a beautiful baby. Cut into wedges. Adorn with additional sugar if you like, and a bit of lemon juice is nice. Just squeeze it on. Ridiculously delicious.
    So as you can see, this one simple application can easily and quickly morph from breakfast to lunch to dinner. It is a true multitasker, and a tasty one at that.
    Okay, just to make sure you've memorized it, read it back to me. Come on, all of you. Good. Good. Good. Okay. Good for everyone, except you, Mr. Thompson, in Boca Raton. Don't think I didn't hear that.
    See you next time on Good Eats.

Actual title, "This is the Boke of Cokery: Here beginneth a noble boke of festes royalle and Cokery a boke for a pryncis households or any other estates: and the makynge therof as ye shall fynde more playnly within this boke", (London, 1500): http://tinyurl.com/pslfnk, page 60
    However, it appears that the first English cookbook (not published) was "Forme of Cury" (or Manner of Cookery) from the chief of feasts for Richard II who compiled a set of royal recipes in 1390.

††Practical Cooking by M.N. Henderson, 1876

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010