Sunday, October 19, 2008

Four Alarm Popovers

There is nothing at all in the world like waking up every single neighbor in a 40 foot radius at 7:50 on a Saturday morning. Forty feet may not seem like a big distance to my suburban readers, but the lots on my block are 25 feet wide, hence the buildings are 25 feet wide, and a story is 8 feet, I am talking about potentially dozens of people.

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When I was little, one of the fantastic weekend morning treats were my mother's popovers. Unlike most breakfast food that can be whipped up in the time that it takes to cook, popovers are a tad bit more involved. As the decades stretched, the popover making evolved into a fine art. When I asked my mother for the recipe last summer (probably for the third time), it reflected a full 35 years of refinement and wisdom. A popover is like a small souffle. The eggs expand and ideally, a popover should tower over the edge and the inside should be hollow (in order to accommodate mass quantities of jam, peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, or all of the above). Baking the perfect popover is an art, and experience helps.

But before I blame these 85 decibel fiascos on my mother (mothers are too easy to blame), I am going to return to my first point. The cozy human density of my street is a loud thing in and of itself. From the Babar Clan who lives upstairs (and if my old ballet teacher were around, she would have clobbered them) to the old man who sounds like he is suffering from an advanced case of tuberculosis, there is rarely any quiet. When I first became aware of the old man, I felt sorry for him. I could hear every cough, every loud hock, I could even hear the sound of the mucous bubbling in the back of his throat. Soon, my pity turned to irritation. He got up every single morning, precisely at 6:45 AM to clear his lungs. It didn't matter if it was a weekday or a weekend (I suppose the germs don't take a break, either). If I prepare ahead of time, I can steel myself to sleep through the human hurricane, but last night I forgot and this morning, I just couldn't go back to sleep. If a lay in bed trying to sleep, I usually start imagining the slug-like progress of the mucus through our pipes. Being in the lowest apartment, we are acutely aware of every shower and toilet-flush in the building, and its easy to imagine a bilious green glob slowly making its way through our walls. Dutch can usually sleep through it, but he can't sleep through my tossing and turning. So I got up and decided a nice warm batch of popovers would be lovely for breakfast.

My popover (do not try this at home)


As any astute viewer can tell, this in one of my popovers, not my mother's. Notice its hockey-puck-like density and shape. While it is not like biting into a cloud of pastry, this version is still a suitable vehicle for peanut butter, butter, or jam. For the record, I substituted the milk for yogurt and water, and I used whole wheat flour, both which rendered the pre-heated tin moot.

Mom's Popovers

preheat oven to 450, put empty muffin tin in there to warm up, too.

1 c flour (white flour produces the most altitude)
1 c milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp of salt
4 tblspns of melted butter

mix ingredients

when oven is up to temperature--

use melted butter to grease the tin

pour in the batter and cook for 20-35 minutes at 375.

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I am sure even a fire marshal, perusing this innocuous recipe, would be hard pressed to explain why the hair-trigger fire alarms go off every time I cook them. I truly thought having all three vent fans going, the doors shut and the windows open would prevent the disaster from happening a fourth time (I know, I am slow learner, but I really want them to turn out!). I am no stranger to setting off the alarms. A bread heel, caught inside the toaster will do it. Bacon, cooked to fast, broiled vegetables with too much oil, and any other number of foods can set of the alarm. I have been able to figure out how to prevent all of them, except this one.

Maybe in the morning, I am dumber than I am the rest of the day. Maybe my hunger clouds my judgment. Maybe the rules of my mother, even in the face of common sense, are impossible for me to ignore (that is not true), maybe my mother's kitchen pronouncements are cast in granite.

Be that as it may, in the future, I must absolutely skip the first step. For some reason, preheating the tin throws the alarms into conniptions. Taking the done popovers out of the oven doesn't bother them, so it is not just a hot tin, or a hot oven. My theory is that the nonstick surface offgases at high temps. Which makes me think we eat those gases in the cooked popovers. Yum.

The Culprit

I was under the impression that non-stick meant "teflon" which, in turn, meant "inert." Clearly I was misinformed. Whatever it releases at 450 degrees is odorless, but sends the smoke detectors into a tizzy.

1 comment:

rosa said...

I am far too stupid to cook in the AM. "Cereal and a banana." "Cereal and a banana." I mumble these words to myself like a life-line as I stagger to the kitchen, eyes at half-squint. These days, in morning sickness land, I reel as well as stagger. It's a sorry sight. What I mean is that your attempt at popevers are a far sight more intelligent than anything I could come up with at such an hour.

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