One of my first adventures in cooking was when I was 8 with my friend Sasha. We lived together on a commune in central Vermont. Despite the fact that there were dozens of adults living with us we were given freedom to roam, often unsupervised. This laissez-faire attitude allowed us the luxury to bake with wild abandon and make up recipes using just about everything we could find and reach. The fact that we were both 8 years old meant everything we made had to be sweet. This is where my love of “pastry” was born.
Sasha is to be credited with the original concept for our popover pancakes. He must have watched his mom or grandmother make these souffleing wonders and paid enough attention to at least know the basic ingredients. I remember going through dozens of eggs, pounds of flour and all the milk in the house before we produced something that the general public would consider edible. We on the other hand slathered every batch, failed or perfect with Vermont grade B maple syrup and ate them with total satisfaction.
This morning, more than 30 years later I made them for my two young boys. I’ve learned a thing or two about baking since then so they got to eat the very first batch. My boys looked at the soufflé and said “did you mean to blow it up like that?” I laughed and remembered what fun Sasha and I had blowing them up over and over again. When it collapsed a bit I poured raspberry jam, that my friend Jen had made from berries she picked the week before, over the top. The boys devoured the giant baked pancake and asked for another. It is the easiest recipe I can think of and reminds me of my old friend Sasha and the beginning of my love for baking. I hope someday my boys are bold enough to experiment in the kitchen, although I tend to have a closer eye on them then the adults of my hippy past. They never get that close to an oven without me!
If you use a round pan then your popover pancake will be high sided and dramatic. It will work in any shape as long as the size is right (the batter should be no more than 1/4″ deep), but the look will vary. I like to use my well seasoned 10 1/2″ cast iron skillet and it fills it to the brim so don’t use anything smaller than that!
1/3 cup salted butter, cut into 1/2″ chunks (I like the salty contrast to the sweet toppings)
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1. Place the butter into the 10 1/2″ wide pan and put into the hot oven. Allow to bake until butter is melting and bubbly, but not browned. About 5 minutes.
2. While the butter is heating whisk together the other ingredients in a medium sized bowl, until a smooth batter.
3. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and pour the batter over the melted butter. Immediately return the pan to the oven.
4. Bake until golden brown, dramatically risen and puffy.
There will be butter on all sides and in the middle of the pancake, which will soak in once it is removed from the oven. About 20-25 minutes. I like my pancakes a little bit crispy on the edges so I go longer.
5. Add your favorite jam, syrup, honey, fruit or a simple dusting of powdered sugar. Serve immediately while the pancake is still souffled.