Well. The good news is that I’m making headway in my book proposal. I was working on it at a cafe on Saturday afternoon, and I could actually see it taking shape, right there in front of me. I love that feeling. I was absolutely elated. I lost all sense of time. I was in it up to my eyebrows. And I must have looked it, too, because as I was packing up to leave, the girl sitting next to me commented politely that I must have gotten some very good work done, because I was staring at my computer so intensely. And I decided that from now on, I should work only in the privacy of my home, so no one else has to witness that.
And that’s the good news. The bad news is, I’m tired. Did you know that I have a neighbor who, though at home all day, waits until night to do his gardening and outdoor home improvement projects? As I type this, my poor, stressed-out dog has his nose pressed to the window, watching our neighbor stroll the length of his yard, surveying the territory with a flashlight of such size and power that it could double as a fine searchlight. Living next to this is one of many things that can make a person tired.
I hope you people were serious when you said you were excited about the prospect of more breakfast recipes in 2011. Because I have another one for you. Yes, already. I’m going to try to limit it to one a month from now on, but what can you do? I woke up the other morning, realized I had the ingredients for a batch of oatmeal popovers, and the next thing I knew, they were made.
As with last week’s fresh ginger muffins, this recipe – or at least the ingredients part of it – comes to us from Ms. Marion Cunningham and The Breakfast Book. It’s a very subtle riff on a classic popover, one that includes a fistful of rolled oats that you’ve coarsely ground in the food processor. Her headnotes explain that she uses the oatmeal for additional texture, and I can attest that the result is really lovely: a little heartier, a scant degree more substantial, than an ordinary popover. But I would add that the oats bring some flavor too, which I like very much. It’s a quiet flavor, one you only notice if you look for it, but it’s there. Ordinary popovers can sometimes taste too eggy, but the oats counter that, giving the flavor some depth and grounding. It felt fiddly to haul out the food processor first thing in the morning, before I’d even put on real clothes, but I was glad I did. Actually, I might grind extra oats next time, so they’re ready whenever I want them.
I have to admit, though, that I did make some adjustments to the method. Ms. Cunningham starts her popovers in a cold oven, but that sort of terrifies me. I have an electric oven, and the only time that I tried the cold-oven popover method, the lower heating element scorched my popovers in the process of preheating. I am not a nice person when my breakfast gets ruined. Maybe it was a fluke, but I don’t use the cold-oven popover method anymore. I start my popovers in a hot oven, and I also preheat the pan before I pour in the batter, which gives them an extra boost. The method that I like best is detailed nicely in the book The New Best Recipe, and so that’s what I’ve written below. Basically, you get Marion Cunningham’s concept and ingredients, with The New Best Recipe’s method. I hope she’ll forgive me for taking such liberties.
I’ve made these popovers twice now, and I find that they don’t rise quite as exuberantly high as normal (oatmeal-less) popovers. But they’re still perfectly airy on the inside, and the oil in the cups of the pan make the outer edges nice and crisp.
Oh, and Marion Cunningham says that the combination of oatmeal and marmalade is very good. She’s right.
In a large bowl – ideally one with a pour spout, if you have it – whisk the eggs and milk until well combined, about 20 seconds. Whisk the flour, oats, and salt in a separate bowl, and add to the egg mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula just until the flour is incorporated. The mixture will still be lumpy. Add the melted butter, and whisk until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. (This gives the gluten time to relax and brings the chilled ingredients closer to room temperature, so that the batter isn’t quite so cold when it goes into the oven.)
Note: If you don’t have a popover pan, you can use a regular muffin tin. Don’t use all 12 cups, though; use only the 10 outer cups. You’ll need extra oil to grease them.
While the batter rests, put ½ teaspoon oil into each cup of a popover pan. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place the popover pan in the oven, and preheat to 450° F. After the batter has rested, remove the hot pan from the oven and, working quickly, distribute the batter evenly among the 6 cups of the pan. (If your bowl doesn’t have a spout, you might want to transfer it to a vessel that does; it’ll allow you to work much more quickly.) Return the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes – and DO NOT open the oven door. Lower the heat to 350° F, and bake until evenly golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Remove the popovers from the pan and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before eating.
Yield: 6 popovers