It's been a while since I tore my last food column out of the New York Times Magazine. Somehow the recipes of recent years seem less relevant, less honest than they used to in the old days, when I could practically count every week on finding something to stow away in my stained blue kitchen binder. The sad truth is, on most Sundays I now skip right past the column en route to the Puzzle. So, when my mother-in-law arrived one recent weekend with her usual wad of "articles that might come in handy," I glanced with only half interest at a food column she'd torn from the Magazine. The fact that it focused on popovers--which I have always felt were more about drama and pretense than they are about true deliciousness--engaged me even less. But then, somehow, my eyes caught on the second recipe, apparently from David Lebovitz's new book, "The Sweet Life From Paris." Not straightforward popovers, the treat Lebovitz shared was what he called "sugared puffs." The idea being that you make a popover first, then brush it in butter and roll it in cinammon sugar. I think it was the writer's description that ultimately hooked me: "A crisp, fragrant swell of pastry, pebbled with sugar. Part souffle, part donut, part cinnamon toast."
Within 20 minutes, I was busy whipping up my own batch. And I've been baking these things obsessively ever since. Not just because they are completely scrumptious and addictive and my boys and all of their buddies beg for them. But because they are, quite possibly, the world's most convenient Sunday breakfast treat. They require no special ingredients. The most exotic thing on the ingredient list is whole milk. The recipe requires no fancy equipment--just a regular old muffin/cupcake pan. You don't even need a KitchenAid or a mixing bowl, since you whip the whole thing up in a blender. And to top it all off, you can roll out of bed, start baking, wash your equipment, and have warm, yummy, hug-winning treats piled home-ily on a plate at the center of your breakfast table within about 45 minutes. These babies may not look quite as glamourous as traditional popovers, but the swoon they'll inspire will be genuine indeed. Here's the recipe:
For the puffs:
Softened unsalted butter (For greasing the pan. If I think of it, I leave a half stick out on the counter the night before. If not, I zap the butter in the microwave for a very few seconds just to soften it up a tiny bit.)
2 Tbsps. butter, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature if possible (I also leave those out on the counter the night before if I think of it. Otherwise, I just crack the eggs open and leave them in a bowl while I prepare everything else. Just to take the chill off.)
1 cup whole milk (Don't use low fat or skim. I keep individual pints of shelf stable whole milk in my pantry for just this kind of thing. The stuff doesn't taste so hot in coffee, but it's fine for baking.
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup flour
For the Sugar Coating:
2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a nonstick popover or muffin pan with 1/2-cup-size holes/indentations with Pam, then grease 9 of the holes very liberally with softened butter. You should be able to see the butter--check out the picture over to the right to see what I mean.
2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons of melted butter, eggs, milk, salt, and sugar in a blender and whiz for a few seconds.
3. Add the flour and whiz for 5-8 seconds, just until smooth.
4. Divide the batter among 9 greased molds, filling each about 2/3 full.
5. Bake for 35 minutes until the puffs are deep brown (I have a very hot oven and find that it takes mine about 28 minutes to get the puffs dark brown. Watch yours carefullly, starting at about 25 minutes. You want them to be a nice rich brown in order to get them as puffed and crispy as possible but obviously you don't want them to burn at all. Yuk.)
6 Remove the pan from the oven and wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Don't bum out that your buxom popovers will become sadly saggy during this time. Beauty is, after all, fleeting. You might need a small knife to help pry the popovers out--don't worry if they take a little bit of a beating. Sugar and cinnamon can cure most any ill.
7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each puff all over with melted butter, then dredge in sugar and cinnamon to coat completely. Devour immediately. I put away 8 of them myself yesterday morning and haven't been able to eat anything since.