Savoury Roasted Cinnamon Popovers
I just looked at the title of this, and my mind immediately went to a breakfast association. The interesting thing is these popovers were conceived as a thought for an awesome dinner accompaniment: a hollow, savoury, buttery puff with which to scoop up extra sauce or even a jus.
I was eating Van Leeuwen cinnamon ice cream (out of the container) when I came up with the thought for these tasty treats. Van Leeuwen, which creates incredible artisanal ice cream, uses a Ceylonese version of cinnamon – the flavor reminiscent of Atomic Fireballs, those crazy hot candies we ate as kids that turned our tongues red. Although lovely, I prefer the more woodsy and subtle flavor of Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon…Which I’ve read is actually a version of the cassia plant, not cinnamon after all.
Cinnamon is such a diverse spice and is a staple ingredient in many savory ethnic dishes; it adds such complexity and nuance to even a simple marinade. Whether part of Indian garam masala or a Mexican spice blend, the added note can elevate a simple dish to something much greater. Pan-roasting the cinnamon deepens the smoky-woodiness of the spice, which makes this even better as a savoury side. And who doesn’t love a popover? I mean their shapes alone are comical. And there is something about serving a warm baked (from scratch!) good at dinner that is suggestively decadent.
The best part is that this is a super easy recipe with ingredients most of us have on hand. Oh, and I’ve tailored it for use in a muffin pan. I feel like I don’t make them often enough to warrant the expense of popover tins and much prefer the smaller size. Although easy, the recipe is not without science, because getting these little guys to rise can be nerve-wracking. I’ve done it a million times and still stand watch peering through the hazily-lit oven (never open!) to make sure they are on track. So read the procedure carefully. And enjoy some luxurious dinner (or breakfast) popovers…
Yields 12 popovers in a traditional muffin pan
1 stick cinnamon or ¾ tsp ground cinnamon (Vietnamese, Saigon, whatever you like)
1 cup AP flour
½ tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp melted butter
melted butter for brushing
Lower the rack in your oven to the 2nd rack from the bottom, and preheat oven to 450° F. Keeping the rack lower will prevent over-browning of the popovers.
Pan-roast cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon in a sauté pan on medium-low heat until fragrant and toasty. If using sticks, grind in a spice or coffee grinder. You want to yield ¾ of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
Combine milk, butter, and eggs in a blender. Blend thoroughly. Add flour, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until thoroughly combined. Don’t overmix. I like to pulse, scrape down, and blend until it just mixes through. You want to let the batter stand and come to room temperature (around 20 to 25 minutes). A room temperature or even slightly warm mixture will rise much higher and easier than a cold one.
When the batter is almost ready, place the muffin pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 – 10 min. You want to preheat the tin, and placing it on a baking sheet creates better heat from the bottom – again, all good for the rising of the dough. When hot, brush the muffin pan with butter to prevent sticking.
Fill the cups about halfway full and immediately place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 450° F, and then lower temperature to 350° F for another 20. Don’t peak at them or they will fall! You want to keep the oven heat even. The puffs should be crusty on the outside and soft and hollow on the inside. I shut the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar, a technique used for gougeres, for another 3 to 5 minutes just to make sure.
Serve these delicious puffs warm!