Cream muffins

Posted on February 11, 2008 in Other writing

What we call cream muffins in the Lowcountry are really popovers. These airy foils for butter and jam are also called Yorkshire pudding. In York, in Northern England, they appear at the breakfast table as well as the classic accompaniment to roast beef. I am always surprised to hear the cookery of England maligned by Americans; so many of our best dishes, especially in the South, are absolutely English.
I serve these marvelous breads with lots of butter and homemade preserves and big cups of café au lait to begin a lazy, rainy Sunday breakfast with friends gathered for the weekend at a beachhouse. You will need to make the batter at least an hour in advance of baking. I like to make it the night before, then surprise my friends the next morning with hot cream muffins.
Popovers are very easy to make. I have made this recipe with as few as three and as many as six eggs, in both preheated and cold baking tins. However, to prevent the popovers from falling, you must not open the oven door during the first twenty minutes of baking — and little thereafter. There are several popover pans on the market, but I bake them in well-greased heavy porcelain custard cups.

2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus butter for greasing the cups

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Beat the eggs lightly. Mix the milk and butter, then pour the mixture into the eggs and stir well. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring constantly. Do not overbeat. Cover the batter and allow to rest for at least an hour. If you refrigerate it overnight, be sure to allow it to warm up for awhile before you begin baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400o. Grease a dozen 3-ounce ovenproof custard cups. If the batter is lumpy, strain it. I pour it into a pitcher, then pour the batter into the greased cups, filling them no fuller than 1/2″ from the tops. Set the cups on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. This recipe yields a dozen cream muffins, moist on the inside and crispy brown on the dome. For a drier popover, you may bake them at a lower temperature, prick them with a knife after 50 minutes, and let them bake another five minutes. Turn out of the cups and serve immediately.
Yields 10-12 popovers.