Praise for Helen and Gluten-Free Popovers

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, my childhood was embodied by two delicious eggy pastries (or pastry-esque items): ‘Rolly-rollies’ and Popovers.  The thin French crepes and milder Yorkshire puddings hid in my baking repertoire for years, without my knowing that both nicknames disguised–to my lesser-travelled ears–‘exotic’ and difficult masterpieces.  But whatever you may call them, these delicious recipes have earned many fans among family and friends over the years.  My love for both of these is the direct responsibility of my maternal great-grandmother, Helen.

The granddaughter of Norwegian immigrants, Helen, from all recounts, was a formidable force throughout her life.  From the general love of her recipes through the generations, I think I’m safe to assume she was an even more formidable cook.  She passed on the original (gluten-filled) recipes to my grandmother, who taught my mother.  And the love grew.  These two were the most requested foods growing up and still remain some of my favorites to share, especially now that I’ve mastered gluten-free versions of both, with a lot of help found in the online Gluten-Free community.

Unlike my lucky success with her crepe recipe, the single egg in the original Popover recipe doesn’t quite have the strength to lift the heavy, moisture-sucking gluten-free flours.  Countless failed attempts have transpired over my 16 months of baking gluten-free.  But I finally found the Holy Grail of GF Popovers recipes in the Thanksgiving/Fall Issue of Living Without Magazine.  I was quite disappointed during my Thanksgiving post, when I tried to link the recipe, and found it was withheld to LivingWithout.com‘s register users.  But after expounding on crepes, I checked again, and the recipe has been released!

So here, without further ado, is my idea of the perfect popover recipe:

Living Without’s Crusty Popovers

I leave out the herbs when I make them.  I’m a purist.  If you are having some trouble (or have as temperamental an oven as mine) try turning down the oven temp by 50 degrees F halfway through the bake time without opening the oven.  Don’t interrupt that rise!  If its still not quite to your taste, try Living Without’s Yorkshire Puddings.  They’re almost the same, but might be tweaked enough to appease your tastebuds.

Here is my modified recipe:

Popovers

  • – 1 c. milk
  • -4 eggs
  • -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • -2/3 c. white rice flour
  • Pinch xanthan gum
  • -Dash salt 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a 12 cup muffin tin in the oven to preheat.  Keep the tin warm until you are ready to pour in the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, xanthan gum, and salt.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  Carefully remove hot baking tin from oven.  Grease with butter or oil.  Pour in batter, filling cups 3/4 full.  Place popovers in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees for the final 15 minutes.  It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.

And last, but not least, here’s my seal of approval:

Excuse the overexposure and, instead, marvel at that browned, crispy shell; the undeniable puff.  Imagine the soft, eggy interior….

Now quit your daydreams and go make some!


Quick & Easy: Crepes

What do you get when you add

THIS

Plus

THIS

…?

LINGONBERRY (‘SWEDISH’) CREPES!

Bite me, IHOP.  I don’t need your dastardly gluten-filled pancakes (but I’ll still come back for your Sirloin Tips and Eggs, darling, don’t worry).

IHOP’s Swedish Crepes used to be my go to at the restaurant.  My siblings and I (and my mother and her brothers) were raised on “Rolly-Rollies”: my great-grandmother’s crepes buttered and rolled into long tubes and served with syrup.  While my brother, sister, and I were forced to wait through the torturous cook time of the whole batch of batter, my mother and her brothers would eat the individual crepes as soon as they came out of the pan.  I imagine there was a lot more fighting in my grandmother’s kitchen…

So, imagine my youthful self excitement on the day in IHOP that I didn’t automatically order the Chicken Fingers, to find that miraculous “International Passport” section with its selection of crepes.  Heaven!  I think I tried the lemon crepes once, but (and this is made all the more serious considering my lemon-obsession) the Swedish crepes with lingonberry jam and butter won out without question.

When I first discovered I was gluten-intolerant, there were two miserable food-deaths in my mind: crepes and popovers.  Unsurprisingly, these were two of the very first recipes I desperately tried to recreate without gluten.  Both are pretty hard to do.  I can talk about the long journey to successful gluten-free popovers later (though I touched upon the ultimate success in my Thanksgiving Post).   Crepes were a little easier.  Subbing a store-bought GF mix yielded drier, but not entirely inedible crepes.  Later on, I found Shauna’s Gluten-Free Whole-grain Crepes.  These were very good, nice and eggy and just a little stretchy.  But some mornings, I don’t want to pull out canister after canister of flour, carefully measuring, weighing, and letting rest.  If I have the time and motivation, I love having a consistent, delicious whole-grain option. But sometimes, I’m lazy.

My great-grandmother’s recipe called for 1 cup of milk, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup of flour.  I want that kind of easy.  So I decided to give it a go, encouraged by my Christmas Cookie success with a simple GF flour blend.  I used that same blend (2 parts White Rice Flour, 1 part Tapioca Starch, 1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum per cup) in my great-grandmother’s recipe.

“Rolly-Rollies”/Crepes

  • -1/2 c. (70g) GF Flour Blend (about 45g White Rice Flour, about 23g Tapioca Starch, pinch of Xanthan Gum)
  • -1 egg
  • -1 c. milk
  • -dash salt (optional)

Pour a small amount of batter into a hot, lightly oiled skillet.  Turn the skillet side to side, spread the batter over the bottom of the skillet until batter begins to set.  When edges are dry (about 1-2 minutes), slide spatula around edges to loosen crepe, slide underneath and flip.  The second side should only need a few seconds (about 15-30 seconds).  Place crepe in oven on low heat to stay warm while rest of batter is cooked.

Serve the Helen-classic: spread with butter, rolled, and topped with syrup; or Sweet: serve with jam, whipped topping, ricotta, fruit, or Tangy: lemon juice and powdered sugar; or Savory: wrap around soft, mild cheeses with various cooked vegetables (spinach!), shredded chicken, and/or herbs.

It was surprisingly successful.  The tricky part of crepes isn’t the batter, but actually cooking the thin, eggy pancake.  A nonstick skillet and thin, flexible spatula are absolutely essential, and I’ve found smaller crepes (no more than 8″) are easier to handle.  I fill up the bottom of my skillet, which keeps them a manageable size and nicely circular.  Keep practicing.  Habits are the best skill to have with crepes!

And, of course, if you stumble across lingonberry jam in your grocery, grab that jar and make some crepes!