Gruyere & Black Pepper Popovers

Yesterday, I shared sugary sticky buns and today I'm sharing a cheesy bread. I feel like I'm supposed to be posting gluten-free, paleo, vegan, vegetable-filled recipes for the new year but I'm doing the complete opposite; literally. There is an abundance of gluten and dairy in this recipe and a glaringly obvious absence of vegetables. Oh well, we can't all be cool and trendy, right? I'll just be the loser who eats herself chubby (or chubbier, if you think I'm already chubby) while the rest of you hit the gym and get all ripped and sexy for summer, which I'm sure will be here quicker than I know it. Or, at least I hope. Summer is my favorite.

Popovers are really delicious but also really cool. There's so much science involved. The batter is started off in a hot oven and immediately, the moisture in the batter - namely, the moisture in the eggs - turns into steam and forces the dough to poof up. Popovers can be made in regular muffin tins but popover pans exist for a reason. The cups in a popover pan are steeper and they're welded to metal dowels and spaced a good distance apart so that heat can travel around the base of each popover more freely. I picked up my popover pan at Home Goods for $10.
Ingredients [yields 6 popovers]:
1 cup all-purpose or bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter + more for greasing the pan
2 eggs
1 cup grated gruyere (about 3 or 4 oz.)
+ popover pan or muffin tin

The first step is to preheat your oven to 450F. Grease your pan (whether it's a proper popover pan or muffin tin) and then preheat the greased pan by itself for 10 minutes.
Next, grate the cheese and set it aside. I love gruyere. It's a Swiss cheese that's slightly salty, creamy, and melts really nicely. It's perfect for grilled cheese and quiche and popovers because the flavor isn't overly assertive. It's sublime.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Lately, I've been keeping a little container of coarsely crushed peppercorns on hand at all times. I crushed them with a mortar and pestle so there's a good variation in texture. The coarser pieces of pepper will give the popovers a bolder, spicier pepper flavor but normal cracked pepper would be delicious too.
Next, combine milk and butter in a saucepan. Heat it up over a low flame just until the butter melts. The mixture should be barely warmed through, meaning you could shove your hand in the pot and it would feel lukewarm. Whisk the eggs into the milk and butter. If the milk is too hot, the eggs will scramble, which is why it's important that the buttery milk isn't hot.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk just until the batter is combined. You'll want to whisk out most of the lumps, especially the large ones. The smaller lumps are okay.
Pull the hot popover pan from the oven and pour the batter into the molds, about 2/3rds full. The batter will slightly set up, just around the edges, as it hits the hot pan.That's good! That's what you want to see.
Drop a bit of cheese into each cup. Don't be stingy. It should almost feel like the entire cup is cheese and just a bit of batter.
Put the pan back into the 450F oven for 20 minutes, until you see the popovers start to poof up above the edges of the pan.
After 20 minutes at 450F, lower your oven to 350F and allow the popovers to cook for an additional 15 minutes, until the popovers are browned all over. These popovers won't poof up into a round ball at the top like most popovers because of all of the cheese, but they will still pop up.
As soon as you pull the pan from the oven, pierce each popover with a sharp knife to give the steam a route to escape from, otherwise, they'll deflate.
Tear into one and you'll see it's pretty much hollow in the center. The dough will be crisp, some areas will be stretchy with cheese, and of course, there will be lovely dark speckles of black pepper. These make an awesome accompaniment to a roast dinner, alongside a bowl of soup, or to make your salad lunch choice less healthy, or even for breakfast. They need to be eaten as soon as they're baked though; they're not as yummy when they've cooled.
Here's the recipe page: