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On Perfect Moments


A few days after Thanksgiving, Sam and I found ourselves at Elmwood Cafe reading books and drinking giant soy mochas out of ceramic bowls. I’d been flipping through Lucky Peach magazine and the article On Perfect Moments caught my attention. In it, Daniel Patterson talks about searching for perfect moments and how they pop up when you least expect or plan for them. Since he’s a chef, he frames the discussion in terms of cooking with fennel and how most cooks don’t think to use the green fennel buds that haven’t flowered yet. He says, “What appeals to me about these fennel buds is how they reflect this idea of paying attention, of recognizing perfect moments. Right now is the only moment that fennel plants will yield this particular flavor.”

And sometimes in the midst of holiday traffic, family dynamics, and dozens upon dozens of pies it can be difficult to slow down and pay attention. There are weeks of shopping lists, crowded grocery lines, and hostess gifts where everything can just happen to you. In a wonderful whirlwind kind of way, but still, the days seem to take off. With or without you. And that’s why I’m so thankful for this past Tuesday.

A day we kicked off with donuts. More donuts than I’m going to admit to you right now. We had bad diner coffee and learned quite a bit about lottery tickets and the very fine distinction between a buttermilk glazed donut and an old-fashioned glazed donut. Important stuff on a weekday morning, let me tell you.

With a small cup of coffee to-go,  we drove out to West Marin in search of eventual oysters, perpetual rolling hills and occasional sunshine. After a wrong turn that took us to the town of Inverness, we slowly made our way back to Highway 1 and to the Tomales Bay Oyster Co. We bought over-priced charcoal and a dozen oysters. Our picnic table neighbors offered us some of their little-bit-warm Moscato wine and an older couple with a German Shorthair Pointer set up a very proper picnic (good mustard, nuts, crusty bread) a few tables away. We perfected the art of eying when an oyster is ready to come off the barbecue and met the resident cat who set up camp on top of my bag.

After we’d finished our last oyster we drove towards Point Reyes Station in search of a cup of coffee before heading home.  It was that time of day where afternoon has decided to retire but evening isn’t quite ready to make an appearance. Still, quiet air was punctuated by the occasional bird landing on the water or a car passing by. We strolled into a kitschy souvenir shop and discovered harmonicas for sale. Sam bought two and we chatted with the women there about local businesses and politics. We left and walked towards The Station House Cafe while breaking in our harmonicas. I told Sam I’m a natural. After a few days of practicing, I still believe this to be true.

We sat at the bar, ordered Irish Coffees, read our books, chatted with the bartender, and people-watched. A once sunny horizon turned thick with fog and we ordered another drink to share. I’m never one to complain about strong drinks, but let’s just say after about an hour it become apparent that we weren’t driving home right away. So a burger happened along with french fries and a Manhattan. And popovers also happened. In a big way. In such a big way that we asked for another basket of them after our meal. I’m not sure if it was the salty ocean air or the slight tipsiness but the popovers tasted like one of the better things I’d had to eat in quite some time. They were eggy and light and we slathered butter on them and I laid my head on Sam’s shoulder.

And it was then that I realized I was sitting in the midst of a perfect moment. Here it was. Without plan or expectation. Without pomp or circumstance. An early winter evening with maybe one too many drinks, a handsome man, and a brand new harmonica.

Yesterday Sam left and on my way home from the airport I picked up a dozen eggs and set about making popovers. I thought I’d make a batch that could cross over into dessert territory or breakfast territory or afternoon tea territory. So these have a little vanilla in them and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. They are quite wonderful.  I ate them with just as much butter as I did at the bar that night and I recommend that’s how you eat them, too.

I hope you experienced a few perfect moments during the recent holiday. I really, truly do.

Cinnamon Sugar Popovers
I made my popovers in a muffin tin although you can purchase a special popover pan if you’re so inclined; I’m just a fan of using what I have in my own cupboards. If you do use a popover pan, this recipe should yield 6 popovers whereas if you use a muffin tin, you’ll end up with 8. High heat is important to the success of these popovers so when you’re ready to fill your pan, remove it from the oven quickly and make sure not to open and close the oven door while they’re baking. These are really best the day they’re made. Preferably warm.

Adapted from: Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 teaspoons vegetable oil

For the cinnamon sugar top:
1/2  cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Blend the eggs and milk together in a blender until combined. Add flour, melted butter, salt, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth and bubbly, about one minute. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

While the batter is resting, it’s time to heat up the muffin pan. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of oil into each muffin cup, using only the outer 8 tins (leave the center ones empty — they won’t heat as evenly). Adjust oven rack to lowest position and make sure there’s not a rack directly above — remember your popovers are going to rise and you don’t want another oven rack to squish them. After the batter has rested 20 minutes, place pan in oven to heat the oil. You want the pan to have a good 10 minutes in the oven to heat.

After batter has rested, remove pan from the oven and, working quickly, divide batter amongst the 8 muffin cups. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes (don’t open the oven door). Then lower heat to 350 F and continue to bake until popovers are golden brown, about 15 minutes more. After removing from the oven, gently flip them out onto a wire rack. I used a butter knife here–sometimes they take a little shimmying.

For the cinnamon sugar topping: mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Thoroughly brush each popover all over with the 1/4 cup of melted butter, then dredge each puff generously in the sugar mixture. Enjoy warm.

Makes: 8 popovers

  1. Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I really liked this post. Meg, you have this wonderful way of telling stories that seems like YOU’RE really loving it, and that makes me love it, too. In fact, I think your blog posts are little perfect moments in themselves, brightening my holiday season as much as they brighten my other seasons of the year.

    And PS I love the picture of Sam’s hands and the donuts and coffee. Is it film? It has this great film texture.

  2. Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Oooh, I was so excited to see a new post, Megan! Hooray for perfect moments and in my experience they are never planned, they just are. How lovely. I love popovers but topping them with cinnamon sugar sounds so right. A holiday breakfast for sure.

  3. megang
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Thanks so much, Shannalee! It was Instagram-ed, actually. I love that photo, too. And by the way, that’s exactly how I feel about your posts: very genuine feeling/happiness (especially lately!)

  4. Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Oh, I love this idea! I hadn’t had popovers in years, until last week at Wayfare Tavern, and I love the idea of making them sweet. So glad you had those perfect moments during the crazy holidays. I’m working on recognizing a few of my own!

  5. Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Lovely moment I just experienced reading this post – thank you!

    I was just reading another recipe for popovers, recently, and thought I should give them a whirl; it has been years. You have intrigued me to dust off that muffin tin!

  6. Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Get out! Oh, how I love Instagram!

  7. Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

    These look warm, comforting and delicious! And I am so glad that you said you can use a regular muffin pan with this recipe because I do not have the specialty popover pan. And wow, really only a couple of tablespoons of butter?!! I can’t wait to try these!

  8. Posted December 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Perfect kinda sneaks up on you that way :) I have GOT to try these…they look so soft and doughy. xo

  9. Posted December 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I am all about perfect moments lately, post-Austin. It seems that once you realize that there are moments to be found in daily life, they start showing up all the time. Love that. Your photos of West Marin is making me pine for a day trip out to Tomales Bay, oh how I love that part of the Bay Area!

    Thanks for giving us a perfect moment with this post (and Shannalee, totally with you about Instagram!)

  10. Posted December 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    The bartender @ the Station House seriously makes very strong drinks! One g&t will do it for me …

    These look delicious. Here’s to appreciating the perfect moments.

  11. Posted December 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Station House is fun, but your popovers look much better, to me : )

    And yes, I have been experiencing those perfect moments. Cheers to many more.

  12. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    oh snap!! these are on my to-do list! You beat me. What a picture perfect day, my friend!

  13. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Ahh, such a nice post. Sometimes I suppose we need to be reminded about just how many perfect moments are out there, waiting. Thanks for the reminder.

    Also!! Can you please explain the difference between a buttermilk donut and an old-fashioned glazed donut? I thought they were the same thing!

  14. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    so true. Its when you least expect it. Hugh and I start dance parties every now and then, usually when we’re trying to get motivated for something and I laugh so much and have those head-on-shoulder moments like you mention. You have to let loose, but still need to pay attention. Hope your holiday is filled with more of them, sweet girl!

  15. Posted December 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I would love to make popovers but I don’t have the right pan for them, do you think I can use a regular muffin pan?

  16. momgordon
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    And you know… a perfect moment can be sitting at your desk reading about a daughter’s perfect moment.

  17. El
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Wonderful post- very calming and relaxing. The popovers look great.

  18. Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Now you have me craving some sweet popovers! These look delicious :)

  19. megang
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Betty!
    You sure can…that’s actually the way the directions are written so go at it!

  20. Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Oh I went to Tomales Bay Oyster Co. this past August with my family! We met the kitty, too. :) What a beautiful area. Sounds like you had a perfect day filled with perfect moments. That’s one thing I love about what photography has taught me — to catch moments like those and to remember their simple significance.

  21. megang
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Yes, Jacqui. So true. And boy oh boy do your photos capture so much! Hope you’re warm and happy, my friend.

  22. megang
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Sara! I really, really hope you’ve been having some dance party moments as the book comes to a close here. Much deserved 24/7 dance parties. Hope your holiday is filled with many such moments, too. xxoox!

  23. megang
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Amy. Hmm, well the more I think about it, Brian (the owner of the shop) talked about how he thought that buttermilk donuts were the very best and were his favorite for 23 years. When we asked how they differed from the old-fashioned donut, he said it was subtle but that the old-fashioned were simpler and a little more like a cake donut. If it were up to me to explain it, the buttermilk was more substantial and quite moist and a bit sweeter, actually. Hope that helps…maybe we need to do a bake-off at some point around here…

  24. Posted December 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    First of all, I love your mom’s comment. So wonderfully motherly. Second, I adore this post. There are times when I try to plan those moments and it just doesn’t happen that way. They are unplanned and so thrilling when they happen.
    I loved reading this (as I do all your posts) and am so happy for your perfect moment. Here’s to many more!

  25. Mary
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Megan -

    This is one of my fave posts – it’s perfect.

  26. Posted December 2, 2011 at 5:19 am

    I LOVE that these have the cinnamon sugar coating to add another flavor element. They look heavenly!

  27. Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:07 am

    A day filled with oysters, donuts, and Manhattens sounds pretty darn perfect to me. I love those moments of spontaneity; they often yield the most memorable experiences in life.

  28. Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:43 am

    These popovers look delicious! I just discovered your blog today……I’ll have to check it out when I have more time to browse.

  29. Posted December 2, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I find that when you pay attention, perfect moments happen more that you’d expect. Thanks for the beautifully written post, and I cannot wait to try these popovers!

  30. Posted December 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Awesome post! I love the way you blend your life with food. Sometimes it’s hard to capture the perfect moments in writing without making it contrived and sappy, but you made me yearn for a lazy day of oysters and coffee. I just posted last week about my adventures @ Tomales Bay Oysters and despite just being there, you made me want to go back. Popovers look tasty too! Can’t go wrong with cinnamon and sugar on top of a pastry :)

  31. megang
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks so much for your comment, Aaron. I’ll have to head over and check out your oyster post, too. Perfect time of year for that mini jaunt! Happy weekend, m.

  32. Posted December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Oh sweet sugar! Love your real-life pictures.

  33. Quentin
    Posted December 3, 2011 at 7:22 am

    How long should we leave the pan in the preheated oven? Surely not the whole thirty minutes the batter rests?

  34. megang
    Posted December 3, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Quentin-10-12 minutes is sufficient. You want the oil to be very hot when you pour the batter in. I’ll make a note on the recipe; thank you.

  35. Posted December 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    An exceptional post that takes us to the time and place of your delightful story. It was nostalgic for me, as my mom made popovers many years ago. I recall how we would pull them apart to devour the luscious eggy centers and then slater jam on the remnants. Thanks for sharing with us!

  36. Posted December 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    If I didn’t know you, I would just think was a super lovely post by a very talented writer. But I do know you and how sunny and positive you are and how fun it is to sit and talk with you and it makes me very very happy that you had such a nice day with Sam.

  37. Posted December 7, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Tasty muffins! Perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee beside.
    This is really the best for the perfect moment. I am imagining it right now.=)

    Thank you for sharing.

  38. Posted December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I always love reading your blog posts… You have such a beautiful writing style, and your recipes are pretty fantastic, as well! Thanks so much for sharing. And, for inspiring me to bake some popovers!

  39. megang
    Posted December 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you, Jen! That means so much coming from you. Hope you’re enjoying the holiday season so far and getting some good baking in. xoxo. ~m

  40. Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Those look really good and I love popovers. I actually bought a mini-popover pan a little while ago, I can’t wait to try those in my pan!

  41. Kelly
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 7:44 am

    A belated thank you for this recipe. It may be naughty, but I make it almost once per week since you posted it. My husband calls the popovers “crack” and the delight on his face as he eats them really amazing. Being able to create something this delicious is a little “perfect moment” I can create at home.

    I have really be enjoying your blog since I discovered it in November. :)

  42. Posted April 4, 2014 at 5:06 am

    can it be used with no vanilla

  43. megang
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Katie-
    Sure thing. Enjoy!

  44. Jade
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    I just picked up your book from the library after seeing recommendations from a number of blogs I read and have been enjoying it! I also made a half batch of these this morning, and the bf and I inhaled them. I have been meaning to try out popovers for years, and just have never gotten around to it. Thanks for the recipe!

  45. Posted June 15, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Thank you for the detailed recipe. My family loved them and I’ve blogged about it here – http://goo.gl/Rrfyk5

  46. Posted August 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    These were absolutely delicious! This was the first dessert popover recipe that I’ve tried in my popover pan, and I’ll definitely be making them again! :)

  47. megang
    Posted August 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Awesome, Nicholas! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. Have a great weekend, Megan

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