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Updated: Nov 14, 2018

Sofia holding popovers
Sofia Grace (age 9), the next generation of our family to live in Champaign, holds her first batch of popovers. Sofia made in a muffin tin rather than a popover tin - they still taste amazing and have a great texture!

This popover recipe stems back to my great- great- great- grandmother Laura Curtis McMillen. It was passed down to my great- great- grandmother Nellie. As I learn about Nellie I have come to realize that she took so much pride in the food she prepared, how she served it, and cared deeply for the people that joined her around the dinner table. This popover recipe must have been something very special to her, as she served popovers at Thanksgiving, on New Years Eve, and for special Sunday suppers.

You can see in the image to the right that she sent her popover recipe to the University of Illinois Department of Home Economics to be tested in their laboratory. Why? To find out how best to modify the recipe to ensure that the popovers actually pop! How neat is that? She really took her recipes seriously, and wanted to know the science behind her cooking and baking. I. Love. This. So. Much. And I love that the letter from Mrs. Peral Jannsen, Professor of Home Economics at the University of Illinois, has been preserved for all these years. I wonder if you can still submit recipes to their labs for testing? It reminds me a little bit of America's Test Kitchen!

So here I share with you what is a treasured family recipe. I have been holding on to this treasured recipe for just the right time, and it seems fitting to share this for Thanksgiving, especially since it was served by Nellie at her Thanksgiving meal, back in 1949.

I've put an * by the items I can purchase at my Illinois farmers market.


  • 1 1/2 cup flour

  • 2/3 level cup sugar

  • 1 egg, beaten well*

  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 cup milk


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Grease the muffin pan really well. Place the muffin pan into the oven while you make the batter. For a taller popover, use a popover tin!

  • Mix all of the dry ingredients, including the sugar. Sift three times.

  • Add the wet ingredients. Beat at least 30 strokes. Be sure the mixture is well combined!

  • Take out the heated and greased pan out of the oven, and fill up the cups a little fuller than usual to increase the tendency to "pop".

  • Place back into the oven (but NOT on the bottom rack).

  • Bake for 20 minutes. Be sure to check at the 20 minute mark, may need an additional 5 minutes but keep an eye on these so that the bottoms do not burn.

Serving size: Makes about 1 dozen popovers.

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