Buns are expensive, they can go bad easily (…when you buy them in bulk from Costco as my SO insists on doing while I refuse to cook him only burgers for a week at a time), and quite honestly, while I appreciate a good bun, I don’t need it to enjoy a cheeseburger. I’m perfectly happy eating a patty with melted cheese with a fork.
This, my dear reader, is the original non-cheeseburger cheesburger recipe. The first original answer to the call “help we are out of buns!” Popeeser Loaf is a combination of the words Popover Cheeseburger (Loaf). I realize my maturity level with regards to constructing words is on the low side, but if you have kids, you’ll probably have an easier time getting them to eat Popeeser Loaf over the vague and dreaded “Casserole” and besides, it really is more of a loaf than a hot dish.
This recipe is actually pretty time intensive, mostly because I use bacon and it requires baking. To cut down on time you could use leftover hamburger meat that had already been browned and skip the bacon (or use pre-cooked/leftover bacon). However, it does still take 45-60 minutes to bake.
As I alluded to earlier (but it bears repeating), this is a concept. Think of a Cheeseburger–what would you want on yours? Many restaurants now allow a “Build Your Own Burger” option. This recipe is no different. If you were making a cheeseburger, what ingredients would you want? …Well, that would be your question in a perfect world. In my world, it’s usually a balance between what I want and what’s currently in the pantry because five minutes after getting home from work I’m in my PJs and I can’t drive because I am already several swallows into the private happy hour happening in my kitchen. One rule: whatever you put in the dough needs to be cooked already. The baking process will primarily heat and cook the dough–it will warm ingredients, but not cook them. So if you’re using a kind of raw meat or veggies that you want cooked (like mushrooms for example)–cook it first, like we do below with the bacon).
Here is the basic version, substitute as you desire/based on what you have handy. Everything except the mixture for the loaf (Popover dough) is an estimate, so do what you feel looks/feels right. I’ve made this half a dozen times without measuring anything (with wild differences in the amounts of things) and it’s turned out well each time.
1 lb Ground Beef (the nice thing is this receipt makes a little hamburger go a long way, so if you have at least half a pound you’ll still be fine. I use
88% lean beef because that’s what Costco sells–I’m sure 90/10 would work just fine too)
2 C Shredded Cheese (any kind or use several slices if it’s not shredded)
3-12 strips of Bacon (3 works well and 6 is awesome–I think uncured bacon tastes the best)
4 tbls Mayo
4 tbls Ketchup (plus some extra to serve on the side for dipping)
4-6 Dill Pickle Spears (or any pickles you can cut up into small pieces — Claussen is the very best if you ask me. Mmmm!)
6 Eggs (Not an estimate)
3 C Milk (Not an estimate – I use 1%, I’m sure it would work with whatever)
3 C Flour (Not an estimate – I use unbleached all purpose flour)
1/4 C Olive Oil
Pre-heat over to 450 degrees with a 9 x 13 (big rectangle) Pyrex (or similar) dish inside. Yes that’s right, we are preheating the pan as well as the oven.
1. Cook the bacon in a fry pan until it’s just about to get crispy and then remove it and set on a paper towel. You don’t want it to be crispy because it’s harder to taste in this sort of dish and the bits get too small.
2. Brown the hamburger meat while the bacon strips are cooling. Put the ground beef right into the pan you had the bacon in, frying it up (on medium to medium low) in the bacon grease. (This infuses the meat with bacon flavor.)
3. Cut the pickles into small bits so you can make sure to sprinkle them throughout the dish so that every bite has a small bit and hint of pickle.
4. Rip the bacon strips into bits. Don’t make them too small or you won’t get the taste, even if you have a lot of bacon. Always keep them about the size of your thumb nail.
4.5 Combine Mayo and Ketchup – special sauce! Set aside….stop sampling the bacon.
5. Combine eggs and milk into a large mixing bowl, whisk gently until blended.
6. Slowly add the flour while beating the mixture lightly–it won’t be smooth unless you have over-beaten it (which you don’t want to do for popovers or it won’t popover). A somewhat lumpy batter is desired, as long as the lumps aren’t moving to the top and then breaking open to expose huge dry chunks of flour. Put the mixure in the fridge to keep it cold.
7. Pull the dish from the oven. Pour the olive oil into the dish and using a basting brush (or paper towel–careful not to burn yourself while using the paper towel) rub the olive oil all over the inside of the dish. There should be lots of excess oil in the bottom of the dish (not to worry it makes the dough slightly fried and scrumptious while ensuring nothing sticks). …Could you butter and flour the pan instead? Sure, if you feel like being Safe Suzie. Back to the olive oil, make sure you get the corners and the sides of the dish (even if it looks like it just drips back down into the bottom).
8. Pour half the batter into the pan. Move quickly with this and subsequent steps, we want the dish to stay as hot as possible and the batter to stay as cold as possible. (Put that in there just for all you perfectionists. Enjoy the OCD ticks!) Bascially the bottom half of the dough is one half of your bun.
9. Sprinkle the hamburger, bacon, and pickles evenly across the dish (it’s okay if some sinks into the dough). Drizzle the special sauce liberally across the dish. Add shredded cheese to top the whole half dish off.
10. Pour half the batter on top. (This is the top part of the would-be bun.) Gently smooth dough to make even and ensure all toppings are pretty much covered over by dough.
11. Stylishly slide that sucker (the prepared glass dish) into the oven and close the door (I guess I felt that had to be specified, but hopefully you’d do that anyway). Do not open the door to check on it–turn on your oven light and peer in through the door. Otherwise you risk the dough not rising or rising and then falling.
12. Bake for 20 minutes at 450 (if it looks like it’s getting brown on top fast, reduce heat after 10-15 minutes to 425)
13. Reduce heat to 400, bake 20-30 minutes (if it looks like it’s getting brown on top fast, reduce heat after 15 minutes)
14. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 10-15 minutes.
I guess this is why I don’t write cookbooks–you just sorta have to feel when it’s done. It should be a golden brown on the outside (can be a medium golden brown) but you really want to make sure it’s solid on the inside because not all of it will pop up which makes the middle dense).
15. Remove from oven, turn dish over on cutting board. Popeeser loaf should just fall out. Give the dish a few smacks and shakes if it doesn’t–then it should. Using another cutting board or dish placed on top of the bottom of the Popeeser Loaf, hold both cutting boards or platter against the Popeeser Loaf and turn so that it sits right side up again.
16. Sprinkle cheese on top and wait for it to melt (2-3 minutes).
Serve. Warning: it will be piping hot inside.
Once somewhat cooled, you can even eat it with your hands. Otherwise a fork and/or fork and knife will do. You may want to serve sides of mustard, horseradish, ketchup, special sauce, A-1, etc. for people to dip their mini loafs into.
This served me and my sister, and our counter parts two very large servings each, and we still have three pieces (three lunches) left over. So I would say you have at least 10 servings, possibly more.
Left over Popeeser Loaf reheats wonderfully in an oven, so you can save some for lunch the next day too.
Now that you’ve been through the ordeal of Popeeser Loaf, I think you can see better what I mean about the concept.Instead of the above ingredients, I could have mixed garlic and A-1 in with my ground beef before browning it. I could have skipped the pickles and caramelized some onions and sauteed some mushrooms with Malabar pepper and balsamic vinegar and added those instead. I could have used blue cheese crumbles instead of shredded colby jack cheese. But, I didn’t have any of the fancy stuff in my pantry.