Bread of the Month: Wondering of popover magic

popover01For a springtime bread, I mused over something light and bright, something I’d long wanted to make. Popovers. They seemed to carry a mystique…they were made with a special pan…the oven door could not be opened while baking or ruin would befall them…they were American spinoffs of Yorkshire pudding. I was intrigued beyond reason.tyme01

And I had never eaten one, which was the biggest push of all to make them. The recipe I chose was one I’d seen made — Ina Garten’s Thyme Popovers. With newly purchased spring thyme plants in full flourish, this flavor spoke to me.

Popover batter could not be simpler: flour, salt, eggs, chopped thyme, milk and melted butter. It stirred up to a thick pancake-batter consistency. The lack of leavening struck me again with the wild and magical nature of baking. egg01How could these same ingredients, used again and again in different configurations, yield something entirely new and different. Though dubious about the lift that would occur upon baking, I knew it was possible. I had seen these same simple components, put together, turn little blobs of dough into blossomy cream puffs (or the more elegant name “profiterole”).

Through reassured by cookbooks and friends that popovers could be made in custard cups or even muffin tins, I followed my urge and purchased a six-cup standard popover pan. Somewhat heavier than a muffin pan, the cups are narrower and have more depth. The pan is buttered and preheated in a very hot oven. My anticipation heated as well. Filling the cups just half full, I wished them well, still wondering.how this humble batter would reach lofty heights.poppan

What I knew for certain is that I would, by no means, open that oven door during the baking time (the popovers would collapse). I would have to sit on my hands. The fact that my oven light was out only enhanced my anxiousness….oh racing heart, what mysteries (and possible burning) would occur in the dark?

An audible gasp upon oven-opening, they had puffed and blown up out of the pan like beautiful golden clouds. Popped over! What kind of wild, crazy weirdness had transpired in the blackness and heat? My next time, I would be watching to find out. The trunk of the popover was slightly twisted. I imagined a turning whirlwind of motion and batter, rising like a genie out of a lamp. Light as air, crusty textured, yet tender and hollow within, I loaded the steaming cavern with butter and glommed it down. The thyme perfumed the rich egg-y bread with something of earth and spring.

And the popover pan would remain in my section of hardware used often.
popover_torn

Thyme Popovers
From Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa (www.foodtv.com)
Makes 12 popovers

Softened butter for greasing pans, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Generously grease aluminum popover pans or custard cups with softened butter. You’ll need enough pans to make 12 popovers. Place the pans in the oven for 2 minutes to preheat. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, thyme, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes. Do not peek.

Serve hot.

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