I had never heard of a popover until I went to college. There was a restaurant in town, just off-campus–the kind of place visiting parents would take their kids, usually with a small posse of friends tagging along for a free meal. The food was spiffed-up American, burgers and sandwiches and pastas and seafood. And every single item on the menu came with a mysterious side called a “popover,” a crusty brown breadlike balloon-thing, as big as my face, served on its own white plate with a little dish of apple butter.
Breaking into my popover was always the best part of the meal. The tickling anticipation as I picked it up, crisp and shaggy and light; the tiny crackle as I broke the surface and pulled it apart; the golden hollow inside, draped here and there with wattles of soft, stretchy dough. The best way to eat the thing, of course, was with a generous spread of sweet apple butter. It’s one of the things I miss most about college–that, and having four or five equally blissed-out friends to share the experience with.
I had always assumed that popovers were elaborate and time-consuming to make. But, as I’ve recently learned, they’re dangerously easy. Four ingredients, a well-greased muffin pan, and just a tick or two over 30 minutes. That’s it. The popovers go into the oven as unremarkable pools of batter, and come out as great golden puffs, rising crazily out of the pan. Anywhere bread lives, these airy morsels are welcome–though, of course, I’m still partial to a dollop of apple butter.
These are quicker than quickbread, easier than dinner rolls, lighter and less guilt-inducing than almost any other kind of bread I can think of. They don’t even need a preheated oven. I can now go from zero to popover in just over 30 minutes–nostalgia be damned.