Sunday, February 15, 2009

Butter ... the Popovers and Apple Kind

This repast is reminiscent of a late-night snack Trix and I had in New York. The Popover Cafe, located on the Upper East Side, was recommended to us, but unfortunately it was a big letdown. We don't know if they were having an off night or if the person who recommended it truly liked their extremely dry, almost burnt popovers. The only reason they were edible at all was because of the apple butter they were served with. (Ironically, the food we saw other people having that were not popovers, actually looked very good, even though the person recommending the restaurant specifically said that the rest of the food wasn't good; it was only the popovers that were worth eating. Given our short time in New York, however, we didn't waste a meal finding out if the regular entrees really were any good, or if they only looked good in comparison to the cardboard we were eating.)

Happily, homemade popovers and apple butter are actually very simple to make -- and are worlds better than what we had at the Popover Cafe.

These homemade popovers are made from Wondra flour, which I've never thought to bake with. It comes in a cardboard cannister, and advertises itself as ideally used to make gravies and sauces, because it's a special kind of flour that doesn't clump in liquid. That is, in fact, why I had it, because I'm fairly new to making gravy, and needed all the help I could get. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum. She describes Wondra as "a granular form of flour developed by General Mills. It dissolves instantly in liquid because it has been subjected to a process called agglomeration. It is produced essentially by misting flour with water and then spray-drying it with compressed air, which separates the flour into particles of even size and shape that will not clump when mixed with liquid." Therefore you need not worry that there is any leavening done by chemicals -- there isn't. If you don't have or want to use Wondra, that's fine, but in that case the dough will need a 2-hour or so rest before baking (whereas with Wondra, the popovers can go into the oven immediately after mixing).

The perfect popover, in my mind, is crispy on the outside and hollow and satiny on the inside. It's drier than regular bread and other pastries, but not dry. Its hollow insides are perfect for filling with melting butter and sweet preserves.

Perserves such as apple butter. I've never understood the name -- why butter? We don't call it strawberry butter or grape butter, so why is apple different? There isn't any dairy in apple butter -- just fruit, sugar, and spices. Well, no matter. It's delicious no matter what it's called.

And there are few things in life that go more perfectly together than warm popovers and apple butter. Perfect for breakfast and tea time!

Butter Popovers

Makes 6 regular-sized popovers or 12 mini-popovers

Recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum (from her book, The Bread Bible)

  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp Wondra flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid, divided


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you're using a dark pan (such as the nonstick one I use), preheat to 400°F instead. Set a rack on the second level from the bottom of the oven.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the milk, whisking steadily. Using handheld beaters or continuing with the whisk, add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, until the batter is smooth. Beat in 2 tbsps of the butter, which may clump a bit -- that's okay. (If you don’t plan to use the batter immediately, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Beat it lightly with a whisk before using.) To make things go faster and easier, pour the batter into a pitcher with a pouring spout -- my 2-cup measuring cup worked perfectly.
  3. If you're using a 6-well popover pan, spoon 1 tsp of the remaining butter into each well. If you're using a 12-well muffin/cupcake pan, spoon 1/2 tsp of butter into each well.
  4. Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the inside of each well with the butter.
  5. 3-5 minutes before baking, line the oven rack with aluminum foil. Place the popover/muffin pan on top of the foil. Warm the butter until it begins to brown, but do not allow it to burn.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven, and fill each well about halfway. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Lower the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 40-45 minutes for standard popovers or 20-25 minutes for muffin-size ones. The popovers should have puffed to about 3 times their original size.
  8. 5-10 minutes before the end of the baking time, make a small slit in the side of each popover to release steam and dry the insides a bit. Don't open the oven until this point, or you risk deflating the popovers.
  9. When the popovers are done, remove the pan from the oven. With a pot holder, gently lift them from the pan one at a time and place on a wire rack to cool a little. Serve while warm, with butter, apple butter, or your favorite jam.
Apple Butter

Makes enough to just about fill a regular-sized jar of peanut butter.

  • 2 1/2 lbs apples (such as Fuji or Jonagold -- if you use a tarter apple such as Granny Smith, you might want to use more sugar)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves (optional)


  1. Preheat a slow cooker by setting it on High.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and spices.
  3. Peel and core the apples. Chop into 1-inch pieces. Do this as quickly as possible, so that the apples don't oxidize too much. Drop the pieces into the sugar mixture as you go.
  4. Mix the apples in the sugar mixture until well coated, then transfer it all into the preheated slow cooker. Put the lid on.
  5. Cook on high for 1 hour. The apples will have released plenty of liquid. Give them a good stir.
  6. Turn the heat to Low and cook for another 9-10 hours. In that time the apples will soften even further and turn to a mahogany brown.
  7. Remove the lid and let it cook for another hour. Using a whisk, stir the mixture to break up the pieces of apple. Hopefully much of the liquid will have evaporated. That wasn't the case for me, so I transferred it to a small pot, set it to simmer, and let it bubble away uncovered for another hour. If you do this as well, make sure it doesn't burn. (You don't want the butter to have too much water/liquid -- it should really have a jam-like consistency.)
  8. To finish, transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. This step isn't necessary if you like chunky preserves, but I like the texture best when it's smooth and uniform.
  9. Store in an air-tight container. Lasts about 3 months.

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