Popovers, like soufflés, are a welcome treat that makes me feel much fancier than I am in my day to day life. This is probably due to the fact that the first time I had them was at Neiman Marcus; need I say more. Gluten-free popovers are a treat I have yet to master. Until now.
Bread is something I think about a lot, probably because, for now at least, we’re not on speaking terms. Oh sure, we gaze longingly at each other as I pass by a sandwich shop, and I’ve been known to cop a sniff as I slink by the Ciabatta at Trader Joe’s. But for the most part, the sum of going gluten free and South Beach almost simultaneously means bye-bye bread, hello salad bar.
If you want comfort food done right, look no further than my friend Breanne, who grew up in the South surrounded by generations of women known for their Southern charm and secret recipes. This is a family that so closely guards some of its recipes that daughters and granddaughters are shooed out of the kitchen when fried chicken is on the menu, lest anyone pick up on the ingredients or the method and pass it along.
This is a cautionary tale of sorts, about a home cook who worked for nearly three hours to create a treat that goes from street to sublime when dressed with an elegant Herbes de Provence sea salt. These soft pretzels amaze with a chewy-crispy exterior that gives to a soft interior, all the while teasing your taste buds with lavender, rosemary and sea salt.
Lately I can think of little else but homemade bread. When I enter a market I immediately seek out the bakery. If I’m lucky enough, I can even catch a whiff of fresh bread emerging from the oven, a scent so heavenly I’ve been known to swoon.
Baking bread, to me, elevates cooking from an assembly of ingredients to a process nearing alchemy, a skill meant only for those who dare to meet the challenge. My first attempt at baking bread resulted in a bland, if pretty, loaf that promptly met the trashcan. I’m proud to report that my second attempt was the star appetizer at our seafood paella cook-out last weekend. Bravo for second chances!
The first time I had popovers was at the Neiman Marcus café in San Diego’s Fashion Valley Mall. They were light and flakey, and pulled apart as easily as cotton candy. Served with warm chamomile tea and pristine white linens in the elegantly hushed tearoom, the popovers were a taste memory I returned to again and again.