David Shalam had been making popovers since he was a kid. The crisp, burnished, domed, improbably hollow buns were a staple on his family’s Thanksgiving table. But when he left the family electronics business six years ago to found the popover specialist Heritage Bakers, he enrolled in a professional baking course at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan.
“I had no experience with yeast breads or pastry,” he recalled. “I got belittled a lot. I was just ‘the popover guy.’ ”
Last year, the popover guy opened a 2,700-square-foot commercial bakery across from the water in Glen Cove’s Garvies Point.
Since he started his business in 2014, he’d progressed from selling popovers at local farmers markets to supplying 15 Whole Foods markets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. His original kitchen, inside Stony Brook University’s Business Incubator in Calverton, wasn’t large enough to handle demand. In Glen Cove, he not only has an enormous production area, but, since late last year, a sunny retail cafe that welcomes customers Fridays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Shalam has not only perfected the popover, he’s reinvented it. In addition to plain, he makes popovers crusted with Parmesan, and dredged in cinnamon sugar or herbes de Provence, and filled with pastry cream and fruit. (Popovers range from $1 to $4 each).
Popovers are an outlier in the artisanal breadmaker’s canon. Whereas most old-world breads are leavened by yeast and require a dayslong schedule — a preferment to get the dough started and two long, cool rises — popovers are whipped up and baked in minutes. Their majestic volume is the result of an egg-rich batter that when heated creates the steam that essentially blows up the balloon that is the popover.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Shalam has expanded his repertoire to include such traditional loaves as ciabatta and seeded whole grain. He also makes croissants, cinnamon rolls, scones, granola, brownies and muffins. All of these, plus Irving Farm coffee and fresh sandwiches, are available at the cafe.
Heritage Bakers is at 1 Garvies Point Rd., Glen Cove, 516-676-8989, heritagebakers.com.