Yorkshire pudding, that delightful egg and flour quick bread so closely associated with roast beef dinner, has been around since the mid eighteenth century and is in no danger of going out of style. Whether you call them “Yorkshire Pudding” or “popovers”, these light and irresistible quick breads, golden brown and piping hot out of the oven and covered with butter or gravy are just about the best things you can pop out of the oven and into your mouth.
Originally, the Yorkshire pudding developed as a good way to make use of the fat that dripped from a roast beef or mutton while it cooked. A pan was placed under the roast, collecting the drippings, and a light, pancake-like batter was poured into the pan resulting in a puffed up one-dish pudding. Some of the fat would be saved to make a gravy, which was then served with the pudding as a starter to the supper. Indeed, serving a cheap, first course largely consisting of fat drippings and flour was a clever way to get hungry folks to “fill up” on the cheap stuff and eat less of the costly meat. Interestingly, because the fat and gravy were often used up for the first course the roast beef itself and the veggies accompanying it were often served with a white sauce, a tradition that continues in some parts of Yorkshire to this day.
There are literally dozens of recipes out there claiming to make the best Yorkshire pudding, so it can be a little confusing. Some folks, like Gordon Ramsey, insist that the batter rest in the fridge for a good half hour while others aver quite the opposite.
“I have seen many grim results from people who have tried to get their Yorkshires to rise. They frequently made gross errors. After all, cooking is chemistry in the kitchen and one has to have the correct formula, equipment and procedures. To translate the ingredients into chemical terms, these are carbohydrate + H2O + protein + NaCl + lipids. Some amateurs even place the batter in the fridge first. What kind of foolish act is that?”- Chemical scientist and author John Emsley, of Yorkshire.
The exact amounts of the four essential ingredients (flour, eggs, milk, and hot fat in the pan) are often in dispute, as is the temperature and duration of cooking. But almost all agree on a few key elements: do not over-mix the ingredients, make sure the pan and the fat in the pan-at least a quarter of an inch- is good and hot, and do not open the oven door while they are cooking. Jamie Oliver has a few clever tips as well in this entertaining demonstration.
I have used the same Yorkshire recipe for years, I’m not sure where it came from, it may be an amalgamation of every Yorkshire recipe, but it’s super easy to remember and super quick to throw together. A muffin tin works fine, but if you break down and buy a popover pan, something like this, the difference is truly astounding; a popover pan has deeper, narrow wells that concentrate the heat and space between cups that allow for hot air circulation and force the puddings to rise up and up! According to some purists, the end result is not considered a Yorkshire pudding unless it is at least four inches tall.
I use a tall plastic juice pitcher to whisk the ingredients in, it makes pouring into the pans really easy, as you want to do this step quickly.
These puddings are great hot, and are really good the next day as well, should you have any leftover, which is doubtful. They are great slathered with butter and jam, or used instead of an English muffin for Eggs Benedict.
Makes 6 large or 12 muffin size Yorkshires
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
about 3 tablespoons lard, beef fat, bacon fat or vegetable oil
Heat oven to 450F. Distribute fat evenly in muffin tins so you get about ¼ inch fat in the bottom of each cup Whisk eggs in pitcher until just mixed. Add milk and blend with whisk. Add flour and salt to mixture, whisking until just blended and smooth. Place popver pan/muffin tin in hot oven and leave for about 5 minutes, until fat is smoking hot.
Remove pan from oven (close oven door to maintain heat) and pour in batter, 2/3 up each cup. The fat will sizzle. Return pan to oven and cook for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove Yorkshires from pan and serve immediately.