Yorkshire pudding rates as one of Britain's most beloved comfort foods. A batter cooked in meat fat until it's golden, puffy and crisp with a soft, chewy centre, this simple food is the perfect accompaniment to gravy and roasted meats.
Batter puddings, of which the Yorkshire version is the most famous, are recorded in recipes as far back as the mid-18th century.
Like all great comfort foods, the Yorkshire pudding inspires great devotion. In The Cooking of the British Isles, first published in 1969 and part of the Time-Life series Foods of the World, author Adrian Bailey waxes lyrical about the cooking process. "...while the meat is being kept warm the pudding expands, rising up and out from the baking tin like large yellow flower that opens with the sun's warmth."
Bailey's romantic description is testament to Britons' love of the pudding but there's no getting away from the fact it is a very simple dish.
A way of using up the meat drippings from a roast, Yorkshire pudding became popular when fine wheat flour became more widespread. Because they were filling and inexpensive, Yorkshire pudding and gravy was once prepared as a first course to curb people's appetites before the more expensive meat course, but they are now most commonly served as the perfect accompaniment to roast beef and gravy.
Melbourne's The Commoner specialises in a modern approach to traditional British cooking. Sunday roasts, often featuring a Yorkshire pudding with roast beef, make a regular appearance on the menu and head chef Jake Kellie says he wouldn't do a roast beef without it. Aubrey Williams, who was born in Jersey, and is also a chef at The Commoner, adds "Yorkshire puddings will never go out of fashion, it's like Vegemite."
Kellie says the key element to a successful Yorkshire pudding is a hot oven, a hot muffin tray or baking dish and hot oil. Get these elements right and you'll succeed in achieving the puffed, crisp edge and soft, sunken middle that Yorkshire pudding is famous for.
If you're not using lard, Kellie recommends using vegetable oil but never olive oil, as it will scorch at the hot temperatures needed to cook the puddings.
Yorkshire puddings are now so firmly associated with roast beef that few would attempt to serve them with anything else, but batter puddings were originally served with whichever meat was being roasted, with mutton as common as beef. So don't be intimidated by tradition and experiment with other roasted meats.
Adding herbs to the batter is a common variation too - sage works particularly well.
Many recipes use water instead of milk or a half-and half combination. Water will give a crisper finish, milk a softer, richer pudding.
Not just for roasts
Yorkshire puddings are not just for roasts. Co-owner of The Commoner Jo Corrigan says rolling hot Yorkshire puddings in spiced sugar as a snack for hungry staff is common in many commercial British kitchens. However Kellie warns Yorkshire puddings don't reheat well but recommends spreading leftover cold puddings with jam or honey.
Individual puddings or one large dish?
Up to you, but if you're making one pudding to share make sure each diner receives a portion of crunchy crust as well as some of the soft centre.
The well in each pudding is designed to hold gravy - some insist onion gravy is the only kind to serve with a Yorkie, but any gravy or sauce based on roasted meat juices is a perfect accompaniment to a pudding.
NEED TO KNOW
|Type of dish||Baking|
|Cooking time||30 min - 1 hour|
|4 large, fresh eggs, cracked and then weighed|
|Equal weight of milk to eggs|
|Equal weight of plain flour to eggs|
|Pinch of salt|
|2 tbsp lard, beef dripping or vegetable oil|
1. Pour the eggs and milk into a large mixing bowl and add the pinch of salt. Whisk thoroughly with an electric hand beater or hand whisk. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
2. Gradually sieve the flour into the milk and egg mixture, again using an electric hand beater or hand-whisk, to create a lump-free batter resembling thick cream. If there are any lumps pass the batter through a fine sieve.
3. Leave the batter to rest in the kitchen for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can make the batter up to an hour before using.
4. While the batter is resting pre-heat the oven to 230c (or if it won't go that high, to the highest temperature). If you're already roasting meat in the oven, turn the oven up to the higher temperature when you're ready to take the meat out and rest it.
5. Put your pudding tin or muffin trays into the oven to heat.
6. When the pudding dish is hot, take it out of the oven and add the fat to the tin - if using a 12-hole muffin tin, divide the fat equally between each section. Return the tray to the oven and heat until the fat is smoking - around 3-5 minutes.
7. Give the batter another good whisk, adding 2 tablespoons of cold water, and pour the batter into your pudding dish or one third of the way up into each muffin tray section. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown, crisped and cooked in the centre. Repeat the process for any leftover batter.
8. As the puddings are cooking, carve your rested meat. Serve the puddings immediately with roasted meat and plenty of gravy.
Note: Hot oil and hot pans need to be handled carefully. Take care when adding the batter to the pan - pour slowly to avoid being burnt by spitting fat. And always wear a good quality oven mitt when carrying hot baking dishes and trays to avoid burns.
- Good Food
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