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Extra Ordinary Food: Dig in
Rich and savory, Yorkshire pudding is not dessert
Say Yorkshire pudding and I bet I know what you are thinking. Pudding. Little cups of custard. Yorkshire pudding is definitely not that.
Yorkshire pudding is more like a pancake. A thin, wet batter poured into a hot pan. A regular pancake uses a rising agent like baking powder or yeast to release gasses that make it fluff up. Yorkshire pudding works on a different principle.
Pouring the batter into an unusually hot pan causes it’s liquids to quickly boil and release steam. The steam cooks the flour, which traps the stream, causing it to rise. This is the same principle that pate a choux and churros use. It’s a parent recipe of American popovers.
One of the things that sets Yorkshire pudding apart from other pate a choux recipes is that it’s a savory accompaniment to a meal, instead of a dessert or sweet snack. The main flavor doesn’t even come from the batter itself.
Traditionally, Yorkshire pudding is cooked in the same pan that a roast of mutton or beef was roasted in. The roast leaves drippings of juices and fat in the pan. Instead of making a gravy out of those juices, the roast is removed and the pudding batter is poured into the pan. Put back into the oven for 15 or 20 minutes, it combines with the juices and bakes up into a bread to enjoy with the meal. It cleans the pan and makes use of all the fun stuff that got left behind. It's those juices that give Yorkshire pudding it’s real flavor.
Baked at high heat, it gets crusty on the outside and pleasantly soft and chewy on the inside. You definitely want to eat them hot out of the oven. They will lose their crunch if they sit too long. I’ve heard they freeze well after baking, but I’ve never been able to stop myself from eating all of them right away, so I can't really vouch for that.
A funny side effect of the pudding that I came across: when you make it with the juices from a roast, you have to wait for the pudding to bake. Which forces you to be patient and let your roast rest before serving. Resting a roast has a number of added benefits like allowing the heat to distribute evenly and letting the flavorful juices reabsorb into the tissues. This makes is more tender and juicy than if you started slicing into it when it was hot out of the oven. You know how sometimes you cut into meat, and the juices run out all over the plate? That’s because it wasn’t allowed to rest after cooking.
If you cook with cast iron pans like I do, you also appreciate the simplicity and grace of it’s pan-cleaning action. Much easier to clean up afterward than gravy.
It’s an incredibly simple recipe to prepare and execute. You don’t need to knead the batter like bread. You don’t need to make a roux, whisk it up and babysit it on the stove top like gravy. The only things you really need to remember is that it wants to go into a hot pan with hot fat in it. You can use any fat or oil that will handle high temperatures. Beef or lamb drippings are best. Bacon fat works great. Sunflower or canola oil will work just fine.
You just want to make sure the pan and fat is hot enough that the batter sizzles up when you pour it in. So pour the batter into a pan right after cooking the main foods in it, or warm up your muffin tin and fat in the oven for 5 minutes before adding the batter.
It’s also incredibly versatile to serve. If you chill the batter when you pour it into the pan, it will curl up around the sides making a cup or bowl shape. Or pour it in at room temperature if you want a solid pudding that’s more like a muffin or bread roll. Little cup-shaped puddings baked in a muffin tin can be stuffed with gravy or fillings before serving. A pudding baked in a 6-inch cast iron pan can be a nest for other foods. A larger pudding from an 8- or 10- inch pan can be sliced into wedges and act like a slice of bread.
Unlike most baking recipes, the ratios of wet to dry ingredients are very forgiving. Make it a little wet or a little dry, it will still work. You can cut the milk with water by up to half its volume. All milk gives a richer pudding, cutting water in makes it more light and airy. I like them both ways.
I made several different recipes, and they all came out similarly. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll share J Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats’ ratio, except I use less fat to bake them than he does. A little goes a long way. I use a digital scale for baking, and his recipe is the easiest to remember ratios in grams. Don’t stress out about the number here though. Keep it simple.
Chef Tibbs, also known as Joshua “Tibbs” Tibbetts, is a Cedar Rapids native who has been a professional chef for more than 30 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Makes 12 in large cup muffin tins, 24 in small cup muffin tins, 2 8- inch pans or 3 6-inch pans.
4 large eggs (200 grams)
1 cup plus a tablespoon all-purpose flour (150 grams)
1 cup whole milk (200 grams) — a quarter or half of the milk can be replaced with water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (100 grams) hard fat or oil
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Scramble them with a whisk and add the flour, mix it up with a spatula or wooden spoon until smooth. You don’t need to whip it or work it, just mix until smooth. Add the milk (and water if using) a bit at a time and casually whisk it in. Don’t add the salt yet, we don’t want to curdle the milk. It should have the consistency of heavy cream — much runnier than a pancake batter.
Let the batter rest for at least half an hour. Overnight is great. This lets the flour hydrate and the gluten relax. If you want cup shaped puddings, chill it in the fridge for at least half an hour. If you’re resting it overnight, do that in the fridge.
Fire up your oven to 425 degrees. You want a “still” oven, so if you have a convection oven, turn the fan off. When your oven is hot, start getting your pans hot. Cast iron pans can be heated up on the stove top. Muffin tins only take a few minutes to heat up in the oven.
Add the salt to your batter and whisk it smooth.
Oil up your muffin tins or cast iron pans, dividing the oil evenly. For a cast iron pan, you can do this right on the stove top. If you’re sopping up the juices from a roast or bacon, the pan will already be hot and greased from cooking. For muffin tins, add the fat and put them back in the oven for a minute to get the fat good and hot.
Pour a little batter into the hot grease. If it sizzles and pops, pour the rest of the batter in. Divide the batter equally between the cups and pans. For example, if I’m doing 6 big muffins and an 8-inch skillet, I’d put half the batter in the cast iron and half the batter in the muffin cups.
Put them in the oven and turn the oven light on. They’re fun to watch rising. Set a timer. Bake 12 to 15 minutes for muffin cups, 20 to 25 minutes for pan-sized puddings.
Don’t open the door while they are cooking, if you can help it. The trapped steam in the oven helps keep the surface moist, causing them to rise more. This is where the oven light comes in handy.
Bake until they are a nice dark brown on the outside, crisp on the outside, soft and almost gooey on the inside.
Plate them with the rest of your meal, stuff the pockets with gravy or fillings if you want. But whatever you do, eat them while they’re hot.
Source: Joshua Tibbetts