In this post:
- what exactly is Yorkshire Pudding – a sort of crispy, exploded pancake
- best description of how to make it – the hot fat is essential
- why you must not open the oven
- how you can use it as a starter
- what to do with the leftover batter
- quintessential recipe for Yorkshire Pudding
“It is said that this can only be made correctly in Yorkshire or Lancashire. Probably the brisk, bright coal fires of the Black Country, and the way they hang their roast meat over the pudding below, have something to do with it.”
A sort of crispy, exploded pancake
I had thought that the Pilgrim Fathers had taken Yorkshire pudding over with them to America along with other traditions until I went to the Virgin Islands. We moored out boat and went ashore to have, somewhat bizarrely in the hot sun, a traditional Sunday lunch, roast beef with all the trimmings. It was a restaurant run by a British expatriate which offered essentially just that one option. The beef and all the accompaniments were laid out as a buffet.
Waiting patiently in the queue I was astonished to overhear Americans in front of me looking at the Yorkshire pudding and asking what it was. I told them I thought they would find it a revelation and they did. I don’t know why exactly it goes so well with roast beef, but I couldn’t imagine eating it without. So, for anyone who has never come across this extraordinary sort of crispy, exploded pancake before, the best explanation is given in the delightful compilation of published letters, Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road.
Best description for how to make it given in 84 Charing Cross Road
This compilation is an exchange of letters between an impoverished American writer based in New York and the second-hand bookshop in London which supplies her book habit. (The author is Helene Hanff.)
In a letter written just a few years after the end of the second world war, Cicely, one of the assistants in the shop writes to Helene in response to her question as to how to make Yorkshire pudding. She explains the batter should be beaten together until it reaches the consistency of thick cream and then stored in the fridge for several hours. Then
“when you put your roast in the oven, put in the extra pan to heat. Half an hour before your roast is done, pour a bit of the roast grease into the baking pan, just enough to cover the bottom will do. The pan must be very hot. Now pour the pudding in and the roast and the pudding will be ready at the same time.
I don’t know how to describe it to someone who has never seen it, but a good Yorkshire pudding will puff up very high and brown and crisp and when you cut into it you will find that it is hollow inside.”
Well – I couldn’t have put it better myself. What’s really important to the success of a Yorkshire pudding is the heat – and this is achieved by getting the pan itself (I use a metal bun tin in order to make individual puddings, don’t even think of using silicone) really hot by putting it in ahead of time; and using the beef dripping or fat – or lard or goose fat – which gets really hot.
Don’t open the oven
And I have one other tip regarding Yorkshire pudding given to me by a seals engineer working on the sterntube seals around the propellers of big ships – so he should know. Don’t open your oven. As he explains:
“if you have a leaky seal on your oven, your Yorkshire pudding will be knackered”
Yorkshire Pudding starter with cream cheese and horseradish
What to do with leftover batter
If you find you have made more than you need, the batter is literally a pancake batter, so for supper you can make pancakes. Go to this post for lots of ideas for flavours and fillings, and to this post for a recipe for porcini pancakes.
Quintessential recipe for Yorkshire Pudding
• 225g/8 oz/1⅓ cups plain flour
• 3-4 eggs
• 1 pt/2½ cups/600ml liquid – mostly full fat milk, but a couple of tablespoons of hot water also
• Hot beef dripping
1. Whisk up the flour, eggs and milk until it’s creamy, add a splash of hot water.
2. Put it in the fridge.
3. Put the metal bun tray into the same hot oven as the meat when you put that in to roast.
4. Half an hour before the roast will be ready pour in a couple of teaspoons of dripping into the bottom of each bun hollow.
5. Pour in the batter – not quite to the top of the hollows.
6. Take out half an hour later with the roast.
Other uses for Yorkshire pudding? Try this tongue-in cheek tome…. delightful.