Growing up with a British mother, every holiday meal in my family started with roast beef and ended with Yorkshire pudding. Thanksgiving, obviously, isn’t something traditionally celebrated in England, but we still have Yorkshire pudding alongside our turkey and stuffings, perhaps in homage to Mom’s motherland.
Yorkshire pudding is not a creamy, custard dessert but more of a popover. But the batter is almost identical for both.
Yorkshire pudding originally came out of the desire to capture the delicious drippings from a beef roast. Mixed with flour and eggs, the drippings could be baked into puffy pockets for soaking up gravy and flavors of the meal.
“It used to be that the roasts had crackling and a meaty fat on the bottom that would drip in the pan,” said my mom, Eileen Subko. “You don’t get that anymore, probably because our meat is trimmed and less fatty.”
Unlike most popovers, though, making Yorkshire pudding can be a bit tricky. For help, I turned to the two best cooks I know, both, coincidentally, from England. My mom is from Durham in the north of England. And one of my closest friends, Janet Peterson, is from Bradford in Yorkshire. They have slightly different methods, but both make great Yorkshire pudding.
The one thing they agree on is that it’s never certain the pudding will rise properly. It’s a balancing act of ingredients, temperatures and fat.
“If you are having people over and make the puddings the same way as always, it almost guarantees they will be flat like a pancake,” said Peterson. “It’s inevitable.”
“I’d have to concur with that,” said my mom.
Peterson believes the key to perfect Yorkshire pudding is in the fat. The pan needs to be heated in the oven until it’s smoking.
“Lard is really the best thing to use because it has a very high smoking point,” said Peterson. Adding chilled batter to the hot oil makes the puddings puff and rise.
Peterson uses a scoop of solid fat about the size of a lima bean for each serving. We tested several recipes and used duck fat.
My mom uses bacon fat.
“You have to heat it until you see blue steam coming up,” she said. She uses a muffin pan rather than a traditional Yorkshire pudding pan and adds a pea-sized amount of fat for each pudding.
I recently purchased two traditional Yorkshire pudding pans online. Each of the square pans has four pockets, 4 inches wide by ¾ inch deep.
In the past few weeks, I have tried several recipes. One was from the BBC, one was written on a cloth apron that Peterson has been wearing and following for years, and another came from my mom’s memory.
All of them include flour, eggs, milk, a pinch of salt and a splash of water in the end. The differences are in the number of eggs and the temperature of the water.
The “apron” recipe calls for one large egg. Peterson recommends an extra large egg, contending “American eggs aren’t quite as large as those in England.” Like my mom, she chills the batter for a few hours before making the puddings. But Peterson uses a bit of boiling water to mix in her batter just before filling the pans. My mom, on the other hand, uses three large eggs in her batter and adds a couple of teaspoons of ice cold water before putting the heated pans back in the oven.
I have produced perfect pudding with both recipes. Below are a couple of recipes and the one I use for popovers, which tend to rise a bit taller than Yorkshire puddings and need a little butter, jam or other topping to punch up the flavor.
Mom’s Yorkshire Pudding
3 heaping spoonfuls all-purpose flour (Mom uses a tablespoon-sized spoon from her dinner silverware set)
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
About 3 tablespoons milk (Mom uses 2 percent)
In a bowl with a handle, stir the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and stir in the eggs. Slowly add the milk to get the consistency of thin pancakes. Place in refrigerator until a half-hour before serving time.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place a pea-sized amount of bacon fat in each cup of a 12-muffin pan. Heat in oven until steaming hot.
Remove batter from refrigerator and beat in a couple of teaspoons of ice water. Pour batter into each muffin cup (just over half full) and bake on top shelf until they rise and turn golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Source: Eileen Subko
4 ounces all-purpose flour
1 extra large egg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of hot water
Stir flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and a little bit of water. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix the batter until it’s thick. Add milk and beat with the wooden spoon until the batter thins out. Refrigerate.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a lima bean-sized smear of duck fat in each portion of a Yorkshire Pudding pan. Heat in oven until smoking hot.
Remove batter from the refrigerator and beat in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Fill each portion of the pans less than halfway full. Bake on top shelf about 25 minutes.
Source: Janet Peterson’s cloth apron
Jordan Pond Popovers
The best popovers I ever ate were at Jordan Pond House Restaurant inside Acadia National Park in Maine. Proper popover pans are conelike and available online. Cooks at Jordan Pond prepare the batter a day in advance and refrigerate it until about an hour before cooking.
2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Break eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. Add milk and blend. Add remaining ingredients and mix together until nearly smooth. Do not overmix.
Fill popover pan or muffin tin or custard cups ¾ full.
Bake for 14 minutes. Without opening oven door, lower heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Popovers should be crispy brown on the outside and moist inside.
Source: Jordan Pond House Restaurant