Sunday, December 23, 2007

Recipe: Yorkshire Pudding

It's Christmas. If you have roast beef at the holidays, you really should have Yorkshire Pudding with it.

Yorkshire pudding isn't really pudding by modern American standards. It's more of an eggy quick bread, but it is so tasty, and actually pretty easy to make. Just eggs, flour, milk and a hot oven.

The problem most people have is the timing. The original recipes were developed for the massive heat and lack of control you get with a wood fired oven. It requires a practiced touch to get the depth of batter and the temperature right, and if you don't know what you're doing, it won't puff up -- it'll just dry out and get hard. Plus the traditional way has you hold the roast AFTER roasting for about forty minute while the pudding cooks. Puh-lease.

I'm here to tell you how to make it good and right and easy. (And this works best if you either make it ahead of the roast, or you do like I do, and don't make a roast at all, but pan grill a couple of nice delmonico or rib-eye steaks. It also tastes good with just plain fried mushrooms.)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt.
  • fat -- either fat from the beef or butter

This amount cooks great in two bread pans, or an 8x8 cake pan. (You can up the quantities to 1.5 cups each of flour and milk and 3 eggs, and cook it in a 9x9 pan.)

Use a whisk or a mixer to blend the flour, salt and milk. Get rid of most of the lumps. Then add the eggs. Beat or whisk it up good. There should be no lumps, and a little bit frothy on the top, but not a lot. Set the batter aside in the fridge. It can sit there overnight if you want to do it ahead, but 15 minutes is fine.

Next preheat the oven to about 350. (No hotter -- this is where the traditional recipes make it hard.) It doesn't hurt to warm the pans, but you don't have to have them sizzling (which is the traditional way). You just want them to be warm enough for the fat to melt. (ADDENDUM: having the pans sizzling hot when you pour the batter in does indeed make them rise a little higher. You can just stick the pans in the oven for a moment after coating them with fat, and THEN pull them out and pour in the batter.)

For flavor, beef fat is best. Traditionally you get this from the roasting pan, after the roast is done. However, I usually fry up some suet or trimmings to get some fat. You can also do it the easy way and just use butter. Butter is always good.

Coat the inside of the pans with the melted fat. The pudding will rise up, so cover the sides as well as the bottom. Don't be stingy with it. There should be a bit of a pool of fat in the bottom of the pan. (If it starts to thicken, stick it back in the oven for a minute or so.) Stir up the batter and pour it into the pans. It should be about a half inch deep, maybe a little less.

Stick the pans in a 350 degree oven. After 12 - 15 minutes, turn the oven up to 400, then after another 12- 15 mintues to 450. It should be done after about 10 more minutes. It should be nice and golden. If it seems to be burning, you can take it out.

(Traditional recipes will tell you to put it in a 450 oven and turn it down, but if you get the amount of batter or timing or temperature wrong, it won't puff up, and will end up overcooked and dry. By cooking it in a slower oven, you give the whole thickness of the pudding a chance to puff a little and firm up, and then the hotter temperatures at the end crisp the outer layers. NOTE: if you decide to try to make popovers -- the muffin sized version of this -- do follow traditional recipes, as you will not be working with the same bulk of batter, and the traditional way is the only way to make them pop.)

The pudding will fall by about half as it cools. Don't worry about that. Let it cool and firm up. The hardest part will be to get it out of the pan. The bottom will stick a little, especially if you use the deep sided breadpans like I do. One easy way to get it out is to cut it in half, and use a metal spatula to loosen the bottom from the middle. Just beware, these things remain full of hot steam for a long time. Don't burn yourself.

If you are making a roast, make the pudding first and cover it until the roast is ready. You can pop it into the oven for a few minutes to heat it back up again. (It makes great leftovers.) If you're making it with steak, just cook the steak while the pudding is in the oven.

And that's a great holiday tradition.

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