It’s a special day, National Yorkshire Pudding Day!
I’ll bet you didn’t even know that today, Oct. 13, is officially National Yorkshire Pudding Day. And right about now, I can hear you asking, “So what; who cares?”
I’m well aware that many of our readers may be among the misguided who don’t care for, perhaps even actively dislike, Yorkshire pudding and aren’t about to continue reading this column. In keeping with current trends, I hereby offer my sincere apologies for whatever offense I’m about to commit by writing about something so mundane. As it happens, I love the stuff.
From earliest memory until I left home for college, the first Sunday of every month was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding day. It was also our Christmas feast and “special occasion” meal, unless the celebrant of the occasion specifically requested something else.
During those years, evening meals were usually either salmon or wild game in some form or another, because family members caught and brought it home, prompting a lot of “Oh, not again” whining from the kid set. (Little did I know, then, how much I’d come to miss all of that.) Money was scarce, so purchasing that roast beef at the butcher’s shop every month was an event, and no one missed that Sunday meal.
Most of us “kids” have continued to put Yorkshire pudding on the table fairly often, although not with the regularity of those earlier years. But, over the decades since those long-ago Sundays, we’ve had one problem with our beloved Yorkshire. We often find ourselves in the midst of a family squabble over who has the “authentic” recipe.
One basic formula is my paternal grandmother’s, the other is my mother’s, and even though she always claimed she learned to make Yorkshire from my grandmother, my mother’s pudding never, ever turned out quite like my grandmother’s. Even though they are both gone from our midst now, I can still not say, out loud, which one I prefer because in my mind’s eye, I know I’d see my mother’s “look.” I’m sure many readers know exactly what I mean by that.
The fact is, however, that there are many different versions of Yorkshire pudding, not so much in the ingredients as in the cooking. Basically, it’s flour, salt, milk and eggs beaten into a batter, nothing exceptional about that. Some cooks may add a bit of leavening (baking powder), but when it comes time to pop the pudding in the oven, that’s where not all Yorkshire puddings are created equal.
My great-grandmother once told me that when she was a child living in Kent, England, they made Yorkshire pudding with only flour, salt and milk (an egg when affordable and available) and meant it to ‘fill out’ a meal (and stomachs) when the meat might be meager.
After a piece of meat had finished roasting, the Yorkshire batter was poured into the hot pan drippings and the pan returned to the oven. The pudding, relatively flat but full of flavor from the drippings it soaked up, was cut or torn into pieces and served with the meat.
That is exactly what my grandmother did, although she always had eggs available and used them in her Yorkshire.
My mother, I later discovered, liked hers a bit less condensed and dripping-soaked, and often added a wee touch of taboo baking powder. She also poured some of the pan drippings into another baking dish, added the batter and baked it separately. As noted before, it was never quite the same.
Today, with all the fear-of-fat hysteria, many cooks try to find ways to forego the drippings altogether, which means they’re not serving up true Yorkshire pudding. And in many restaurants, you’ll find Yorkshire pudding turned into popovers, served in small individual baking dishes, floating on a sea of gravy, some light and airy, others like a slab of flatbread. Some are old-fashioned, mouth-wateringly tender, others are just “there,” on the plate, often tough and chewy and adding little or nothing in the way of flavor.
Me? I do it Grandma’s way, and it’ll be on the table tonight, alongside a small elk roast (thanks, Mike), to commemorate National Yorkshire Pudding day.
We’ll begin with my grandmother’s very traditional Yorkshire pudding, then add a variation or two.
As far as she was concerned, Yorkshire was always added to the roasting pan alongside whatever meat she was cooking, whether it was a beef roast, meatloaf, roast chicken, or venison/elk/bear roast, and if there were not enough drippings in the pan to suit her, she’d add some bacon fat or melted butter.
(This recipe is the same one she used to make Toad-in-the-Hole, by the way.)
GRANDMA’S YORKSHIRE PUDDING
1 cup flour
½ t. salt
1 cup milk
¼ cup pan drippings
In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add half the milk slowly, stirring to get rid of lumps and make a smooth batter. Beat the eggs; add eggs and remaining milk and beat batter until smooth. Allow batter to sit for 15 min. to a half hour.**
When the meat is close to done, remove pan from oven. If there is too much dripping fat, pour off whatever is necessary. Push meat to one side, pour in pudding batter and bake 20-30 min. or until puffed and golden. Cut into serving pieces and serve alongside meat.
**Here is one place my grandmother’s recipe differed from my mother’s; grandma’s says to let the batter sit for up to a half hour before baking, my mother’s says to refrigerate the batter for up to an hour.
Here’s one of many variations, a nice way to serve Yorkshire if you’re having guests, and a bit easier to make with a blender or processor.
INDIVIDUAL YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS
¾ cup milk
¾ cup water
3 large eggs
1½ t. salt
11/3 cups flour
¼ cup pan drippings or butter or lard, melted
In a blender or a food processor with the steel blade, blend the milk, water, eggs and salt for 15 seconds. With the motor running, add the flour, a little at a time, and blend the mixture at high speed for 2 min. Transfer the batter to a bowl and let it stand, covered, at room temp. for 3 hrs.
Pour 1½ t. of pan drippings into each of eight individual pie pans (the small 4-inch ones) or small tart dishes. Arrange the pans on 2 baking sheets or jelly-roll pans and heat them in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 min., or until the drippings are smoking.
Return the batter to the blender, blend for 10 seconds, then divide it among the heated pans. Bake the puddings for 20 min., then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 10 min. more. Remove puddings from the pans and arrange them in a serving basket and serve immediately. (Cold Yorkshire pudding next day is OK, but not what you want to serve guests). Makes 8 individual puddings.
Note: You can also use muffin tins for this recipe; heat tins, add drippings, heat again, then add batter. Bake at 375 degrees about 20 min.
BACON SAGE YORKSHIRE PUDDING
6-7 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T. melted butter
1 1/2 cups flour
3 T. finely chopped fresh sage, divided (see instructions)
1 t. coarse kosher salt
11/2 cups milk
3 large eggs
Position oven rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Saute the bacon pieces then drain, reserving the drippings in a glass measuring cup. Add melted butter to drippings to make 1/4 cup and pour the drippings into a 9×13 baking dish. Put dish in oven to heat for 10 min.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, half the chopped sage, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and blend until smooth. Whisk in 2/3 of the bacon pieces.
Remove baking dish from oven and carefully (use oven mitts) tilt dish to distribute the drippings evenly. Pour in the batter and return to oven. Bake 15 min., then lower temp. to 350 degrees and bake until pudding is golden brown and puffed, about 12 min. more. DON’T OPEN THE OVEN DOOR DURING THIS LAST TIME PERIOD. Remove from oven, crumble remaining bacon over the top, sprinkle with remaining sage, serve immediately. Serves 6 -8, depending upon size of servings.