Ah, Yorkshire puddings. I grew up on these, though admittedly they weren’t always picture perfect. Sometimes they defied logic and would rise and rise like something inspired from Myth-busters. Yet other times they looked something more like a Mexican flan, still tasty but not exactly the gravy vessel you're expecting. Like pizza, even a bad Yorkshire can be a good Yorkshire. One spectacular fail resulted in Yorkshires that rose over 7 inches, like weird stalagmite structures growing upward that fused to the ceiling of the oven. Not sure what happened there... On a side note, the Royal Society of Chemistry has deemed a Yorkshire pudding can only be called a Yorkshire pudding if it is indeed 4 inches tall who knew...
Anyway, this Instructable is about making the perfect Yorkshire: Ones that have a generous rise, light and crispy, tender in the middle, and yet have enough self supporting structure to hold an epic quantity of gravy! Or if you’re making popovers, whatever sweet topping/fillings you like. My earlier career as a chef never provided me the perfect recipe; oddly enough it came from joining a mid-evil historical reenactment club. Often at events, food was served, sometimes in an attempt to be period accurate. One time they served a dish we recognize as Yorkshire pudding, though they called it dripping pudding. The name Yorkshire Pudding didn't come until 1747, 10 years after the first "recorded" recipe for dripping pudding; as per wikipedia. They explained to me that often recipes were handed down in a ratio form rather than with specific vessels of measurement. Take pound cake for example. It is a ratio recipe 1:1:1:1 - One pound/portion of butter : One pound/portion of sugar : One pound/portion of eggs : One pound/portion of flour. This was also true for Yorkshire pudding, back in the day in a 1:1:1 ratio was used. One part eggs : One part milk : One part flour. And, just like the pound cake, it didn’t include the salt in the ratio or the oil in the pan. Other recipes I find get the ratios wrong as they skimp on the egg. To make up for the skimped egg they try and beat air into the mix, but we're not making cake here. Other tweaks exist as well, such as adding a bit of water to the milk which produces a lighter and sometimes higher rising Yorkshire.
So how exactly does a Yorkshire cook and rise? Whats the science behind it? Lets get back to basics. The milk provides steam when superheated to volumize or "puff up" the mixture. The flour provides the structure and some stretch provided by the gluten. The egg binds the mixture and keeps it in check allowing the rise to go up and up. Think of a hot-air balloon. The air heats up and rises exerting an upward pressure and eventually outward pressure much like the steam generated from heating the milk. The flour is the balloon material being expanded by the exerting force of the hot air/steam. The eggs help form the pattern or blue prints in the way that the balloon material will take when expanded - it controls how the flour will grow and contain the expanding heated gases.
On a side note regarding hydration, that I choose to ignore, if you allow your batter to sit overnight you will get a higher rise. I have tried this, and yes it rose almost an inch higher. Taste and texture though seems unchanged oddly enough. Of course that means advance planning, something that seldom happens at our house regarding food. We're to spur of the moment for hydrating flour and the what not... The last step in this Instructable shows the results of the same recipe after a 24 hour rest period. It was light, crispy and the rise... well, it was a little higher then normal. Was it worth the effort? Not by my standards. But its always good to experiment.
But, what about the other ingredients? Salt? Simply keeps the flavour from being flat. I have made them by accident salt free. They still raise the same, texture is the same, flavour though is lacking though....salt is the spice of life!
The blistering hot oil in the bottom of the pan is another key. If we’re back to the hot air balloon analogy, this would be the balloons hot air furnace. A little technique is involved, as the batter needs to fall in a stream in the center of the pan as much as you can. This provides an even base for the Yorkshire to grow out of. As the batter hits the center of the hot pan, it creates a crown that spreads out from the center of the pan to the edge at unilateral rate. This promotes the Yorkshire to grow upwards at a steady rate of climb resulting in higher peaks. Pour near the side of the pan and the batter crown will be out of sync. It will still rise, but will be crooked, with one side lighter and higher and the other shorter and denser. The formation of the crown isn’t the only task the fat has, as it lubricates the crowns rise up the side of the pan, providing the hollow nature of the dish. Additionally the fat acts as a thermal heat transfer from the pan to the batter allowing a steady expansion of steam pushing the batter crown higher and higher. Lastly, your Yorkshire won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. A stuck Yorkshire is a sad Yorkshire... Finally what kind of oil you use changes the outcome as well. Higher saturated oil produces a crispier pudding, so using olive oil? Not so good. Shortening? Much better. Ironically, I find margarine gives me the best flavour to crisp ratio (Haters will detest this, saying it has water in it, what can I say, it works). Now if I had a true drippings with a high fat content from some rendered lard, that would be the cats meow.
HEAT - To maintain that steady rise and eventually lock in the structure, a steady heat of around 425°F = ±220°C
needs to be maintained. Low heat makes pudding puddles.
Enough written chatter, let’s get cooking, baking? Hot-air Ballooning? Yes to all...
Step 1: Ingredients
- 1 cup eggs (about 5 large eggs)
- 1 cup milk (I use 3.25 homogenized, but skim, 1% or 2% work fine. As does cutting the milk with water, it’s all good). Lower fat content yields a crispier pudding with a slightly higher rise, but at the expense of flavour.
- 1 cup flour (I use plain Jane regular unbleached white flour).
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of fat per Yorkshire pudding vessel – aka your muffin tin (Often I've used Margarine (yes I know, margarine ew...), rendered lard or shortening work well, no vegetable based oils if possible. Butter burns too fast, though clarified butter works nicely).
- 1 twelve count muffin tin – Deeper the better with narrow sloping sides. If you can find one with completely vertical sides then even better. I even tried using silicon pans, please don’t bother. They just don’t conduct heat the same as metal pans. Cast iron pans are great, but I would love to try actual Yorkshire pudding pans. They are a little more narrow then a muffin pan, but much deeper.
- 1 oven, duh – but it must maintain a heat of 425 degrees for at least 20 minutes undisturbed by looky-loos or door peekers trying to ruin your puddings. Bastards!
- On a side note, The door does get opened from time to time by accident. Simply return it to the hot oven temperature as soon as you can and your puddings will be fine.
- 1 large mouth mason jar (with a lid) for lazy mixing or a bowl.
Step 2: Break Some Eggs
- Adjust your oven by setting the grill to the second lowest level of your oven.
- Crank the heat to
425°F = ±220°C
- Break your eggs into your mason jar, pop you lid on and give them a shake for 10 seconds or so.
Or, get out your mixing bowl and stirring implement of choice and beat those eggs a tiny bit.
- I know so many of you want to beat those eggs into a perfect homogenized mixture but RESIST! Do I need to provide you with a 1-800 number for your problem? There is method behind madness using the Mason jar. First it prevents you from over beating things, second it reduces the amount of dishes you have to clean up later and lastly, the mason jar allows perfect pour control at then end. This is crucial when you’re trying to pour like a marksman while simultaneously having your eyebrows singed off!
Step 3: Add and Shake
Add your milk to your mason jar, put the lid on and give it a vigorous shake.
Wait... you’re still using your bowl? Ok, add the milk and give it a quick stir.
Step 4: Add a Bit More
- Add your salt and half the flour to the mason jar and shake it for 20 seconds or so. Why half the flour? Limited space within the mason jar makes it hard to shake the flour in. Perhaps the bowl wins this time... maybe.
- Ok, add the rest of the flour and shake for another 20 seconds. Open the lid and check that it looks somewhat mixed but lumps are fine. Realistically this would be easier in a wide mouth bottle that is slightly larger then the one I have been using. A sealable pitcher would be perfect, but I have been using what I had available.
If you're using a bowl now is the time to add all your flour and salt all to the egg/milk mixture and stir until combined. Please don’t over-stir! Again we are making Yorkshires, not cake! Celebrity chefs will tell you to whisk it like crazy, but you just don't need to. Try a batch whisked, and another night, be crazy and resist over mixing. You will be pleasantly surprised; just don't tell Chef Jamie Oliver...
Now transfer from your bowl to an easy to pour from vessel, like a mason jar.
Step 5: Pre-sizzle
Let the batter rest a bit while you prepare your pan.
Take your Y.P.V., aka Yorkshire pudding vessel, aka muffin pan and add 1 teaspoon or so of fat to each cup.
Put it in your oven to heat up. Keep it there until the pan just begins to smoke.
The best way to determine when it's ready is to wait for it to stop "complaining". You see, when you first put it in the oven it will start to pop and sizzle. After a minute or two the sizzle and pop will begin to wane and soon will be silent.
Get ready for step 5! Have your oven mitt prepped, hand on the oven door, other hand holding your mason jar-o-batter and head on over to step 5.
Step 6: Pour Quick!
Open your oven door quick like a bunny and pour the batter in to the pans as quick as you can.
Try to center the batter for even rises but don’t worry about errant drips to much.
- Now get that pan back in the oven and door shut as quick as you can in order to promote the big batter crowns and let that Yorkshire rise and rise.
Step 7: Bake It!
Over about 15 to 20 minutes your Yorkshire puddings will rise. (Try not to open the door of the oven to check on them, use the window. Opening the door to often will result in a low oven temperature, which if allowed to drop to low results in pudding puddles). At what time you take them out is up to you, and is based on what you prefer: 15 minutes will give you a softer pudding that will deflate shortly upon removing and will have some crispy edges but will be mostly soft. 20 minutes in the oven and Yorkshire will develop a crispy shell that will hold itself upright like a tasty exoskeleton - complete with a tender center and a GCD, or “Gravy Containment Device.”
Step 8: Nom Nom Nom!
Yorkshires or pop-overs are perfect vessels for holding gravy, or some nice slow cooked pork and caramelized onions. Oh wait, they get gravy too...
Step 9: Quick Batter or Let the Batter Rest for Higher Yields
So, if you google the science of Yorkshire puddings, you will most likely come across a column from the website Serious Eats featuring a section called, "The Food Lab". The author and Chief Culinary Advisor of Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt breaks down the science amazingly, repeating the recipe 4-5 times with subtle tweaks to each variation. The results for each variation are then explained, allowing the reader to decide what outcome they might prefer. In this link, he covers "The Science of the Best Yorkshire Pudding", and man does he do it well. I'm pretty much standing on the shoulders of giants after this guy. He notes that he found that a 24 hour rest period yielded the single greatest difference in getting a higher rise, and a more complex flavour. I tried the 24 hour rest period, and yes it did produce a slightly higher rise. Perhaps it did have a slightly toastier flavour, but I found it actually detracted from the Yorkshire, rather then make it better. Each to his own I guess.
You should try it yourself though, perhaps you will have greater success, or appreciate the flavour difference. Of course I was going by technique only, as his ingredient ratio is different then mine. Also, the Food Lab used those uber cool Yorkshire pudding tins, while I'm using tired old muffin tins. Perhaps I need to go pan shopping and make some more, oh Dang....
And yes, I have included another time lapse of Yorkshire puddings rising, this time with 24 hour resting batch.
Runner Up in the
Science of Cooking