Friday, 31 May 2013

In pursuit of the perfect Yorkshire pudding

Admittedly, they really need gravy and a fore-rib of Angus to look their best.

Because I'm serving a lot of braised beef recently and because these are so quintessentially British... oh, wait, they're not. Of course they're not. Almost every culture makes a batter and bakes it to make a light pudding. Look up French clafoutis or the Japaneese takoyaki. York puds are just eggs, flour and milk/water but I was surpised at the variation in ratios. Some add two eggs to 250g of flour, while some add six!

Our puds go back at least as far as the mid 18th Century and used to be blah, waffle, yadder, yadder, yadder pretend-you-know-when-you-only-now-looked-it-up-you-fraud. Just Google it. Or click here.


There's MUCH discussion on how to make the best Yorkie. The Guardian's usually excellent Felicity Cloake being one of the first I turn to. However, I tried my own experiments using various recipes: Prue, Heston, Gordon, Simon Hopkinson etc. This is my summation:

  • Whisking the flour INTO the milk/egg mix breaks all the old rules but seems to ensure a lump free batter. Helps if you have a powerful whisk, of course. This whole make a well in the flour and gradually draw in the eggs only works if you have a huge bowl and arms like a navvy. I have neither (apart from the huge bowl).
  • DO leave your batter to stand. It seems that longer is better for batter and the result is lighter, crisper puds. I've started making my batter the day before I need it. I'm guessing the starch cells in the flour swell. Incidentally, this seems to be true with sponge cakes too.
  • 180°C seems to be the best temperature. Much hotter and the edges of the pud start to char before the centre has risen. Now, I like a little soggy starch in a pudding but not this much.
  • Yes the oil needs to be very hot before you add the batter but smoking hot means you fill your dining room/restaurant with same smoke to the vexation of your (paying) guests. Not cool.
  • Yorkshires bake and rise according to rules of physics not yet discerned by science. Interestingly, James Mackenzie, writing in his wonderful book On the Menu, tells you not to use the two central holes of a 12 hole tin to allow for better air circulation. There may be something in this.
  • Ignore any instruction that tells you a Yorkshire pudding can be baked in less than 20 minutes. Prue Leith indicates 15 mins at 200°C. I can only assume this is a typo.
So this is my recipe. Do I guarantee foolproof results? Do I bugger. Much will depend on the microclimate of your oven, on the size of your eggs, on your success with mixing the actual batter. But you'll probably end up with something crispy and edible that a passer-by would regard as a Yorkshire pudding. If you are consulting the opinion of strangers then you're either very lonely or rather too obsessed with your dinner (or both).

Jason's Recipie...

Heat the oven to 200°C. Whisk 4 eggs with 400ml milk. With the whisk running, add 250g plain flour in a smooth, continuous action. Add a very generous pinch of salt, a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil or beef dripping and a big pinch of mustard powder (more like half a dessertspoon). You can leave out the mustard but I urge you to try it, espically if the puds are to accompany roast beef.

The batter
Whisk until smooth, something like gloss paint.Put a dessert spoon of oil/dripping in each cake tin hole. Put the cake tin in the middle of the oven for about ten minutes until very hot. Ladle enough batter to half fill each cake hole (they're not called cake holes are they!?) and replace the tin in the oven. reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for approx 25-35 minutes depending on how much sog you like. 25mins for soft and yielding with a crunchy top, 35 for completely crisp.

By the way, it's perfectly OK to specify 27 minutes or 31. Don't feel ashamed. 33 minutes is no more nor less pedantic than 30 or 35. Let's not get hung up on our baking integers! 

They'll probably go mental around 20 mins but stymie your excitement, they rarely maintain this height. As in life, pudding pride comes before a fall.

This amount of batter will make about 20 towering Yorkshires. They will all be eaten, if not during the meal, then afterwards, probably by a drunk person, with microwaved gravy. You know who you are.

Further recipes and reading: Roast Potatoes.   Beef Rib.   A better way to roast beef.

This one was cooked for 34 mins which is just too long for me, however, the rest of my family loved them.

4 comments :

  1. The puds looked so good. Thanks for sharing your research and recipe. I am making these for my new year party and your recipe came just in time. Will try it out! I totally understand what you meant about the baking integers. ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Lim. Check out the new roast potato tips too.

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  2. Replies
    1. Cake tin depression? Or is that what it's called when you can't find the right cake tin?

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