Yorkshire Puddings vs. American Popovers
Updated: May 21, 2020
As a born and bred Yorkshireman, I was surprised to find out a few years ago that the iconic Yorkshire Pudding staple that I was brought up on has an American cousin called the Popover. Having researched the recipe, it is indeed exactly the same thing. I should state at this point that the Yorkshire one is the original and the best!
This recipe is true to my British roots and my Yorkshire heritage. If you've never tried Yorkshire pudding (or a Popover for that matter) do yourself a favour and give this a go, I promise you won't regret it.
Also, just in case you literally have no clue what a Yorkshire Pudding is, it's not a dessert, it's more of a starter or side dish and resembles a hot bread although there's nothing else really like it and that's not a fair description of it either. Read on and I'll explain.
Yorkshire pudding making was a serious business in our house growing up. As the first published recipe for Yorkie Puds was in 1737, it is a tried and tested tradition for a mother to pass down the recipe to her daughter along with the family Yorkshire Pudding tin that they are baked in. The current tin in our family is now well over 100 years old and is currently in the possession of my older sister, of which I am insanely jealous. The theory is that over time due to the high heat and the smoking oil that is required to make the perfect Yorkshire, the pan becomes super non-stick and is able to attain higher heat than a new pan and therefore produces a bigger fluffier Pud.
It is possible to get tins made for Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers but any metal muffin style baking tray will work. You can even make them in a bread loaf tin for the bigger appetite. I have a set of 12 miniature loaf tins for my Yorkshires and they work great and at now around 15 years old, they're just starting to get worn in! The most important thing if you're going to make Yorkshire Puddings a reasonably regular occurrence is to keep your tin just for the purpose of making Yorkshires, a bit like having a dedicated egg frying pan.
So what is a Yorkshire and when do you make it? I had this story explained to me at a young age and it has always stuck with me as a great example of frugality, innovation and the ability to make good food with the most meager of ingredients. How true it is will remain a mystery. Yorkshire Grandmothers are famous for embellishing the truth for the sake of a good story ("Spinning a yarn" as it's called in Yorkshire). The story is that during the war years when food was scarce, the traditional Yorkshire Sunday Dinner (actually a lunch) which is the main family meal of the week and considered a feast was difficult to produce due to a shortness of meat, particularly during rationing during the World Wars.
To bulk out the family Sunday dinner, Yorkshire housewives would use the beef dripping (The fat left in the tin after roasting a piece of beef) to make Yorkshire Puddings which were served a starter before the main course to fill the belly of the family so the shortage of protein in the main course didn't leave them hungry. Yorkshire Pudding is traditionally served with a thick beef and onion gravy poured into the pudding which acts like a cup. Although light and fluffy, the egg and flour mixture is very filling and lots of puddings can be made very cheaply and with everyday ingredients that most homes already had in reasonably plentiful supply (as long as you had a chicken for eggs). The beef dripping and thick beefy gravy give it a rich luxurious and very meaty flavour making it a great accompaniment to a smaller than desired piece of roast beef during the main course.
If you listen to the hype around Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers, people would have you believe that it's highly complex, your puddings won't rise and you'll end up with Hockey pucks and it's similar to making a souffle and ingredients have to be exact, blah blah blah. Nonsense! Yorkshire Puddings are super easy and quick to make and if you have a piece of meat , any meat roasting in the oven, they're a great way to make a quick extra side dish and use some of that spare space in your hot oven. Use this recipe and follow my tips and tricks below and you'll be churning out Puds quicker than a Yorkshireman downing a pint of bitter.
Ingredients (makes regular or 4 large puddings)
1 Cup / 250ml of milk
1 Cup / 150g of All Purpose Plain Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup 75 grams of Beef Lard (for a vegetarian version or simplicity, you can use sunflower oil)
Pre-heat your oven to 210C / 430F
Add eggs and most of the milk to a bowl and whisk to combine
Whisk in flour slowly until you get a light batter, it should be the thickness of custard and coat the back of a spoon. If it's more like a muffin batter or Cheese sauce, you've added too much flour. Too thick? add a little more milk, to thin? add a little more flour. Don't over think it, better to be too thin than too thick or you're getting a beef flavoured cake!
Whisk in the salt and then set the batter aside to rest
Share your Beef Lard / oil across each of the tin's sections, you can eyeball this, it just needs a good covering of the bottom of each section.
Place your tin in the middle/top of the hot oven and leave for 10 minutes do not take it our yet.
Now your oil / Lard should be smoking in your tin (this is how you know it's ready to cook on)
Get your batter ready and give it a very light whisk for a couple of seconds only to mix it
Read this step completely before starting it: With an oven glove, quickly take the tin out of the oven (shut the oven door once you've done this and quickly pour your batter into each of the tin sections equally. Quickly put the tin back into the oven and close the door. This whole process needs to take less than a minute but be super careful, smoking hot lard and human skin do not go well together.
Do not open the oven door again until the end of the cooking time or your puddings won't rise and your popovers won't pop over.
After 20 minutes, look through the oven door and check the top of your puddings are not starting to burn (if they are take them out immediately). Keep watching them until they are golden brown or you reach 25 minutes and remove from the oven
Take a moment to marvel at how much your puddings have risen and how great they smell
Leave them in the tin until you're ready to serve or at least for a couple of minutes for the tin to cool so the puddings don't stick when you remove them.
Serve either as a starter/appetizer filled with onion gravy or as a side dish for a roast dinner.
Tips & Tricks
As you will have probably figured out, the whole objective is to keep the heat in the oven and keep it closed whilst cooking, this is because the puddings need to rise and any cool breeze will cause them to flop, this is where Yorkshires are similar to Souffles
When putting the batter together, don't over whisk it, even if you have lumps from the flour, those lumps will create air pockets that will help it to rise and create a little crispiness
There are two camps on the crispy vs. soft debate on Yorkshire puddings, I like them soft so 20 minutes in the oven works for me. Mrs MCF loves them crispy which takes 25 minutes. We tend to have them crispy!
When serving on their own with gravy, make the gravy thick and put slices of onion in the gravy when you're making it, if it's too thin it will leak out of the pudding. If you can slice it, it's too thick.
Be careful when removing the Puds from the tin, you don't want to tear the bottom or it won't hold the gravy, it's not a car smash if you do it's just there is nothing quite like cutting into a Pud filled with gravy and watching it leak out onto the plate a bit like a well made yolk on a fried egg.
A very old Yorkshire tradition is to serve Puds with gravy with a little raspberry vinegar stirred into it. This gives it a little sweet and sour note to cut through the richness.
As long as the gravy is hot, the puds can be served cold so no need to rush when they're cooked if you're waiting for the rest of the dinner to complete, just keep your hands off! I always make an extra one to eat whilst I'm finishing up the roast meat.
Although traditionally served with Beef, Yorkshires go just as well with roast chicken and especially well with our Roast Pork Belly Recipe.
Another twist on the Yorkshire Pudding is to make a giant one in a pie tin or loaf tin and serve the rest of the meal inside the Yorkshire (like using the pud as a bowl) or as a Toad-In-The-Hole, another famous Yorkshire Pudding recipe with onions and pork sausages.
If your Puds come out too cakey or bready, you either didn't use enough milk vs. the eggs or the batter was too thick from the flour. This takes a little trial and error as instinctively it appears too thin and too much milk for the end result when it's correct. My top tip is when you make these for the first time, make them in two batches and if the first set are too dense, add a little milk for the second batch. Having too many puddings is a good problem to have!
It has been known to serve Yorkshire Puddings as a dessert with cream and strawberry jam or even with ice-cream. Whatever floats your boat I guess!