It's become a tradition at our house now that for Christmas Day we do an English inspired feast. This means a standing rib roast, creamed spinach, and of course some Yorkshire Pudding. And as of this past Christmas, Yorkshire Pudding is officially one of Little Boy's most favorite things. I think he hate the half the pan himself!
Yorkshire pudding is a fluffy concoction that seems part bread and part souffle. It's wonderfully complimentary to any roast meat dish, and in fact you need the pan drippings from the roast to make a good and authentic yorkshire pudding. The name comes from Yorkshire, England where cooks began making use of the "scraps" from their roasts in an effort to stretch the ingredients. Roasted meats left wonderful and abundant juices at the bottom of the pan that were concentrated with flavors, and the cooks devised a means to make a batter (it's much like pancake batter) that you pour into those juices and then bake off. The result is a wonderful puffy savory souffle type bread thing that you can bake into one whole pan and rip off pieces or pour into individual muffin tins and then create little pockets. In fact, were you to go to England or Yorkshire for that matter, you'd find them called "pockets" and when you order them, you'd find them filled with sliced meat from the roast and drizzled with gravy.
I'm drooling remembering it now.
Yorkshire pudding is a few centuries old. Check out this excerpt from "The Whole Duty of A Woman" which was a popular cookbook and overall manual for women in the early 1700's:
"Make a good batter as for pancakes; put in a hot toss-pan over the fire with a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little then put the pan and butter under a shoulder of mutton, instead of a dripping pan, keeping frequently shaking it by the handle and it will be light and savoury, and fit to take up when your mutton is enough; then turn it in a dish and serve it hot."
I just love reading old recipes!
So you bake it off and it looks something puffed and golden, like this:
The pudding looks a lot harder than it actually is to make. Truly. And if you have a blender or food processor, it's made all the easier for you and literally comes together in 10 seconds. In fact, you can make the batter ahead of time (up to 4 hours!), then just add some drippings to it and give it another pulse before pouring it into the pan. You literally use the same pan your roast was roasting in -- straight away out of the oven and piping hot -- and while the roast rests for 20 minutes before carving, your pudding will bake off. So no need for double ovens or anything either. If you choose to do the individual muffin sizes, then pour off the pan juices into a pourable measuring cup, then pour in about a tablespoon of the juices into each muffin tin, then pour the batter over that. And remember to preheat your muffin pan so it's piping hot also! That's what makes the pudding puff up so nicely!
Here's a recipe from Alton Brown that I love. It's very basic and easy, and is the one we use most often for our Christmas celebrations. You can easily add even more flavor to it by way of fresh herbs -- some fresh thyme or rosemary thrown in would be lovely -- or just keep it simple and let the roast do the talking, which is what I like to do.
Yorkshire Pudding by Alton Brown
9 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1/4 cup beef drippings, divided*
*Cooks note: A 3-bone-in standing rib roast cooked in a 13 by 9-inch roasting pan will give you enough drippings for the pudding. Prepare the pudding while the roast is resting.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Leave 2 tablespoons of drippings in the roasting pan and place in the oven.
Place the flour, salt, eggs, milk and remaining 2 tablespoons of drippings into the bowl of a food processor or blender and process for 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the hot roasting pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. While the pudding is cooking, carve the roast. Serve the pudding with the roast.