Flour. Eggs. Milk.
On one quiet Sunday afternoon, these four staple ingredients in the pantry brought out the urge to try something different for the Sunday dinner. As the option of sweet or savoury were being considered, the experimentation ran into attempts at making Yorkshire pudding.
One of the most favoured English dishes, Yorkshire pudding is a baked pudding which can be served in numerous ways. From being a main course dish served with meat and gravy or filled with banger and mash or made into dessert with fillings of chocolate, the options keep on changing depending on the choice of ingredients, the size of the pudding, and the accompanying components of the dish.
“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.
– A recipe for “a dripping pudding” as published in the book “The Whole Duty of a Woman” by Lady A; Kenrick, William (1737).
While the exact origins of this dish aren’t traced to any particular era, the recipe in records was seen in the sixteenth century. Originally this dish was believed to be served as first course to dull the appetite for the main meat and vegetables served as the second course. In poorer households, the pudding was often served as the only course. As to the name “Yorkshire”, the probability lies in the crispier batter of the pudding in this region, made so by the higher temperatures produced by the coal.
One of the reasons of its’ popularity lies in the ease of cooking. By pouring the batter made from milk (or water), flour and eggs ( basic ratio of 1/3rd cup flour and 1/3rd liquid per egg), into preheated, oiled, baking pans, ramekins or muffin tins (in the case of miniature puddings), they can be made steamed, in the pan or ovens. A steamed recipe involves covering the pudding with grease proof paper to steam it and then serve with jam and butter (1926).
“It is an exceeding good pudding, the gravy of the meat eats well with it,” states Glasse. “…. To set your stew-pan on it under your meat, and let the dripping drop on the pudding and the heat of the fire come to it, to make it of a fine brown.” (recipe as recorded in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1747)).
The versatility of the Yorkshire pudding can be felt across the various cuisines. With Laplanders (also known as popovers) of the American cuisine, these are light rolls made from an egg batter similar to that of Yorkshire pudding, typically baked in muffin tins or dedicated popover pans (straight-walled sides rather than angled). Similar dishes ( batter based savoury dishes) include the French gougère (a savoury choux pastry mixed with cheese), Bismarck or Dutch baby pancakes, takoyaki (a Japanese puff batter dumpling with octopus) or the more elaborate dish of “Toad in the Hole”. Traditional variants with local flours like sago, split gram flour, gluten free or palaeo based Yorkshire puddings and the like have been tried. The beauty of experimentation of the different recipes lies in simple adaptation, palatability and above all, bringing a bit of another culture to the table.
Half a pound of flour
1 ounce of butter
Milk to mix
Put the half-pound of flour into a basin and rub in the butter. Make a hollow in the centre of the mixture and break in the egg, beat well adding the milk gradually until all is mixed. Then beat for a further fifteen minutes, when the mixture coats a spoon it is ready. Grease a pudding basin and pour in the mixture, cover with greaseproof paper and steam for one and a half hours. Serve with jam, butter and sugar. [Note, for cooking the water should only come half way up the dish.
Source: Recipes Past and Present. A Wootton Bridge Historical website