The next few weeks will be a season of traditional celebration with lots of big hearty dinners. So let's say you're going to be serving a big old roast beef; what is one of the best accompaniments? Anyone from Great Britain will answer enthusiastically, Yorkshire Pudding! But as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has observed, this is one of those dishes that draws a puzzled shrug from most Americans.
The problem comes from the use of the word "pudding". In contemporary America pudding means "Jello Instant Pudding" or something like it: a flavored, creamy custard. In Great Britain "pudding" is another word for dessert, and it also denotes a savory dish something like an American pop-over.
In this case we're talking about a fairly bland tasting piece of puff pastry that is perfect for sopping up gravy. Recipes that I have used in the past are pretty vague about the details of the technique. They'll talk about pan drippings from the roast beef, without explaining what we really need to do with them. Here's the point: the pan drippings are a form of hot fat. You will be cooking the batter in the fat. In point of fact, it doesn't matter what kind of hot liquid fat you use (other than olive oil), you just have to have enough to fill the bottom of your cooking pan with about 1/4" of it. Ideally we want an oil with a high smoke point, so peanut or canola oil would be perfect substitutions.
The idea is to cook your batter in this sizzling oil. You can use a baking dish to create one big pudding (ill-advised, since it will collapse once you cut into it) or you can use muffin tins which come in several sizes. The muffin tin approach will give you a bunch of individual servings, intact and ready to go.
Here is the recipe.
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
Equipment: 1 muffin tin for 6 large puddings, or a cupcake pan for 12 smaller
Pre-heat oven to 375
1. Beat the eggs, and blend with the flour in a large bowl.
2. Add in the liquids, and whisk until thoroughly blended, then the baking soda
and pinch of salt.
3. Pour about a teaspoon of oil into each muffin mold. When finished, slide the muffin tin into the hot oven to heat the oil.
4. When the oil starts to bubble, take the muffin tin out, and pour batter into each mold, about 3/4 of the way up.
5. Return the muffin tin to the oven, and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until
the puddings have risen and turned golden brown. Resist the temptation to peek. Keep the oven door closed.
6. Let them cool down a little bit, then pop them out of their molds.