The final book in my book club’s journey through the Bronte sister’s novels was Shirley – and what a high that was to finish on. If you’re interested, I’ve wrapped the books up here.
The end of a book club novel, however, means an online baking session inspired by that novel. In this one, Charlotte Bronte had a lot to say about a lot of things, but one of the major themes was that of industrial change and the social impact resulting from that. Central to this was Yorkshire – and the county plays a starring role in this novel. But, what to bake?
Why, Yorkshire Puddings, of course!
The “Yorkies” that Charlotte Bronte wrote about would have looked very different from the ones that we enjoy today – and very different indeed from the ones we’ll be baking for book club.
For a start, it probably would have been a Yorkshire pudding as opposed to multiple puddings. Also… actually, hold that thought while I take you back through time.
While “dripping puddings” had probably been around for centuries, as wheat became more widely used, canny cooks in northern England made use of the fat that dripped into a dripping pan as meat roasted over it to cook a batter pudding. The pudding would have been much flatter than the puffy puddings we have today. Rather than being individual serves, it would be served in a single dish, carved, and laced with gravy (my tummy is growling as I type). Not only was it a very tasty first course, but it was a thrifty one too; taking the edge off your guest’s appetites before the (more expensive) meat arrived on the table. The perfect combination of Yorkshire thrift and hospitality and arguably, the best way to eat it.
A Yorkshire pudding is eaten by itsen and not mixed up wi’ meat and potaters, all in a mush.Jesiah Oakroyd, in JB Priestley’s The Good Companions
As Jesiah explains:
If you’ve mixed right and your oven’s hot, pudding’ll come out as light as a feather, crisp and brarn, just a top and a bottom, you might say, wi’ none o’ this custardy stuff in t’middle.
An early recipe from a book appallingly titled The Whole Duty of a Woman (which was, of course, written by a man…Charlotte would have cringed) went something like this:
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.Sir Alexander William George Cassey
But how did Dripping Pudding become Yorkshire Pudding? For that, we can thank Hannah Glasse who, in her 1747 book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, (now, there’s a title that trips off the tongue) recorded this recipe which has now been immortalised on the side of a building in Malton (see the main pic).
Take a quart of milk, four eggs, and a little salt, make it up into a thick batter with flour like a pancake batter. You must have a good piece of meat at the fire, take a stew-pan and put some dripping in, set it on the fire; when it boils, pour in your pudding; let it bake on the fire till you think it is nigh enough. . . .Set your stew-pan [on a downturned pan] 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.Hannah Glasse
As for how they became known as Yorkshire Puddings? One theory is that it’s due to the county’s association with coal and coal mining…and cooking with coal, which gave a hotter temperature and a crispier result. Whatever the reason, I’m not arguing about it.
These days the pudding is mostly served in individual sizes and with the rest of the roast dinner. It’s also evolved into a carrier for other foods such as sausages, as in the case of toad in the hole. In Philly Barker Investigates, a large Yorkshire Pudding is filled with Lancashire Hotpot and called a War of the Roses. The white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster… get it? Anyways, I “borrowed” that from The Royal Oak in Malton.
Containing just milk, eggs, flour and a pinch of salt, the key to a nicely risen Yorkshire pudding is the heat – the fat must be smoking hot in the base of the tin before the batter is added. If the oil doesn’t sizzle when the batter goes in, pop the tin back in the oven for a few more minutes. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
If I have the time I use James Martin’s recipe – he is, after all, a Yorkshireman. It, however, needs a lot of resting time, so for book club, we’ll be using Nigella’s – which I’ve found works perfectly well. It still requires some time to relax in the fridge, but not nearly as much.
Okay, to the recipe. This makes 6 individual Yorkshire puddings. Feel free to double it.
What you need…
- 150ml milk, full cream or lactose-free substitute
- 2 eggs
- 125g plain (all-purpose) flour)
- Pinch of salt
- Vegetable oil
You’ll also need:
- A bowl or jug to mix in (I use a large jug as it makes it easier to pour, and I don’t have 2 things to wash up.
- A muffin tin with at least 6 holes.
What you do with it…
In a jug, whisk together the milk, eggs and salt and pop the jug into the fridge for at least 15 minutes. You don’t need an electric mixer for this, just do it by hand.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220C and fill the holes of a muffin tin with a little oil – ½ a teaspoon or so will do it. Once the oven has come to heat pop the tray in for a good 10 minutes.
Remove the eggy milk from the fridge and whisk in the flour, making sure you’re beating out any lumps. Set it to one side while the tin finishes heating up.
Once the tin is super-hot, carefully pour the batter into the muffin holes. You’ll need to work quickly (but carefully) so the heat doesn’t escape. The batter should sizzle when it hits the oil. Immediately slide it back into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Keep an eye on it for the last 15 minutes but don’t under any circumstances open the oven door before you’re ready (which is when they’re beautifully bronzed) to take them out or they’ll sink. You have been warned.
Serve immediately – preferably filled with gravy.
Apple Crumble Yorkshire Puddings
For book club, I’m giving it a twist and turning it into a pudding pudding. After all, what are pancakes if they’re not flour eggs and milk?
In How To Eat, Nigella suggests pouring in golden syrup and cream, but you could also fill with ice cream and fruit and drizzle with golden syrup. I’ve chosen to serve ours with apples and crumble topping…and, of course, custard.
If you want to try this – and it’s surprisingly good – have the fruit filling and crumble ready to go for when the Yorkies come out of the oven.
For the fruit filling
- 2 apples, peeled and diced. I use pink lady apples.
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- A shake of ground ginger
Add all the ingredients for the fruit filling into a small pan with 1 tablespoon of water and heat gently for 10-15 minutes or until the fruit is soft.
For the crumble topping
- 30g plain (all purpose) flour
- 15g butter (at room temperature), diced
- 15g caster sugar
Put the sugar and flour into a large bowl and stir to combine. Rub in the butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.
Tip the mix onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and cook at 220C for about 10 minutes or until golden and bubbly – making sure to check it and turn it over with a spatula every few minutes so it doesn’t catch and burn.
Pop the fruit into the warm Yorkshire Pudding, scatter over the crumble, liberally pour over the custard and serve immediately.