The final busy moments before this year’s Christmas dinner for 11.
Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

No one is happier than I finally to have some routine again, tree taken down, kids in school, and a plunge back into work with all kinds of exciting projects on the horizon.

But I can’t stop thinking about these Yorkshire puddings. I’m always surprised by popovers, how simple they are, and how dramatic they can be. The first time I made Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner, it was at Dad’s house and I simply poured the batter into the baking dish the roast beast had cooked in. I marveled at its lava-lamp convolutions as it cooked.

I love the simplicity of the basic popover, which is all this is (here with some savory mustard). This post and photo long ago inspired readers as far away as India to make breakfast popovers: flour, egg and milk, poured into whatever vessel they had on hand, a ramekin, a coffee mug. There’s magic in simplicity. Just look at the original photo.

I was completely unprepared, though, to have created this year what turned out to be the Ethel Mermans of the popover world this past Christmas and had to share the photo that Donna, in the midst of pouring wine and readying serving platters, insisted on taking, as we were all rather astonished by these show-stopping Yorkies, as my recipe maven Marlene Newell calls them (she introduced these in a guest post, and I include this recipe in Ruhlman’s Twenty).

What accounted for their uncommon height? Arrogance perhaps? A because-I-just-couldn’t-help-myself flamboyance worthy of Cam on Modern Family? I have no idea. But here’s what I did. The batter was made many hours in advance so that the flour was well hydrated. The pan was hot. I’d rendered the beef suet the day before and this too was very hot. I didn’t skimp when I poured the fat into the pan, a good tablespoon per. I filled the cups three-quarters up.

I did take one further step. Upon realizing that I had popover prodigies in my hands, I performed a final step I don’t normally do but felt obliged to do here, lest these babies fall on me. I can’t remember where I read it, but I knew it was worth the trouble here. Trapped steam (what makes them puff) can soften the interior to the extent that they collapse. I felt morally obligated to prevent this. So I pierced each down through the center with a paring knife immediately after Donna shot the above photo, then returned them to the oven for a few more minutes. The piercing releases the steam and the final minutes in the heat sets the interior structure.

Et voila!

So back to work with best wishes to readers and cooks for a year filled with culinary magic.

Marlene’s Yorkshire Pudding
(adapted for the Ruhlman household)

  • 2 cups/280 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 9 or 10 large eggs
  • 2 cups/450 milliliters whole milk
  • four-finger pinch of salt
  • 4 to 6 ounces/120 to 180 milliliters vegetable oil or beef fat drippings

Equipment

  1. Sift the flour and mustard powder together into a large bowl. Add the eggs and milk and blend on high speed with a hand mixer until fully incorporated. Let the batter rest for 2 hours at room temperature, reblending now and then.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F/220°C.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon fat in each cup of a popover pan or 1/2 teaspoon fat in the well of each muffin cup. Place the pan on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven to heat the oil while the oven is heating. When the oven has reached temperature, reblend the batter, remove the pan, and pour the batter into the cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups three-fourths full. Place the pan in the oven and turn on the light so you can watch them rise. Bake until the puddings are puffed and golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes depending on your oven. To prevent their falling when they cool, pierce each with a pairing knife and return the pan to the oven for a few more minutes. Serve immediately.
Yield: 11 (or 12) popovers or 12 small muffins; you can also bake it in 9-x-13-inch baking dish or in the beef’s roasting pan.
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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.