I have a problem with Yorkshire pudding that I hope you can help.
My recipe is:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cold homogenized milk and
I put 1/8th of an inch of extra virgin olive oil in the muffin pans, heat the oil up just to the smoking temp then add the chilled batter and bake it for 25-30 minutes. I bake it at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower the temp to 325 degrees for the remaining time. The problem is that they come out like hockey pucks -- 1 inch high, hard on the outside and sometimes pudding-like in the center. They should rise up 3 to 5 inches. What am I doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated.--Dave
Ah, Yorkshire pudding. The nemesis of many a good cook.
The American equivalent of Yorkshire pudding is the popover which is typically cooked in individual servings using a specially designed popover pan or a muffin tin. Yorkshire pudding may be cooked as individual servings or as one large piece that is cut up to serve.
There are a few things that I can suggest you could try to solve your problem, but first a little kitchen science. Steam from the eggs and other liquid, plus air bubbles trapped in the batter, provide the leavening that causes Yorkshire puddings, or popovers, to rise. They rely on protein in the egg and glutens in the flour to form a membranous structure which traps the steam and causes them to inflate. Finally, they depend on the starch in the flour to gelatinize and form the final shape. Milk sugars and fat both help with browning and flavor.
The timing of events is critical because the batter needs to still be soft while the steam is forming, but then needs to set fairly quickly while it is inflated. That is why they are cooked at high temperature. Reducing the temperature as they cook allows moisture to escape while the starches gelatinize and the outside browns without burning.
So here are some suggestions to improve your success with Yorkshire pudding.
First, I notice the proportions in your recipe say 4 eggs to one cup of flour. Assuming you are using large eggs, this is somewhat high. Most recipes use 2 eggs per cup of flour. Too much egg will interfere with the formation of glutens, so you may want to try reducing the number of eggs to two, and increasing the milk to one full cup in order to keep the batter loose. It should be a bit thicker than heavy cream.
For altitudes above 3,500 feet (about 1,000 meters) it may be necessary to increase the proportion to 3 eggs per cup of flour (see High Altitude Cooking). In that case, you will also want to reduce any fat in the batter by about 1 teaspoon per cup of flour. In your case, the recipe doesn't use any fat in the batter itself. Many recipes use around 2 tablespoons of melted butter for each cup of flour.
Second, depending on where you are located, all purpose flour may have more or less protein in it. It is the protein which forms the glutens needed to trap the steam. Your flour should have about 11% - 12% protein by weight to make adequate glutens (see Flour Power?). You could try using bread flour or a combination of bread and all purpose flour. Also, you could try adding about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per cup of flour. Not only will this enhance flavor, it will help to strengthen the gluten.
Next, blend the ingredients together until they are completely smooth and air bubbles start to rise to the top. This is contrary to some popover recipes, but you need to form the glutens, which happens through mechanical action. The air bubbles trapped in the batter will help to inflate the Yorkshire pudding.
Most recipes recommend using room temperature ingredients. In fact, one recipe I found even suggested warming the ingredients slightly. The benefit to this is that steam is created earlier, before the outer surface starts to dry out. Try working with room temperature ingredients. If your recipe says to let the batter rest for an hour in the fridge, let it warm back up to room temperature before cooking. In that case, also give it a final mixing before cooking to trap more air, since some will have escaped during resting.
The various sources I checked all seem to agree that there is no real need to pre-heat the pan. Simply grease the inside to stop the pudding from sticking, whether you are making one large pan or individual servings. Pour in the batter and cook, as you describe. Some recipes say to turn the heat down immediately once the pudding is in the oven, while others let it run hot for 10 to 15 minutes and then reduce the heat, as you do. Some start with the oven a bit higher, at 450°F (230°C). Cooking times vary between about 30 and 50 minutes.
One final hint is to not use convection when cooking Yorkshire pudding or popovers as the forced air may cause them to end up misshapen.
Try these suggestions and see if they help. It may still take a bit of practice to get the result you are looking for.