Despite the lofty claims of the time-traveling Doctor Who that he invented the savory Yorkshire Pudding, the actual inventor of this common Sunday Roast item is unknown. There’s a recipe for Yorkshire pudding that dates back to the early 18th century, but as for the first person to create this savory item, we’ll probably never know. Made from flour, eggs, milk or water, and pan drippings, it has been said that a Yorkshire pudding must be at least four inches tall to qualify as being “real.”
Could it be possible that this popular British menu item has been improved by the colonies? Or was it invented in America is the first place?
Get Ready For the Popover!
There’s a rumor floating around the internet that Americans actually invented the Yorkshire pudding. A guy in Yorkshire, PA, needed something to feed his horses. That recipe got sent across the pond and the rest, as they say, would be history! The truth is that what Americans tend to make is what is called a “popover” rather than a pudding. They are crispy on the outside, soft and delicate on the inside, and the best part is that anyone can make them as long as there is a muffin pan in the house.
There’s only one key difference between the American popover and the “Yorkies” that are traditional: instead of beef drippings being used as fat in the pastry, the popover uses butter. Because of this, the flavor of the popover is less savory and more like a dinner roll than a savory pud as you might be used to having. Traditionally, Yorkies were made much like a funnel cake and could be sweetened and eaten with jelly or other dessert items. The American version is even more suited to the dessert option!
Just remember: what Americans call a muffin tin would be called a “cupcake pan” elsewhere…
Can You Really Change a Traditional Recipe Successfully?
In many ways, the making of the Yorkies/Popovers is about the same as making a pancake. Instead of creating a flat skillet cake, you’re making one that rises, has fluffiness, and is super crispy on the outside so that you can dip it into gravy without it turning into mush. Because of that, the foundation of the batter, the flour, is often difficult to change. Gluten-free all-purpose flours will often do the trick for those who need to make substitutions, but these flours often have a different texture and creates a different dining experience.
Then there’s the various spices that can be added to the pastry: mustard powders are very commonly added in the US to popovers. You may also find Italian seasoning, paprika, cumin, and even garlic powder added to create specific complimentary flavors for a specific dish. Many of these work well, but it is like eating coconut milk ice cream: your tongue says it has a perfect taste, but your mind knows that there is something that is non-traditional entering your digestive system!
For those who can’t eat dairy products and may be vegetarians, olive oil also makes for a wonderful fat substitute. 1 teaspoon of butter equates to 3/4 teaspoon of olive oil and will create a pastry that has a similar texture, but a slightly fragrant inside that has a light olive flavor that goes wonderfully with any meal. The problem with this is that on many American store shelves, the popular olive oil that is stocked is Extra Virgin Olive Oil… and it’s not really olive oil, so the pastry will fail to rise properly.
Fake Olive Oil? Really?
It’s a labeling thing. In American markets, olive oil is a lot like scotch: you can say that you’ve got 20 year old blended scotch, but put a very small portion of the 20 year old product with cheap 3 year old scotch to have your label say 20 years and sell it for an exorbitant price. For olive oil, a small amount of extra virgin olive oil mixed with another kind of oil, like canola, can be labeled as being olive oil when a majority of the oil isn’t really made from olives.
Unfortunately there isn’t a fail-proof test to guarantee that you’re actually getting the real thing unless you source your olive oil products. If you are looking to cut out the butter from your Yorkies, sourcing local artisan olive oils is your best bet to making this beautiful dish.
Just remember: stay away from flour that is self-rising. Use all-purpose flour and you’ll be fine every time if you’re making your own! Do you have a favorite Yorkie/Popover recipe that you make?