This is really several recipes in one, as you first need to make a Yorkshire Pudding batter; cook it without the sausages and it is plain old Yorkshire Pudding, cook with the sausages and you have Toad in the Hole. Make a version with cherries or plums, with a little sugar added to the batter mix, and you have the classic Clafoutis, a batter pudding dessert from the Limousin area of France.
As a bonus, the batter will make pretty good pancakes too, for sweet or savoury dishes; you may need to add a little more milk if you want the batter to flow out across the pan for thin pancakes.
Too many home cooks are scared to try their hand at Yorkshire Puddings and Toad in the Hole etc. As with soufflés, the worry is that they will not rise, or will rise and then immediately collapse. Fear not, it really isn’t that difficult; the only time it has ever really gone wrong for me was when I got distracted and forgot to put the eggs in.
One essential is that your tin or dish is VERY hot before you put in the batter; the batter should hiss and sizzle as it hits the pan. Another is that the batter, once mixed, rests for a while before cooking; this allows the glutens in the flour to develop which will “hold” the rise.
I prefer to use a metal baking tin for this, as I believe it gives a crisper result, especially on the bottom, but a ceramic dish would be fine: just make sure it is very hot before you start.
Regarding the quantities, as ever, I have no idea of the size of your baking tin, or how many sausages per person you like, and indeed, how thick your sausages are. This is no problem, as, throughout these blogs I am trying to get you to develop your cook’s instincts; think about it – if you have a wide, shallow tin, the mixture will spread out and will cook quicker. A smaller, deeper tin will take longer, and will need a somewhat lower heat so that it is cooked through before it catches and burns on top.
It is useful to part cook your sausages before you put them into the batter. They will be very well insulated as the batter rises around them; almost tucked up in their own duvets. It is not so much that they will not be properly cooked by the time the batter is done, more that they may look a little pallid if you don’t brown them first. Don’t overdo this initial browning, or the ones that rise to the top will end up dry and leathery.
You may see other recipes that give a much higher cooking temperature. This is okay if you are making small individual, muffin tin sized Yorkshire Puddings that will be ready in ten minutes, but when cooking this big dish there is a danger that the outsides will be burning by the time the insides are cooked. The temperature I have suggested will give you the result I prefer, which is golden and crispy on the outsides, with a slightly spongy and chewy interior. If you like a batter that is crisp and dry throughout, as some do, then reduce the temperature, and cook more slowly for longer – start with the higher temperature to get the initial sizzle, then immediately turn the oven down.
Finally, before we start, what sausages you use is up to you. Big, fat pork butcher’s sausages are traditional here, but you can use what you like. Although it is certainly not British, I see absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t try a version with something hot and spicy, such as chorizo or merguez, or a mixture of spicy and plain. The only sausages that I would avoid, really, are frankfurter types; somehow, they just wouldn’t cut it. Some old versions of Toad in the Hole use chops instead of sausages; pork or lamb. By all means, try this, although I would suggest that you remove the bones and most of the fat first.
For plainYorkshire Puddings, use the following method, obviously omitting the sausages. You can make one huge pud in a baking tin as below, or make individual ones in muffin tins – the latter will obviously cook much faster.
Toad in the Hole: serves 4
Eight good, thick butcher’s sausages.
A little oil for their initial browning
For the batter:
8oz/225gram plain/all purpose flour
Baking powder to the quantity suggested on the packet – about a teaspoon for the above quantity of flour. Or use self-raising flour if available.
3 eggs, beaten
Half pint/290ml full fat milk – you may need a little more or less; see method.
A good pinch of salt
A good pinch of ground white pepper – you may omit this if you are adapting the batter for a sweet dish such as the Clafoutis.
A little more oil for the baking dish: enough to make a thin layer about the width of a matchstick across the bottom of the tin. Don’t use olive oil, as it may burn.
You will also need a baking tin or dish, a large frying pan, and some tongs or other gadget to handle the sausages.
Preheat oven to gas mark 5/190C/375F
Use a food processor/mixer for this, or do it by hand if you’re old-school and have strong wrists.
Sift the flour, with the baking powder, salt and pepper into the bowl. Mix in the beaten eggs. Start adding the milk, until you have a batter that flows, but will coat a finger when dipped in it. The flour does tend to sink and gather at the bottom of the bowl, so make sure you have mixed it really well. Cover the batter, and leave to stand for at least half an hour, or overnight if you like, refrigerated if necessary.
Heat a little oil in the frying pan, and quickly brown the sausages; do it in batches if you don’t have a large enough pan. It’s up to you if you like the sausages browned all over, or just with a few stripes.
At least fifteen minutes before you are ready to start cooking, put the baking tin/dish with the thin layer of oil into the oven to thoroughly heat.
Give the batter a final good whisking – it should look “bubbly”. Put the sausages into the hot baking tin, and immediately pour in the batter and return to the oven.
DON’T open the oven door for at least 30 minutes (unless you’ve got the temperatures drastically wrong and you smell burning!). Take a peek after half an hour, and see how it’s going. By now, it should be well risen, and the top beginning to colour. Adjust the temperature up or down if necessary, and give it perhaps another ten or fifteen minutes, until it is set and the top a wonderful golden brown.
Serve with, perhaps, mashed potatoes, your choice of vegetables and onion gravy (to make onion gravy, gently sauté a finely sliced onion in a little oil and butter until they have begun to melt and take on a little colour. Add to the home made gravy that you made earlier. Failing that, some butchers and supermarkets sell ready-made gravies, or fresh stock from which you can make it, some of which aren’t too bad. Or, if you must, use granules – sigh).
Options: some people like to chop the sausages before adding to the batter, giving you nice bite-sized chunks – Tadpole in the Hole, perhaps.