The 5-volume Modernist Cuisine arrived at our place like a barbell dropping to the gym floor. The pictures are cool, and the glossary of pantry ingredients reads like an AP chemistry textbook, but for my money there’s no better example of molecular gastronomy than the Yorkshire Pudding (or popover).
Flour, milk, and eggs: whisked up, surrounded with heat, and 15 minutes later they’ve puffed up like an inflated paper bag. People always cite the Maillard reaction by which food browns in a hot pan. This has always seemed an overrated, overtaught, and frankly unimpressive discovery: if I accidentally grasp a searing hot pan, it only makes sense I’ll end up with a nicely charred extremity, no explanation needed, thank you very much Mr. Maillard.
Most so-called molecular gastronomy bores me. Just as I’m not surprised that inhaling black cigarette smoke might just possibly affect the lungs, it’s not improbable that shaking some weird powder into your soup could have a gastronomical impact. Just to name two examples of which I’m aware: bubble bath powder turns water into soapy bubbles, and baby powder soothes a baby’s butt.
But Yorkshire Pudding is another matter entirely: without any leavening assistance, the mixture balloons into a soft, slightly eggy pastry. Traditionally, they’re served with a roast as a means of sopping up gravy, a delicious application, but one which doesn’t take full advantage of the miraculous transformation: a toasty, warm hollow center.
The Yorkshire Pudding has a whale’s blowhole begging for a spoonful of, well, anything. In this case, we decided on a caramelized (yes!) orange syrup. The cool thing about this recipe is it turns your YP into a reversible jacket: spoon in syrup it’s dessert; spoon in syrup and lay a fried egg over the whole thing and it’s breakfast. Save some for the evening roast and it’s dinner.
Yorkshire Pudding w/ Orange Syrup
For the Pudding
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups milk
Fried Eggs (optional, though basted in brown butter would be nice)
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Whisk in the eggs and half the milk until smooth then stir in the remaining milk.
- Add a teaspoon of the oil to each hole of a muffin tray. (This makes about 8 puddings.) Heat tray in the oven until very hot, almost smoking.
- Ladle or pour (we used a measuring cup) the batter into each tin, ¾ of the way up and bake for about 15 minutes, or until browned and puffy.
- Serve with the syrup and candied orange slices. Fried eggs go nicely.
For the Orange Syrup
½ cup sugar
1 large navel orange, sliced paper-thin
1. Heat the sugar with 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan over high heat until amber. Watch carefully so it doesn’t brown. Immediately add the orange slices and turn gently in the syrup. Reduce heat to low and let the orange slices become candied, 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from heat.