The jury is out on the origins of Yorkshire puddings. There appears to be absolutely no evidence that they originated in Yorkshire. I can however state, that the evidence from a recent “cook off” between myself (origins, Southern Hemisphere) and Craig Marshall (a keen cook, a Yorkshireman and Managing Director of Siemens Magnet technology), that Yorkshire persons make the best Yorkshire pudding.
There is some evidence of a recipe from the early 1730’s, but Hannah Glasse’s publication, “The art of cookery made plain and easy” from 1747 is believed to have popularised the pudding. She stated that: “it is an exceeding good Pudding, the Gravy of the Meat eats well with it.” Hannah’s origins are Northumbrian! (If you are interested you can download her book free and read a copy of her original recipe). Yorkshire puddings were originally made as one large one and then cut as required.
There is plenty of information out there about how to make the perfect Yorkshire pudding relating to the batter and the fat used.
Some recipes for the batter say use half milk and half water, others say substitute some of the liquid with beer, and some suggest that you leave the batter for an hour or so before using it.
With regards to the fat, there are those who swear by animal fat and others that use olive oil. It seems that all recipes agree that the oil and oven must be as hot as possible before putting the batter into the tin.
I am not going to claim I know the definitive batter recipe, but what I do know is that “resting” the batter has some good science behind it, and thus I would recommend it if you have time. Felicity Cloake, who writes for the Guardian’s article on “How to cook the perfect Yorkshire pudding” is a good read for some more insight.
With regards to the fat used, well here I have been surprised. I always thought that animal fat (lard, dripping, goose fat) would be the best fat. My reasoning was for flavour (which I still think) first and second, for smoke point. Having done some research I realise that this is not the correct science (although I must say it does seem to work). Vegetable fat (olive oil – not extra virgin / and sunflower or rape seed oil) are a better option as they burn at a higher temperature. Whereas I do believe the research, when I roast potatoes they are definitely better when I use goose or duck fat. Another point to do with the research, I looked at 4 sites which published smoke points, the stats were all slightly conflicting!
Don’t let the above put you off having a go, they are delicious with any roast (even nut!), the batter is great poured over sausages, baked and served with onion gravy and or baked beans.