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Toad in a hole, or toad in the hole, combines two British favorites to produce what many consider to be a tasty, though certainly not fat free, dish. Essentially, it is sausage covered and baked in Yorkshire pudding. It’s a favorite pub food, and also a classic dinner dish.
This dish is sometimes confused with eggs in a basket, where an egg is broken into a slice of bread with a hole in it and fried. This is not the traditional definition for the term, although the two may be occasionally be mixed up by those unfamiliar with British foods.
Traditional toad in a hole will use bangers, which are large pork sausages. The Yorkshire pudding recipe is not what Americans would call an actual pudding, but a dish made from flour, milk, and eggs. This batter then covers the sausages, and the result is a heavily browned, raised crust that encompasses the meat.
Yorkshire pudding, with or without sausages, depends upon fats to rise quickly. Most chefs use either bacon grease or butter at the bottom of the pan to achieve the dramatic rise of the pudding. Most chefs recommend avoiding margarine or vegetable oils, as these often have an unpleasant, burnt taste that distracts from the dish.
When toad in a hole is baked, it must be eaten immediately. The pudding part will quickly deflate and one will lose the drama of presentation. Often, this dish is made on special occasions like Christmas dinners, and in the UK, it is often considered one of the ultimate comfort foods.
In Renaissance fairs across the US, toad in a hole is a frequent offering of food vendors. It is usually baked in individual servings, since it is not the kind of food one can keep and reheat with any degree of success. Making individual “toads” can be a fun serving method at home as well. This way, each person will then get to deflate their own pudding with a knife and fork when they begin eating it.
The dish is frequently served topped with onion gravy, and it is quite easy to prepare. Cooks can get bangers throughout the US, and Yorkshire pudding uses simple ingredients. The only caveat is that chefs should not to cook the dish in a convection oven. The circulating warm air will first result in a very raised pudding, but it will also quickly deflate long before it is thoroughly cooked, resulting in a chewy mess.
Cooks should also be patient as the toad in a hole bakes and not open the oven very often to check if it is rising. This may cause the pudding to prematurely deflate.
I had "toad in a hole" at a bed and breakfast in Vermont one time. The owners were British, and they liked to serve their guests all sorts of comfort foods from their homeland. We had "bangers and mash" one night, and I even tried a traditional Irish breakfast, mostly on a dare from my wife. The blood sausage took a little getting used to, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.
The owners made sure we went home with a good "toad in a hole" recipe, along with some other egg breakfast recipes they grew up eating back home. I think the "chicken in a basket" recipe was included, too.
I have to admit I was one of those Americans who thought "toad in a hole" involved frying an egg inside a hole scooped out of a slice of bread. A British friend of mine kindly pointed out the difference when we visited one of the few restaurants around our city that served traditional English food. He ordered the real "toad in a hole" dish for both of us.
I thought it was delicious. The sausage reminded me of the kind of link sausages my mom used to fry in a skillet. It had a lot of sage and other spices, but it wasn't overly spicy. The Yorkshire pudding was more of a gravy, and it enhanced the savory, salty quality of the dish. I don't think my system could handle eating "toad in a hole" every week, but it was still a hearty and filling meal.