This drunken Toad in the Hole isn’t as rich as a milk-based toad but packs a stronger flavour, while beer helps make the batter lighter. The taste depends on the beer used, but it often results in a deeper, slightly sweet and malty flavour.
What is a Toad in the Hole?
Toad in the Hole, the great British classic, follows the British tradition of naming foodstuffs with ridiculous names. It’s a couple of sausages in a giant Yorkshire pudding. Over the years, cooks and chefs have played with the filling within the large pudding such as pigeon or lamb’s liver or whatever cut was cheapest at the time. During the 20th century, Toad in the Hole became synonymous with sausages. Despite the urban myths the dish’s etymology might conjure up, no actual toads have featured in Toad in the Hole.
Beer Batter for Drunken Toad in the Hole
The same essential ingredients are required to make this drunken Toad, but beer replaces the milk. Talking about beer and its forms can get complicated, especially when explaining the differences between lager, ale, pale ales, IPAs, etc. So, I’ll keep it brief.
Beer is an alcoholic drink produced by fermenting starches usually derived from malted barley. However, oats, rice, wheat, and numerous other grains are also used to make beer. The modern beer uses hops, occasionally in combination with other grains. Hops are flowers from the Humulus Lupulus plant that gives beer its distinct, slightly bitter flavour while imparting a light floral, fruity flavour. Humulus lupulus means “wolf of the woods.”
When making a batter with beer, replace the liquid components with beer. Milk, or the fat contained within milk, enriches the batter and can make the finished dish too rich or heavy. Some recipes call for a combination of milk or water which gives the batter a lighter texture, but this sacrifices flavour. On the other hand, beer contains no fat and is full of flavour.
There’s science behind the beer batter often associated with fish and chips. Beer contains carbon dioxide, resulting in little air pockets when the batter is exposed to high temperatures, resulting in an airier batter. But the real secret here is the evaporation of alcohol. Evaporation occurs in cooking all the time. But here, it will help give it a crispier batter as the alcohol in beer evaporates quicker than water. For this drunken Toad in the Hole, the batter will dry faster as it cooks, resulting in less liquid and a light, crispy texture.
Do I need to Rest the Batter?
Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients, leave the batter to rest. This resting period allows the gluten to relax and the starch molecules to swell as they consume liquid. Gluten needs time to rest, or it will result in a denser texture, similar to improperly risen bread loaf. The swollen starches will also thicken the batter, so it may be necessary to let it down by adding a splash of water. This resting period will result in a lighter batter.
Eggs serve two functions in a batter for Toad in the Hole. The most important factor is their ability to help leaven baked goods like cakes. Beaten eggs trap air inside them, which allows them to expand as they’re exposed to hot temperatures, resulting in a light, fluffy texture. Egg whites provide the bulk of air, while the richer egg yolks help bind it all together.
Secondly, eggs provide colour as they contain protein, which begins brown and caramelise. This is down to a process known as the Maillard reaction, which causes foods to start browning, or caramelising, at temperatures of around 140C or higher.
Choosing the Toads
You can substitute pork sausages for beef, chicken, or vegetarian sausages. I’m using pork Cumberland sausages here because they have a higher fat content that keeps them from drying out during the searing stage and later the roasting step. Cumberland sausages traditionally come rolled into a coil-shaped ring. However, you can now find them filled into the typical sausage shapes and spiced with black pepper, among other spices.
Before we put the Toad in the Hole into the oven, we need to address something that irritates me beyond measure when it comes to eating meat: the lack of colour. The browning on the outside is just as important as the quality, whether it’s a sausage or a fine rib-eye steak. Nothing is worse than the white underside of your toads, which will taste as bland as they look.
Before adding the sausages and batter to the baking dish, ensure you preheat both the oven and the oil. To do this, grease the baking dish, place it into the centre of the oven, and allow it to get hot for at least ten minutes. It may be tempting to skip this step, but effectively cooking the batter relies on it. The hot oil allows the carbon dioxide to form and the batter to rise. It also helps prevent the Toad from sticking.
Toad in the Hole with English Ale
- 100 g Plain Flour
- 110 ml Pale Ale
- 2 Eggs
- Salt / Pepper to taste
- 45 ml Vegetable Oil
- 6 Cumberland Sausages
- Place the flour into a bowl and create a well in the centre. Lightly beat the eggs, and slowly mix the flour and eggs until combined.
- Slowly whisk in the beer until the consistency reaches that of double cream.
- Season the batter with salt.
- Set the batter aside and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes, but preferably an hour up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 200oc for a fan oven.
- Heat the oil in a pan and fry the sausages for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn occasionally to ensure an even colouring.
- Place the oven dish and the oil used to cook the sausages to keep the temperature until the batter has rested.
- Once the batter has rested, add the sausages to the ovenproof dish. Then pour in the batter, coating the bottom of the dish evenly.
- Bake the Toad in the hold for 25-35 minutes until the batter has puffed up and has a nice golden exterior.