They may not look it, but toads are cozy creatures. Every winter, the amphibians sojourn underground, digging snug earthen burrows in which they can hibernate until spring.
No wonder the toad gives its name to one of the homiest dishes of the British canon: toad in the hole, a cluster of crisp-skinned sausages nestled in a puff of Yorkshire pudding and topped with onion gravy.
Some say the moniker came to be because the sausages resemble toads peeking out from their winter retreats, but I think the name is a better match for the dish’s spirit—digging into those deeply savory sausages and their accompanying custardy, herb-scented pudding is as comforting as a warm burrow on a snowy day.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
Toad in the hole (not to be confused with the American egg-and-toast breakfast that shares its name) has been served in Britain since Victorian times as a fortifying, low-lift dinner.
First, fashion a traditional Yorkshire pudding batter; a thin, pourable mix of milk, flour, eggs, and salt plus thyme and pepper for flavor and then set it aside (many Yorkshire pudding recipes call for hours of rest to relax the gluten in the batter and promote more rise, but I found this made minimal difference in this recipe).
Next, sear some sausages—usually Cumberland, a spiced British type, but bratwurst makes a good across-the-pond substitute—and then pour the batter over the bronzed links, tilting the pan to envelop them.
From there, simply let the oven do its magic: In the heat, the pudding’s surface rapidly sets, and as the moisture in the high-hydration batter turns to steam and expands, the surface stretches, and the Yorkshire inflates like a balloon around the sausages. The steam cools quickly when removed from the oven, and the pudding collapses into vibrantly textured, airy folds: The center is marvelously dense and soft, while the edges are crisper and well browned. Transfer the skillet to the table along with a boat of tawny onion gravy, and dinner is served.
It’s that simple: So why not hop to it tonight?