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Fear Conquered: Rice Pudding
I'm in a particularly good mood today because it's Friday and I just completed my 2009 taxes. I'm lucky because I don't have a lot of itemized deductions, I don't have all kinds of assets to worry about and I don't have a complicated home business. So I can breeze through with a tax prep program, file stuff for free and complete the whole thing in just a couple of hours. Refunds are on the way and I'm done until next year.
My coworker made an offhand comment that she wanted to find a workable rice pudding recipe. Now, I'm probably the last person anyone should ask when it comes to anything involving rice because I hate the little white pellets with a passion. They're tasteless, the texture is off-putting and it's a pain in the butt to cook - either it's too wet or it's too dry or it just burns and sticks like you cooked it with glue.
I always thought I hated rice pudding because my dad used to make a truly awful version with brown rice, no sugar and waterlogged raisins (you know, where the raisins have cooked so long that they're bloated and distended and completely flavorless). So when I heard my coworker was looking for a workable recipe, I wasn't sure I should even bother trying.
I did bother and now I'm glad I gave it go. Below is my version of rice pudding, although I like to think of it as risotto pudding because the process for making it is very similar to risotto (and just as time-intensive). I took some inspiration from Brian Boitano (almond milk) and Ina Garten (rum raisins), but if you're not a fan of my flavors, throw in your own. One thing I should highlight up front: YOU MUST USE ARBORIO RICE! Arborio rice has a high starch content which makes it ideal for thickening risotto and puddings - white rice will never thicken like arborio rice.
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|Combine the raisins, rum and amaretto in a medium bowl and set aside to soak.|
|In a medium sauce pot, melt 8 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.|
|Split 1 vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife.|
|Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod to the butter; continue to cook over medium heat until the butter and vanilla is a rich amber color.|
|While the butter and vanilla browns, combine 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk and 2 cups skim milk.|
|Whisk the sugar, spices, vanilla extract and salt into the milks.|
|When the butter and vanilla are finished browning, strain the butter to remove the vanilla bean pods.|
|Return the brown butter and vanilla seeds to the sauce pan and reduce the heat to medium low.|
|Stir 1 cup of dry arborio rice into the butter and allow the rice to cook for 3 minutes.|
|Add the milk mixture to the arborio rice, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the rice to absorb the milk and thicken before adding more milk, stirring frequently.|
|After the rice has absorbed all the milk and thickened, stir in the heavy cream and raisins and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.|
|Serve immediately. Or allow the pudding to cool to room temperature, then chill and serve cold.|
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Toasted Vanilla Rice Pudding
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 2 Tablespoons spiced rum
- 1 teaspoon Amaretto liqueur
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup dry arborio rice
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- In a medium bowl, stir together the raisins, rum and Amaretto; set aside to soak
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat; slice the vanilla bean length wise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife
- Add the bean pod and seeds to the melted butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the butter darkens to a rich amber brown color
- Remove the butter from the heat and strain out the vanilla bean pod; return the pan to the heat, add the butter back to the pan and stir in the rice; cook over low heat for 3 minutes
- In a separate bowl or measure, whisk together the milk, almond milk, sugar, vanilla, spices and salt
- Slow add the milk mixture to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time; allow the rice to absorb each addition of milk and thicken before adding another 1/2 cup
- After the rice has absorbed the last of the milk mixture, stir in the heavy cream and allow the rice to absorb the liquid; mix in soaked raisins and serve immediately or chill and serve cold
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Hungry for Tips?
- Arborio rice releases starch and softens slowly, so adding liquid gradually will allow you to cook the rice to your preferred texture and to thicken or thin the pudding as desired.
- The heavy cream adds extra richness but is unnecessary - you could just add more skim or almond milk instead for fewer calories.
- You must use a real vanilla bean - there is simply no way to replicate the rich nutty flavor of the browned butter/vanilla combo.
- My other half doesn’t like rum-soaked anything, so if I were to make this again, I might make him a separate dish with un-soaked raisins.
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