Rice pudding is one of those desserts that doesn’t really come to my mind immediately when contemplating “dessert’. I’m not sure why this is because it is so delicious. It is, however, one of Troy’s favorites so I have been meaning to cook up a batch for him. Whenever we go to the Greek Festival that they hold out in Buffalo during the early spring we always, always buy some rice pudding. They have some of the best. Very creamy, full of raisins and with a touch of cinnamon. Rice pudding just isn’t rice pudding, to me, without a touch of cinnamon. When I asked Troy how much cinnamon he would like in the rice pudding I was putting together he contemplated it for a minute before responding, “light cinnamon”. So that is what is in this recipe and it is just right! Use more or less if you prefer but the level of it in here is enough that you get that little spice sensation while you are eating it but not so much that you even really realize what you are tasting (unless you think about it for a bit lol).
I browsed through a few rice pudding recipes before settling on the one this one, which happens to be from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. AGAIN with this cookbook, I know! I just really like it and the results are always delicious! This recipe breaks down the process into two distinct steps before combining at the end: a sweet risotto and a creme anglaise. These are each made separately, allowed to cool and then combined. Creme anglaise is essentially what I have been making for my ice cream bases so I knew that this would be thick and creamy! And risotto is intrinsically creamy itself so how could this go wrong? She warns in the preface to this recipe that it is not “the easiest rice pudding, just the best”. This is by no means a difficult recipe but it is more involved than some of the others I saw in which you simply make “regular” white rice and then mix it with some egg and milk and then either simmer or bake it. I will tell you that it was worth every minute- it may in fact BE the best I’ve ever had. And don’t let the phrase “risotto” frighten you. She begins the risotto by warming milk and sugar and then stirring in the rice. After it is at a simmer you simply give it a stir every 10 minutes. So you don’t have to constantly stir it and ladle in more warm liquid. I was able to set a timer and actually do a workout while I was cooking the risotto- I just had to pause every 10 minutes to give it a stir. No big deal. I made the creme anglaise first and got that chilling in the fridge then I finished off the risotto. You want to plan to make this at least 8 hours before you plan on serving, mostly due to the chilling time. I made it the night before. There are raisins and cinnamon in this but you can omit or increase either one if you desire. The original recipe doesn’t’ even call for cinnamon but you already heard my rant on that subject.
Creamy Rice Pudding
(from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours)
*Prepare at least 8 hours before serving
Ingredients for the Crème Anglaise:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cups granulated white sugar
- ½ vanilla bean (split lengthwise: half of the seeds and half of the pod)
- 6 large egg yolks, whisked
Ingredients for the Sweet Risotto:
- 8 cups whole milk
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- ½ vanilla bean (the second half of the seeds and pods from the crème anglaise)
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 2/3 cups Arborio Rice (Italian rice for risotto)
- 2/3 cup seedless raisins
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- Whipped cream to serve, optional
- Make the crème anglaise: combine the cream, milk, sugar and half vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Place the whisked egg yolks in a heat-proof medium bowl near the stove along with a mesh wire sieve positioned over a second heatproof bowl
- Heat the cream mixture over medium heat, stirring almost constantly with a silicone spatula until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very hot but not simmering
- Temper the egg yolks with a ladle full of the hot cream mixture, whisking to incorporate. Add another couple of ladles of cream, whisking again
- Add the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream and reduce the mixture to low
- Cook, stirring constantly until the custard is thick enough to hold a line when drawn through it with a finger on your spatula (temperature should be 180 degrees F).
- Strain the custard through the sieve into the second medium bowl
- Discard the vanilla bean and let the custard cool at room temperature for about a half hour before chilling in the refrigerator for at least one hour
- Prepare the sweet risotto: combine the milk and sugar in a large saucepan. Add the second half of the vanilla bean and seeds and the vanilla extract.
- Stir in the rice and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently
- When it comes to a low boil, reduce the heat enough to low but high enough to maintain a constant simmer
- Cook the rice mixture, stirring every 10 minutes until the rice is tender and has absorbed almost all of the milk but is not dry, about 40 minutes. Don’t stir more than every 10 minutes or you will cause too much starch to be released by the rice. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the simmer without scorching
- The final texture should be loose and creamy
- Spread the risotto onto a half-sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the rice. Poke small holes all over the surface of the plastic with a sharp knife
- Let cool at room temperature for about 2 hours
- Transfer the risotto to a large bowl and pour the crème anglaise over it, along with the raisins and cinnamon
- Here’s the fun part: using your hands, combine the mixture, being sure to separate the grains of rice to thoroughly coat with the cream.
- Spoon into individual serving bowls, cover, and allow to chill for at least 2 hours.
- Serve with whipped cream if desired.