When I need comfort food, I think back to my childhood. Chicken soup played a big part in curing colds and the flu. But at age 8, when I needed my mommy to help me get over my best bud’s defection to another, she made me rice pudding. Since then, rice pudding has been synonymous with fixing any bad day.
It is believed that the concept of rice pudding originated in the Middle East and contained other grains, as well as saffron, anise, ginger and dried fruits. The addition of cinnamon, raisin and poppy seeds to the mix is a more European — think British — contribution. If you hail from Latin America, you’ll probably speak of the addition of coconut, coconut milk, ginger, vanilla and cloves.
The key ingredient to rice pudding is obviously, rice. You can use any kind of rice, but short grain seems to work best.
The texture of rice is determined by a mixture of amylose and amylopectin. Long-grain rice has more amylose, which is stiff when cool. Short-grain rice has more amylopectin, which stays soft when cool.
Since rice pudding should be soft and creamy, short grain is best.
You can make rice pudding on a stove top or bake it; both ways produce a fabulous dessert.
Note: For those with lactose intolerance or who want the pudding pareve, use rice milk.
Maple Rice Pudding
1 cup and 3 Tbsps. uncooked rice
2 and 1⁄3 cups and 1 Tbsp. water
3 and 1⁄4 cups whole milk
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff)
1 and 1⁄2 tsps. maple extract
2 Tbsps. brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. nutmeg
3⁄4-1 tsp. cinnamon
dash of ground cloves
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine (optional)
In a saucepan, combine the rice and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.
Add 13⁄4 cups of the milk, sugar, maple syrup and maple extract, bring to a boil, and let simmer over medium heat until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and butter. Mix to combine. Cook, stirring over low heat, for another 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, or serving bowls, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 8. This can be refrigerated and served cold.
Arborio Rice Pudding
1⁄2 cup Arborio rice
4 cups milk (don’t use skim)
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split (or 1 tsp. extract)
3⁄4 tsp. almond extract
In a large saucepan, place all the ingredients, except the almond extract. Bring it to a gentle boil and then turn it down to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice to check for doneness. The rice should be very soft and plump.
Take the pudding off the heat and stir in the extract. Pour the mixture into dessert bowls. You can serve it immediately or let it chill in the fridge.