Rice pudding, occurs in some form or another wherever rice is found. The recipe I list here is not quite the same as the Midwestern dessert that I grew up eating (which contained eggs). This one is much simpler. I was led down this path after listening to a friend of mine speak so warmly, so fondly of the simple, rich, and delicious rice pudding of Normandy, France where she did her Anthropology fieldwork. She spoke with enthusiasm of the fewest ingredients producing a delicious pudding with a dark velvety skin. Being that I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to puddings I of course had to try to reproduce such a glorious thing in my humble kitchen. A few tries, a few recipes, and a few gallons of raw milk later…
This English version is a classic, simple (and ubiquitous) victorian desert. So simple in fact, this type of pudding was used as a sort of ironic joke in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Once so ubiquitous that it received the scorn of many a Victorian and early 20th century writer from Dickens to T.S. Eliot. Of course it would have been quite an expensive treat in the early days of globalization (well before the Victorians), when rice, spices, and sugar all came to Europe and England from silk traders. However, by the Victorian era it was so common as to breed contempt and since has seemed to fall out of fashion. However waning it’s popularity, rice pudding is still an excellent and rich dessert, but like most good things it takes patience. Not a quick dessert by any means (about 3 hrs), but a very easy one. Being that it is so simple a lot relies on the quality of ingredients; a good stick of cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, good whole milk. Yes, whole milk is a must, if you are worried about calories the answer lies in eating less desserts not bland ones. Fresh non-pastuerised whole milk with a high butterfat content can take this dish from good to oh god, amazing.
- 1/4 c. of short grained rice (I prefer Japanese style)
- 3 c. whole milk*
- 1/3 c. sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 T of butter
- 1/4 t of vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick and a couple gratings of fresh nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Wash rice and put in a 6×9 casserole dish (or a 1 1/2 qt. souffle dish) with the cinnamon stick and some grated nutmeg.
- In a saucepan combine the milk, sugar, salt and butter. Bring to near a boil over medium heat add the vanilla extract. Pour the hot liquid over rice and spices and give a good stir.
- Put the casserole dish in the preheated oven. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours. For the first hour stir the pudding every 15 minutes to keep the rice from sticking together. After 2 1/2 hour gently check the pudding with a spoon to see if it is done. If not let it keep cooking for another 10 minutes and check again. Remember it will set up quite a bit as it cools. You want to cook it until it is thick, but still quite fluid.
- Serve warm, hot, cold, plain, or with a dash of cinnamon, or cream, or jam, or some combination if the urge grabs you.
Note: For a creamier pudding you can increase the milk to 4 cups.