Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rice Pudding

Making rice pudding has been on my to-do list for a while. This recipe comes from the Gourmet Cookbook. This recipe utilizes a vanilla bean, one of my baking obsessions, but even if you substitute a tablespoon of vanilla extract, this is still a basic recipe made with simple ingredients.
Rice pudding has a long and complex history as rice pudding-type desserts show up in virtually every type of cuisine. In fact in every bowl of rice pudding there is a tale of conquest and globalization, made easier to swallow with some sweet starchy goodness. Indeed, I researched this. It seems rice pudding was brought to the British through colonialism, specifically from the British colonies in India.The rice pudding we know and love today was inspired by Indian Kheer.
This recipe is a simple vanilla version. Plain long grain white rice gets cooked with water, butter and a touch of lemon zest, as you would any rice dish. Once cooked, the milk gets simmered with a vanila bean to bring out its subtle sweet fragrance. The cooked rice then gets stirred into the milk and simmered for 15 minutes longer so that the startches thicken the milk into a creamy pudding, and the rice and raisins soften into a luscious toothsome dessert. The finished pudding gets dusted with cinnamon, and the heat of the rice wafts the scent of vanilla and cinnamon into the kitchen.

I ran out of milk and I used half milk and half water to no ill effect, so this recipe can be as sinful or as virtuous as you wish. I used a mix of golden and dark raisins, because I like the look of the two different colours interspersed with the pale vanilla flecked pudding. The flavours were subdued but the effect was pure comfort food. It is no wonder this is such a popular dish worldwide.

Rice Pudding

Combines the flavours of vanilla bean, lemon and cinnamon. Served warm or cold.

Serves 6-8 active time 40 min, about 1 hour start to finish


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 4 cups milk (I used 2 cups 1% milk and two cups water and the pudding worked fine)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup raisins, I used a mix of regular and golden raisins
  • ground cinnamon for sprinkling

    1. Combine water, butter, salt and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in rice and return to a boil, then cover and simmer over very low heat until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
    2. Combine milk, sugar and vanilla bean in a 3-quart saucepan and bring just to a simmer over low heat. Add rice mixture and raisins and simmer, uncovered stirring frequently, until most of milk is absorbed and rice is creamy, about 20 minutes.
    3. Transfer pudding to a bowl: discard vanilla bean. Dust with cinnamon and cool until just warm before serving.

Adapted from: The Gourmet Cookbook ed. Ruth Reichl

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