May 17, 2016
The first time I ever made rice pudding, I was in high school, and living with my family in Philadelphia. I don't know what possessed me to make it, as I really didn't cook much beyond heating a frozen pizza or making a sandwich. I must have read about it somewhere, and was seduced by the homey, comfort-food aspects of dipping a spoon into a creamy homemade pudding that didn't come out of a box. There's just something soothing and gentle about a creamy bowl of rice pudding.
My mother was a competent but basic cook who, although she always baked us a cake on our birthdays, didn't make desserts very often. I think she was an early adapter of a low-sugar diet, trying to keep us healthy on a steady diet of meat, potatoes, salad and frozen vegetables. Other than potatoes, she wasn't a big fan of starches like rice or noodles. She would never have made rice pudding.
Motivated to make the pudding on my own, I retrieved my mother's tattered old copy of The Settlement Cookbook*, and looked up rice pudding. The recipe I found for traditional rice pudding, contained a half-cup of white rice, a half-cup of sugar, a half-teaspoon of salt and a quart of whole milk. It all went into a casserole dish to be baked in the oven for two hours at 325˚F. (I know this because I just searched for it on the Internet, not because I have a stellar memory!) I fervently hoped, but didn't quite believe, the white liquidy puddle in the casserole dish would actually turn into pudding. I think I checked it every 15 minutes, which may be why it took a lot longer than two hours — but, much to my delight, it did eventually become creamy and delicious rice pudding. I never made the recipe again.
Many years later, as a vegan, I found a complex recipe for vegan rice pudding that involved agar-agar, two flours, two sweeteners, at least two pots and who knows what else. Although it was scrumptious, I think I only made it once or twice. Having just found the recipe again, buried in my files, I can see why — too much trouble.
I'm sure I've mentioned on these pages in the past that I have become the official dessert maker when our family gets together for dinners. I used to always make cake, but lately I've been looking for ways to change it up a little. I've made crispy rice bars a few times, chocolate cream pie, and just recently was inspired to make rice pudding. I found a recipe made with sticky rice and coconut milk, adapted it, and topped it with blueberry sauce made from frozen blueberries. It was delicious, and I intended to blog about it, but neglected to write the recipe down, and couldn't even remember where I had first seen it. I just now found the original recipe (not my changes which I forget) on my Evernote app, where I had saved it! The pudding, perfectly simple yet luxurious, contains 1/2 cup of sticky rice, one can of coconut milk and 1/4 cup of sugar (I used coconut sugar, which is why the white rice looks kind of beige.). It is just one element of an elegant rhubarb rice pudding tartelette recipe found on Seitan is My Motor. Rather than trying to re-create the pudding as I made it, I'm going to recommend you click over to Constanze's (Mihl's) gorgeous blog and make her original version. The pudding is not extremely sweet, so if you have a big sweet tooth, and you're making just the pudding, you may want to make it sweeter, or make a sweet topping, like I did. Constanze's petite rhubarb tarts are so tempting, though, I think you should find some rhubarb, and make the recipe as described!
Do you enjoy creamy, gentle desserts like rice pudding?
*This is the version of The Settlement Cookbook I remember from my mother's kitchen. It's been revised many times since then, but my mother's book looked just as decrepit as the one in the photo — pages dogeared and loose.