Until yesterday at 2 pm, Sydney was suffering a 42°C heatwave that was not only debilitating but highly irritating. (For those of you that see 40 and think, is that high? It’s 108° F. Yeah.) Irritating because it was so hot that boiling water for tea was absolutely out of the question. Irritating because I got so overheated making this rice pudding – which, I knew in advance, requires an hour on the stove – that I couldn’t enjoy it fully. In fact, I couldn’t even write about it, which is why I’ve been noticeably absent the last few days. It wasn’t because we were too busy body surfing at Bronte Beach, no no! We were too busy not melting into the pavement, convincing the dog that he really didn’t want to go out there, and sitting in front of the fan in various stages of undress.
Which is all a great big shame because this is a rice pudding worthy of notice. In fact, I’m not a huge rice pudding fan but this one sold me from the moment I tasted it at Christmas lunch. This recipe – a modified take on the Venetian rice pudding recipe form Rice: From Risotto to Rice Pudding – is a family tradition at Cressida’s, and involves hiding a single almond somewhere in the pudding. Whoever finds the almond in their dessert wins a marzipan pig, and this year? It just happened to be me. (The pig – way too cute to eat – is still sitting in my fridge, keeping the butter company.) A sign, perhaps, that I needed to try my hand at rice pudding. So, when I saw that Nicolette has purchased a big container of rice pudding to nibble on – and then we finished it in one day – I thought, we can do better than that, pulled up Cressida’s wonderful blog post on rice crème and got to work.
It was my first time making rice pudding and, despite my fears, it was remarkably easy. I didn’t even bother stirring constantly, as per the instructions, but that was mostly because I would have probably passed out if I’d tried to stay above a hot flame for close to an hour. I stirred vigorously every 5 minutes or so – in between readings about judicial reasoning – and it came out perfectly. But if you’re currently living in the tundra known as North America you might as well stand there and stir. After all, who am I to belittle the all-encompassing warmth that comes from stirring rice pudding? I imagine it would be quite pleasant if it were, say, below zero and white outside. But then again, you won’t know until you try.
This delicious dessert comes to us via Cressida over at the mouth-watering The Standard of Taste, where you’ll find, among other things, a recipe for the nutmeat in brioche that still haunts me in my dreams. Must….get…a…food…processor….In any case, check it out. These proportions make enough for about 5 or 6 desserts. And while it’s delicious served cold plain (or with maple syrup), I’m sure it would be just as lovely warmed and served with stewed fruit.
5 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
100 grams (a bit less than 1/2 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)
1 cup arborio or vialone nano or carnaroli rice (any rice for risotto will do)
Put the milk and cream in a large pot and add the cinnamon sticks. Bring the liquids to a boil, stirring often so it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom.
Add the sugar, nutmeg, vanilla and zest. Return to high heat and add the rice. Once the mixture is bubbling again, stir every once in a while for 35 – 45 minutes, scraping up the bottom to make sure nothing is sticking, until the rice is soft when you taste it. Remove from heat and transfer to a large serving bowl (adding the almond if it’s Christmas). Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or orange zest if you want. The pudding will be creamy and drippy but will thicken drastically as it cools. Once relatively cooled, move to the fridge until cooled completely. Serve and enjoy!