Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Variations on Rice Pudding

4/23/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Today, we’re talking rice. Not savory rice for dinner but sweet rice for dessert — specifically, rice pudding.

For many of us rice is largely a side dish at dinner. We have available an infinite variety of rice for our consumption: aromatic Basmati, red and Jasmine rice; short, medium and long grain white rice; short and long grain brown rice; and even a variety of instant rices.

At our house, we don’t get too exotic with the varieties because my husband does not share my enthusiasm for it. However, if we’re having rice with American, Chinese or Mexican dishes, I always cook extra for the next day’s breakfast or dessert. He loves rice pudding.

There are three ways to make rice pudding: baked, boiled or the lazy way. The last one would be my way. I take a bowlful of cold rice; add a tablespoon of butter, a little sugar and some milk. I then warm it up in the microwave. Finally, I sprinkle it with cinnamon, mix and eat. Delish!

Cooking rice pudding in the oven produces a distinctly different product than cooking on the stovetop. The result of mixing eggs, milk and rice with spices produces a layered custard. No matter how well you mix the ingredients, the rice is on the bottom, the raisins next and the smooth custard on top.

Simmering the ingredients on the stove top renders a creamy texture and requires a watchful eye to be sure that it doesn’t burn. In some recipes, the two processes are combined such as cooking the pudding on the stovetop and finishing off with a meringue in the oven.

By definition, puddings are soft, sweet, smooth desserts. For this reason, I use long grain white rice in my recipes. I do not use the healthier, nutritious brown rice because the resulting product is a nuttier taste and texture. I once added finely minced pecans and I didn’t like that either. Nutmeg is the traditional spice topping but substitute cinnamon if you prefer a milder taste.

Having said that, I am including a recipe that includes all of the above! It is a bit more rustic that the bland white pudding I enjoy and using soy milk, it may be suitable for some vegetarians.

All things considered, pudding is a relatively healthy food. The sugar content is low and it is possible to substitute 2-percent milk for whole milk without sacrificing quality. I do suggest that you use whole eggs because I have not had good results using egg substitutes. And finally, to get a true vanilla flavor, use a good quality vanilla or even a real vanilla bean, it does make a difference.

The following recipes are representative of a custard and a cooked rice pudding plus the brown rice recipe. I have been using the first recipe for as long as I can remember. The cooking times are flexible due to the differences in egg sizes, depth of pan and any number of other variables.

 Custard-style Rice Pudding
2-1/2 cups milk
1 cup cooked rice
1/3 cup golden raisins
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Put a deep pan in the oven and fill with hot water. Preheat oven to 350° F.

Lightly coat a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread warm rice and raisins on the bottom of the dish.

Scald (heat) milk on stovetop or in microwave until very hot but not boiling. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl.

Add some of the hot milk into the egg mixture and stir until smooth; then add the remainder of the milk. Pour milk mixture over the rice and raisins. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Place in pan with hot water in the oven. Bake about 45-60 min. (depending on depth of dish) or until knife comes out clean. Serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. Serves 6

Rice Pudding with Meringue

1 cup rice, cooked
2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated; reserve whites in small bowl
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dried cranberries or other fruit if desired
¼ cup sugar

Add cooked rice to milk; heat to scalding point in saucepan. Beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar and vanilla. Add some of the rice and milk slowly into the egg yolk mixture, stirring briskly. Pour all back into the saucepan and cook until thickened. Fold in dried cranberries.

Pour pudding into a lightly greased baking dish.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; slowly add the ¼ cup sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.  Cover the rice pudding evenly with meringue and bake 8-10 minutes at 350° or until browned. Serves 6

Mongolian Rice Pudding
(University of Phoenix)

5 tablespoons brown rice
1 cup water
2 ½ cups milk or soy milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup raisins
Cinnamon or nutmeg

Put rice and water in a saucepan. Cook until water has been absorbed. Add milk and sugar and cook over low heat until mixture thickens. Add walnuts and raisins. Serve hot, sprinkled with cinnamon.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. Contact her at 942-1317 or email

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