Rice pudding is a favorite of mine -- and most everybody else. I've spent years tinkering with recipes, trying to produce one that could compete with the rice pudding my dad used to bring home from the local deli. I've tried different techniques and combinations of ingredients. Early on, I jettisoned the over-the-top richness of heavy cream, but I wanted to retain a creaminess and thick consistency. I needed the right rice.
The answer turned out to be a fusion of Japanese, Italian and French cooking traditions. Once I hit upon using short-grain sushi rice, I had the recipe. I cook the rice in milk sweetened with sugar and flavored with a vanilla bean, stirring as I would when making risotto. At the end, I thicken the pudding using an old French method: an egg yolk tempered with hot milk. The result is not only light but better-tasting than I'd hoped.
These days, I like to eat the pudding alongside a generous bit of berry sauce. Frozen berries, in any combination you like, are easily transformed into a fruity, tart complement. I’m partial to blueberries, but almost any combination of berries works.
Make Ahead: Leftover berry sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Try it on French toast, oatmeal or yogurt.
Servings: 5 - 7
Yield: Makes 3 cups pudding; about 2 1/3 cups sauce
- For the pudding
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4-inch length of vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (may substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, added after the pudding is removed from the heat)
- 1/2 cup uncooked sushi-style short-grain rice
- 3 1/4 cups low-fat milk, preferably 2-percent
- 1 large egg yolk
- For the sauce
- 1 pound frozen berries, any combination of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the pudding: Place the sugar in a large pot, along with the scrapings from the inside of the vanilla bean. Use your fingers to work the scrapings into the sugar so no lumps of vanilla remain. Add the scraped bean halves, rice and 3 cups of the milk.
Place the pot over medium-high heat; cook, stirring every minute or so, for 30 to 40 minutes until the rice is just tender. Adjust the heat as necessary so the milk maintains small bubbles at the edges of the pot but does not boil.
When the rice is ready, heat the remaining 1/4 cup milk until hot but not boiling (about 30 seconds on LOW in the microwave). Whisk the egg yolk in a separate cup; gradually add to the 1/4 cup of hot milk, stirring, then blend that mixture into the rice until well incorporated. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and discard the vanilla bean halves. Transfer the pudding to a serving dish. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.
While the pudding is cooling, make the sauce: Combine the berries, sugar and water in a large pot. Place the pot over medium heat and partially cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the berries have defrosted.
Uncover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the berries have softened; the cooking time will vary based on the size and type of berry used. Combine the lemon juice and the cornstarch in a small bowl, making sure the cornstarch dissolves completely. Add to the berries, stirring quickly to incorporate. Bring to a boil; as soon as the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
Stir in the almond extract. Transfer to a serving bowl or storage container. Let it cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve the pudding with the sauce, cold or at room temperature.
From columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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