February 27, 2013

Bear Essentials: Pudding
( + Rice Pudding )

It's a textural thing. 

You either love rice pudding or you don't.  And if you don't, it's probably the texture: that soft, creamy, mushy mouthful with chewy bits of raisins scattered throughout like lurky little fruit-bombs.

I'm totally selling it, right?

But the joy of rice pudding (for me) is that texture.  It's calm.  It's soothing.  Ann Hodgman, in her opening notes to this recipe, calls it "nursery food."  And with that phrase, I'm taken straight to a cozy room, with a crackling fire and rain beating against the windowpanes, where Mary Poppins has just fed me an early dinner of cheese on toast and followed it up with a dish of this rice pudding.

It's the execution that's important here.  It's a pudding as smooth as honey, and every spoonful is ripe with the soft bite of individual grains of rice and resistance of a raisin or two.  Whipped cream, folded in as a last step, leaves it creamy for days - never descending into the gummy depths of so many diner versions. 

It's uncomplicated food, which doesn't have to mean unflavorful.  In fact it's full of flavor, with deep vanilla and the woodsy sweetness of nutmeg and the dark chew of raisins.  But more than anything, it's the taste of milk.  In three varieties.  A flavor we rarely stop and think about, but which has a soothing comfort all its own.  It's a quiet food, this pudding.  Made for an afghan, a book, and of course a spoon.

Rice Pudding
from Beat This!
by Ann Hodgman

Raisins  [ 1 cup ]
Half-and-Half  [ 2 cups ]
Whole Milk  [ 3 1/2 cups ]
Medium-Grain Rice  [ 1 1/3 cup ]
Sugar  [ 3/4 cup ]
Cinnamon  [ 1/4 teaspoon ]
Salt  [ 1/8 teaspoon ]
Eggs  [ 4, well beaten ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Fresh Nutmeg  [ several generous gratings ]
Heavy Cream  [ 1 cup ]

1.   In a small pot, place Raisins in enough Water to cover.
2.   Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.
3.   Drain Raisins and dry between paper towels.  Set aside.

4.   In a medium pot over Very Low heat, mix Half-and-Half, Milk, Rice, Sugar, Cinnamon, and Salt.
5.  Bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring often, until Rice is completely cooked.  This could take 30
       minutes to 1 hour, depending on your rice and heat level.

6.   Turn heat down as low as possible.  Stir in beaten Eggs.
7.   Cook, stirring constantly, without allowing Pudding to boil, until it is clearly more pudding-y than
         soup-y.  This will take about 2-3 minutes.
8.   Pour Pudding into a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool.  If incredibly impatient, like me, you can
         place it in the freezer to speed up the process; either way, take Pudding out and give it a stir every 15
        minutes or so.

9.   When completely cooled, add Raisins, Vanilla, and Nutmeg.
10.   Place Cream in the bowl of a mixer and mix on High until it forms stiff peaks.
11.   Fold Whipped Cream into Pudding.
12.   Chill for several hours before serving.

Serves 6-8   

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