Late-winter February. It’s the time of year when I tend to be in a meh type of mood, generally uninspired and unenthusiastic.
It’s probably the lack of sunshine and being stuck indoors. Yes, I work out, take my vitamins, eat my greens and have nothing against the occasional walk in the cold, but still… Hello, weather? Getting desperate for spring here!
When these blues hit, I consciously remind myself how there’s something to like in every season. You have to nip the feeling in the bud, otherwise you’ll end up in a downward spiral.
Luckily, a distraction usually does the trick. Starting a new book (just ordered anti-guru Sarah Knight’s new No F*cks Given Guide ‘You Do You’ which is guaranteed to make for a good laugh based on previous volumes), the annual closet overhaul, or a quick search to see what’s left of Zara Home’s winter sale? Whatever works!
And some cooking: making my No. 1 winter warmer, sweet and creamy rice pudding never disappoints. It’s funny how I never posted this when I make it so often. Now, I know some people think rice pudding is quite a humble food, but I assure you: when done right, it’s as good as it gets!
In my opinion, the best rice pudding is c.r.e.a.m.y. above everything else. That’s what I always aim at. With that in mind, there are a few tricks for making the perfect rice pudding. Also, some points where things can go south (been there, done that). Learn from my mistakes, read the following experience-based notes and go for it!
First, the rice. Over the years, I’ve tried different types (depending mainly on what was on hand to be honest). You’ll want to use medium-grain or short-grain rice here. It’s all about starch: the right amount thickens the pudding, while the grains stay tender through cooking without breaking apart. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make rice pudding with long-grain varieties like Basmati or Jasmine rice, but these are less starchy, take longer to cook and the result will be rather dry. My favorite rice for this recipe by far is Arborio.
Than there’s the milk. It’s a real hazard when it comes to your stove’s cleanliness – not watching the pot as the milk comes to a boil… need I go on? Be sure to keep a close eye on it while warming!
After you’ve added the rice, stir down regularly or it will catch on the bottom. Keep mixture at a gentle simmer, allowing time for the rice to cook. I find this quantity needs somewhere between 30-40 min. Test the rice for done-ness though (grains should be tender), do not rely on the clock completely.
Another thing also necessary for perfect creaminess – you guessed it: fat. Use whole milk, full-fat coconut milk and heavy cream.
The egg yolks are responsible for that coveted custardy texture, but add hot liquid to the egg mixture too quickly, and the yolks will curdle. Troubleshoot tip: tempering. This means bringing the temperature of the eggs up slowly. Spoon a small amount of hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Keep adding milk until egg mixture is warmed up (this will take about a ladle of milk). Once done, pour warm egg-milk mixture back in the pot in a slow, thin stream, again whisking constantly.
This is a basic recipe, so feel free to flavor the hell out of it! Also, I think it’s perfectly good as it is, but sometimes I feel like putting the bowls of finished pudding under the broiler to brown the tops.
That said, my recipe for the perfectly creamy rice pudding:
Creamy Coconut Milk Rice Pudding
Silky smooth rice pudding with fragrant coconut milk. Serves 4.
600 ml whole milk
1 can (400 ml) full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
100 g sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200 ml heavy cream
- In a large saucepan, bring milk and well-shaken coconut milk to a boil.
- Stir in rice, reduce heat to allow for a gentle simmer.
- Stir down regularly to ensure rice is not sticking to the bottom. Mixture will form a skin – just stir it back in.
- While rice is cooking, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla and cream in a bowl big enough to accommodate the mixture and about a ladle of milk.
- Test rice for done-ness: taste a grain if it’s tender with no hard center.
- Once rice is cooked, remove pan from heat. Temper the egg mixture with a ladle of hot milk, than pour warmed egg mixture back into the pan in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
- Return saucepan to heat. Cook on medium, stirring, until pudding boils – it should be saucy but not soupy in consistency. In this phase, mixture will not yet resemble finished pudding. Don’t worry, the custard will set and thicken as it cools.
- Ladle rice pudding into bowls, let cool completely and refrigerate. Enjoy!