If you find yourself snowed in, you probably have rice on hand since it's a staple in cupboards throughout the world and an integral part of meals in just about every culture. Rice pudding has the benefit of being relatively inexpensive as desserts go and it delivers a soothing pleasure for times like these.
My rice pudding errs on the side of being cushy and creamy. Pre-cooking the rice for a few minutes shortens the simmering for quicker preparation. I choose long grain rice, which is less starchy than short grain. And for a low simmer, I use milk because it reduces more evenly than cream, which can leave the pudding with a fatty and dense chewiness. You can always add cream at the end of the cooking if you want more richness.
I love the aromatic spices found in a steaming hot cup of Indian masala chai, so I add them to this mixture for more flavor and warmth. And since chai is personal to the maker, you can add or subtract spices to your own taste.
Bundle up and share a hearty bowl of warm rice pudding. Stay safe out there.
- Traditionally, chai is made from Assam tea but any good black tea will do. Tea bags are definitely convenient but there is a difference in quality with loose leaf tea, which tends to have a brighter taste. Tea bags contain much of the fannings, the smallest pieces of broken tea with essential oils that are dimished.
- If you don't have a vanilla bean, add about 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract at the end when you've taken it off the heat.
- Rice pudding doesn't require much sugar in order to taste sweet but add or subtract to your own taste.
- Cook the rice pudding at a very low simmer to keep it from boiling. Your goal is to tenderize the rice and reduce the milk. Stir gently to prevent the grains from breaking.
- The pudding will look soupy but resist the urge to cook it longer or it may become too gloppy and thick.
- Salt is very important in dairy desserts. If the pudding has a flat taste, keep adding a few more grains of salt until the flavor pops.
- Rice pudding tightens a lot as it cools, especially if refrigerated. Add a splash of warm milk or cream to loosen it up.
- For added richness and a more custardy texture, once the pudding is finished cooking, place about a cup of it in a bowl and thoroughly whisk in 2 egg yolks. Pour this back into the pan and cook very gently on low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scrambling, for 2 additional minutes.
Chai Rice Pudding
Makes 6 servings
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) long grain rice
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 oz) water
4 cups (1 quart) milk
2 teaspoons or 2 bags black tea
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) sugar, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 vanilla bean, split and seeded
4 cardamom pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
4 whole peppercorns
1/2 star anise
2 quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
zest of 1/2 orange
Place the rice and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a bare simmer, cover the pan and cook the rice for 8 minutes.
Warm the milk on medium low heat just until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from the heat and add the tea. Steep for 8 - 10 minutes, depending on the quality of your tea. Strain out the loose tea or remove the tea bags and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. Cook at a very low simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir frequently to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, especially toward the end of the cooking time. The pudding should be a bit soupy. It will firm up more as it cools.
Take off the heat and remove the spices. Taste and adjust for salt, if necessary. Serve warm.