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A template to make rice pudding your way
October 12, 2017, 4:36 pm

Rice pudding is among the best comfort foods one can have. Not only is it sweet and rich — an indulgent custard that begs to be topped with a spoonful of whipped cream — it is also easy to make. Rice (long or short grain) is combined with whole milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and cooked until tender. Egg yolks are stirred in to thicken the pudding to a luxurious consistency, while an extra splash of milk added during the last few minutes of cooking ensures creamy results.

With a number of ways to prepare rice pudding, use the template below and then prepare it the way that suits you the best.

To start, you need cooked rice: The key to good rice pudding is cooked rice. This means you can pick any type of rice you desire. Some prefer long grain rice, while others insist you need something like Arborio, which will yield a risotto-like creaminess.

The type of rice you choose will result in different textures. It is not necessary to have a specific type of rice. You can even use some leftover rice from dinner, or begin your rice pudding process by cooking rice according to the package directions.

If you are using the rice from last night’s Chinese takeout, reheat in a few tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan. By using already cooked rice, you can ensure that the grains are tender. And it frees you up to focus on the flavors. You could also use other grains, like quinoa or barley, to make ‘rice’ pudding. 

Add something creamy: With your cooked rice in a medium pot, add more liquid, ideally something creamy and rich. A combination of half-and-half and whole milk is a good option, but you can substitute any kind of milk you like — 1 percent, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or any combo you would prefer. Pour in enough so that your rice is completely covered — and then some more.

More liquid means a looser pudding, so add quite a bit more if that is what you are after. And if you do not know what kind of rice pudding you like, you can always add in more milk later if it is thicker than you decide you want.

Bring the rice and milk mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Toss in a pinch of salt while you are at it. Give it a stir now and then and make sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom of your pan.

Add your sweet and your first round of flavorings: From here on, everything you add, or do not add, is up to your choice. Cook your pudding at a simmer as you add in sweeteners or flavors to your taste, and stir to combine. You can use white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, or whatever sweetener you might have on-hand. You can also stir in flavorings as you wish. A splash of vanilla extract is pretty standard.

Cook the mixture: Continue to cook until you reach your desired pudding consistency. Add in more milk if you want to loosen the mixture. You can temper an egg and add to get a pudding with some added richness.

Once you feel like you are close to done with cooking your pudding — by then, you will probably have been stirring and keeping an eye on it for about 20 minutes — decide on final mix-ins and add those while the mixture is still warm.

You can add anything from dried fruits, citrus rind, spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger, as well as chocolate pieces, coconut flakes, chopped nuts, or even a big spoonful or two of Nutella. Fresh fruits can work too: a mashed banana or fresh berries taste great as long as it is eaten sooner rather than later. For a firmer fruit, like apples, perhaps soften chopped fruit over medium heat with some butter and brown sugar. Play with what you can dig out of your pantry and fridge. 

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