A few weeks ago on The Green Phone Booth I posted a “cookbook roundup” of some of my favorite cookbooks. One of them, The New Basics, is where I got the basic template for the absolutely delicious rice pudding I made the other night. No joke, this is probably the best rice pudding I’ve ever had.
The recipe in that cookbook is for Hazelnut Rice Pudding. It calls for chopped toasted hazelnuts, currants soaked in Frangelico liqueur, Arborio rice, milk, and sugar. I’ve honestly never actually made that exact recipe, because I almost never make any exact recipe–but doesn’t it sound amazing? Still, a couple of afternoons ago I just wanted rice pudding…plain old happy comfort food.
So here’s how the basic recipe worked; it takes a long time and needs a little babysitting but not a lot of actual attention or work:
Risotto Rice Pudding
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oiled casserole dish, place the following:
- 4 cups milk
- 5 tbs sugar
- 1/2 cup arborio rice (risotto short-grain rice)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbs. brandy (optional; other liqueur would work)
- 1/2 cup raisins soaked in brandy for a couple of hours to overnight (soaking optional; alternate dried fruits could be very nice)
Bake uncovered in oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. (If you forget it’ll make one of those ucky skins on top after 25-ish minutes. If so, no big deal; just skim it off and continue.) After 2 hours the rice should be very mushy and what liquid is left will be thick and creamy. Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Let cool; pudding will thicken even more upon standing.
That’s IT. So easy, so yummy. And I took a few baking potatoes, scrubbed and pierced them, and put them in the oven with the pudding for the last 90 minutes or so of baking. So one oven heating served multiple purposes.
(Note: As usual, I posted too quickly; as a result, 24 hours after first publishing this post I’m doing some heavy edits on it, especially to the recipe and cooking times/levels. Trust me, it’s for the better!)
Before you ask…no, this has no zucchini in it. I’m taking a break from the giant green baseball bats for a couple of days.
I’ve been working my way through a nasty stinky flu bug. One of those achy sweaty chills and fever room spins head wants to split open kind of deals. It’s the pits. (It’s mostly better now; sort of broke yesterday. But today I’m just wiped out exhausted.) And when I’m sick, I crave comfort food. And above all the comfort foods I know is the nutmeg-sprinkled baked custard my mom used to make when I was sick. I never make it because it involves the oven and a waterbath and when I’m sick I don’t feel like messing around with that. But then I put together a recipe for egg custard (as usual, cobbled together from a few other recipes), do-able in the microwave oven, and while it took a lot of futzing to make it actually work right, the end result is pretty darned close to what mom used to give me.
Recipe I: Microwave Baked Custard (makes just under 1 cup; thus, 1-2 servings depending on how much comfort you need) (doubles easily! Just keep track of egg multiplication–2 eggs means 1 cup of milk, 3 eggs is 1.5 cups, etc.)
- heat 1/2 cup of milk and 3-4 tsp sugar in the microwave for about one minute, till it is hot but not boiling, and the sugar dissolves easily. (This makes for a pretty sweet custard, which I happen to like. Honey or maple syrup would probably make a nice substitution.)
- While it is heating, lightly beat 1 egg, and 1/2 tsp vanilla (or a splash of cream sherry–makes it taste like sabayon) (For a single serving, you can do this right in the coffee cup or bowl you plan to cook the custard in.)
- When milk is hot, whisk it into egg mixture
- If you haven’t already done so, pour into 1 or 2 custard cups or microwave-safe coffee cups.
- Sprinkle nutmeg on top
- Microwave on 30% power 3.5-4 minutes or until beginnng to set and no longer liquidy. (Note: the first time you try this you’ll need to supervise closely, and you’ll have to do it again if you later decide to try doubling or tripling the recipe. You want the whole thing to be gently puffing, but if the liquid in it comes to full boil the custard will start to curdle. It’ll still taste nice, but it won’t have that velvety texture.) When you take it out of the oven, it should jiggle a little like set gelatin, but not be firmly set; and remember it’ll keep cooking for a few minutes after you take it out.
- Chill at least half an hour before eating, if you like it warm, or a few hours for cold. (No way around this; it has to finish setting and cool down a little before you cut into it.)
Again, your first time making this, you’ll have to watch closely–everyone’s microwave is a little different, and it’s easy to overcook. Then you have, in effect, a custard-flavored scrambled egg. Still tastes nice, but not the effect we were going for. And probably a lot of the dicier timing could be reduced by actually using a water bath in the microwave. But I’m not going for exactly the perfect custard, I can make that in the oven–I’m looking for a quick and easy way to get my comfort food fix. And this isn’t bad.
UPDATE SEVERAL MONTHS LATER: in late April I posted a recipe for the chocolate version of this and in the process happened upon a slightly altered version of the vanilla, using powdered milk. It’s much more stable than the version above and doesn’t overcook as easily, but with a slightly heavier consistency. And not everyone has powdered milk around…but if you’re interested:
Recipe II: Microwave Egg Custard (single serving–doubles easily!)
- heat 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave for about one minute, till it is hot but not boiling
- In a small microwavable bowl, custard cup. or smallish coffee cup, mix 3 level tsp. sugar and one heaping tsp. powdered milk. Optional: add a few drops of vanilla extract and/or a shake of cinnamon, or a splash of creme sherry or liqueur
- When milk is hot, pour just a little into the sugar/milk powder mix and stir to form a paste.
- Break one egg into the sugar/milk powder paste; stir well until combined and egg white and yolks are well blended.
- A little at a time, whisk remainder of hot milk into egg mixture, pausing often to combine. (This “tempers” the egg; it mixes without curdling or cooking.)
- Microwave on low power (2-3) for about 3.5-4 minutes, depending on your microwave. Your mixture should never actually come to a boil, but it should basically be “set” on top. (There may be a little puddle of liquidyness on top even if the rest is set; don’t worry about it.) (Note: the first time you try this you’ll need to supervise closely, and you’ll have to do it again if you later decide to try doubling or tripling the recipe. You want the whole thing to be gently puffing, but if the liquid in it comes to full boil the custard will start to curdle. It’ll still taste nice, but it won’t have that velvety texture.) When you take it out of the oven, it should jiggle a little like set gelatin, but not be firmly set; and remember it’ll keep cooking for a few minutes after you take it out.
- Chill at least half an hour before eating, if you like it warm, or a few hours for cold. (This version with powdered milk you can actually sort of skip this with, though giving it a little resting time is still good….)
Now if only I could figure out how to effect the “flan” thing with the caramel syrup in the bottom, I’d be in heaven…