Creamiest Rice Pudding

After a recent grocery trip in which I bought two gallons of milk (usually necessary), I came home to discover that I already had an almost-full gallon in the refrigerator, which meant I definitely had more than we needed for the week. What to do with the extra milk? Luckily, there are a ton of recipes that are perfect for just such a situation, and one of them is rice pudding.

Not just any rice pudding– many of them use only 3-4 cups of milk per cup of rice, which hardly seems worth it– but a rice pudding that purported to be the creamiest rice pudding out there. This recipe uses a whopping 6 cups of milk to a mere (heaping) half-cup of rice, and all it takes is time. A lot of time. But hey, it was the weekend and I’d already done my grocery shopping, so I had plenty of it, right?

I was a little leery of the milk-to-rice ratio, but as directed, I brought my milk (with sugar and salt) to a boil and stirred in my rice, then dropped it to a simmer and stirred it occasionally. I did cheat a bit– after about 30 minutes the rice was tender but the milk was still liquid rather than creamy, so I didn’t see the point in gently simmering it any longer. Instead, I cranked up the heat and let it boil for the next 15 minutes, slowly thickening into a nice, creamy mixture. Once off-heat, I stirred in my flavorings, then set it out to cool.

Since I was in a bit of a hurry I poured it onto a silicone-lined baking sheet on the counter to cool faster, then once it was merely warm I put it in the refrigerator to cool even more quickly. The finished texture was perfectly creamy– not liquid-y as I’d feared– and I added some toasted coconut and chopped pistachios on top for contrast.

I think this recipe could be the base of a bunch of different variations. Cardamom and orange zest. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lemon zest and honey. Or with coconut milk substituted for some of the milk, and maybe some crushed pineapple– the possibilities are endless!

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Spiked Dalgona Coffee

dalgona

Given that we’re all stuck at home, it’s inevitable that memes, videos, and other modes of entertainment are going to go viral. For me, though (and for many others), it’s recipes that catch my attention.

“Dalgona coffee” (so called because the resulting foam is apparently the same color as a popular candy called Dalgona) is made by whipping sweetened, concentrated instant coffee to a froth, then using it to top milk– kind of like an inverted cappuccino. Since it uses pantry staples and takes minutes to make, it’s become something of a sensation in culinary circles– and, I’m happy to report, with good reason.

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Red Bean Swirl Milk Bread

red-bean-swirl-bread

After my cream puff adventure I had extra red bean paste left over, and decided to use it in a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for ages– Hokkaido milk bread. It’s a soft, sweet, tender bread that’s made using the tangzhong method– which basically means that you make a roux out of some of the flour, then mix it into the dough. The theory is that the roux acts to lock up some of the moisture from the water, plus locking up some of the flour so that it can’t create gluten when kneaded, making the bread softer and more tender.

I decided to roll the dough up with a layer of red bean paste to add interest, kind of like cinnamon swirl bread. The experiment was a success, and just like cinnamon bread, this also makes fabulous toast.

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Coconut Rice Pudding

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I was prompted to make this by sheer necessity– I had a bunch of leftover rice that was starting to harden in the refrigerator, and a cupful of coconut milk left from a tom kha gai recipe that I had no other plans for. It was really inevitable that I’d end up making rice pudding out of the two items.

I really love kheer, which is a coconut-cardamom rice pudding that I’ve only ever had in Indian restaurants. Sadly, I didn’t have any cardamom in the house and it was 12 degrees F outside, so I wasn’t about to go out just to buy some. Instead, I decided to make a plain coconut rice pudding and see what I could do with it later.

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Emily’s Upside-Down Custard Pie

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Emily’s Runaway Imagination is one of Beverly Cleary’s lesser-known works, and it takes place on a farm in the 1920s or thereabouts. One of the scenes I remember best is where Emily (a little girl with a big imagination) bakes custard pie for a church potluck. She’d previously overheard someone say that the secret to a light and flaky pie crust was adding “a generous pinch of baking powder” to it, and she’s eager to demonstrate her newfound pie crust prowess.

“Two and a half cups of flour,” directed Mama. “Some salt — not quite a teaspoonful. Let’s see, some lard. You’d better let me measure that.” Mama came into the pantry and deftly measured the lard out of the lard bucket. “Now Emily, take two knives and slash through the flour and lard until it is as fine as corn meal.” Emily started to slash. […]
Quickly Emily added a generous pinch of baking powder and then, not certain how big a generous pinch should be, added another generous pinch to make sure. Then she slashed and slashed and according to Mama’s directions, added water, just a little bit. “There are two secrets to making good pie crust,” said Mama. “Use very little water and handle the dough lightly.” Emily smiled to herself because she knew a third secret. 

Unfortunately for Emily, once the pies come out of the oven, instead of the custard surface being “golden yellow and flecked with nutmeg,” the crust has risen to the top with the custard at the bottom. Her mother concludes that the custard filling was too liquidy to weigh the crust down (apples or raisins would apparently have worked better). No one wants to eat her “funny-looking” pie, until one of her neighbors remarks that the inversion will keep the crust from getting soggy… and then everyone digs in.

I always wondered as a kid if this would really happen if you added baking powder to a custard pie crust. Thinking about it now it doesn’t really make sense, since the custard would have no way of getting down through the bottom of the crust unless the crust had holes in it to let the custard flow through– without the holes even the puffiest crust would just end up pushing the extra custard over the top of the pan to spill on the oven floor. I could dock the crust, of course, but no one would dock a crust with big enough holes to let custard get through in any quantity– that’s just asking for the custard to leak and stick the crust to the pan.

I decided to give this food myth (if one can really call it that) the best possible chance of success by cutting a few 1″ circles out of the pie crust, allowing the custard plenty of space to run through and let the crust rise up to the top. I figured that if that didn’t work, nothing would.

Let’s see what happens!

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Pippi Longstocking’s Pineapple Puddings

pineapple-pudding-done

When I was young I read several books featuring Pippi Longstocking, a redheaded Swedish girl who lived by herself (well, with a horse and a monkey) and had amazing adventures with her neighbors, Tommy and Annika. The series was lighthearted, more than a little silly, and featured several descriptions of tasty-sounding Swedish food. Case in point:

“Now shut your eyes while I set the table,” said Pippi. Tommy and Annika squeezed their eyes as tightly shut as possible. They heard Pippi opening the basket and rattling paper.

“One, two, nineteen, now you may look,” said Pippi at last. They looked, and they squealed with delight when they saw all the good things Pippi had spread on the bare rock. There were good sandwiches with meatballs and ham, a whole pile of sugared pancakes, several little brown sausages, and three pineapple puddings. For, you see, Pippi had learned cooking from the cook on her father’s ship.

When I was trying to come up with ideas for a new fictional dish to try out, pineapple puddings came to mind. It took some thinking to figure out how I wanted to approach the dish– clearly these were individual puddings, rather than one big bowl of pudding, and the fact that they were served as picnic food (and in Sweden, where “pudding” doesn’t necessarily mean a thickened dairy dessert) made me think that they weren’t the standard pudding you get in the U.S. When I’d thought about it at all, I’d pictured the puddings as baked in individual ramekins and being somewhat firm, kind of like a particularly dense flan. Since they were transportable, though, they probably didn’t need refrigeration, or at least weren’t served chilled.

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Butterscotch Pudding, Kind Of

bs-puddingSo after making the eggnog I had a pint of whole milk leftover, and since we never drink whole milk (and since I have an aversion to throwing perfectly good food away), I had to think of something to make with it. I thought pudding might be nice– it’s one of the only things I use whole milk for– but I was out of eggs and didn’t have enough chocolate in the house for a really good chocolate pudding, so I turned to a tried-and-true source of recipes and found (drumroll please) butterscotch pudding.

It sounded fabulous– the warm, toasty notes of dark brown sugar, combined with the sweet creaminess of pudding– and looked simple to make. In reality I experienced a few problems, probably because I didn’t trust the recipe enough.

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Chocolat Chaud (French-style hot chocolate)

While I was in Paris I took the opportunity to try a cup of the world-famous chocolat chaud at Angelina’s sumptuous tearoom on Rue Rivoli. Let me just say, its fame was well-earned– the chocolate was rich, smooth, and dark, with just the right amount of sweetness. Unlike some people who have tried it, I didn’t think it tasted like a melted chocolate bar– on the contrary, it was just milky enough not to be cloying, and not too thick. Really, it was excellent, and while I have my own hot cocoa recipe for winter days, I thought it would be nice to have another version in my recipe box for special occasions.

Of course, the internet yielded a plethora of recipes, each purporting to replicate French-style hot chocolate but each one different. I decided to try a few to see which came closest to what I remembered.

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Butterbeer Ice Cream

BB Ice cream scoop

So remember my rant on Butterbeer? Well, it turns out that Universal Studios also does a butterbeer soft-serve ice cream, and it occurred to me that this could be a great vehicle for my own version of the drink.

Happily, this time my online searching indicated that at least one person has gotten the recipe right and added actual beer to the mix. I decided to make the recipe from the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book to see what all the fuss was about.

This ice cream was pretty fantastic– the oatmeal stout provided a nice backdrop to the main flavor, which was a deep molasses-y caramel, and the salt really brought out the buttery, almost pretzel-like notes of the brown butter. The texture, even after completely frozen, is soft and scoopable, and very rich on the tongue.

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Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 2

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The second day at Le Cordon Bleu was, sadly, not nearly as much fun as the first. I think they did a bunch of interesting, hands-on stuff the first day to get us hooked (not that it makes much difference, we all paid months ago). The biggest issue was that rather than getting to mix up the dough by hand and do all the kneading and shaping ourselves, we spent the vast majority of our time watching our (admittedly talented) instructor do all of the work. And while I can understand having him mix up a big batch of dough rather than have us each do individual batches, there was no reason we couldn’t have shaped our own individual loaves before they went into the oven. Continue reading