Rice pudding haunts me. Not like the best ice cream you ever had haunts you, but like a wind in the door or a dark feeling on a sunny day. When I think rice pudding, I remember smudged glasses of cold, wet rice glistening in the halogen glow of a diner in Montclair, NJ where friends and I stopped on our way back to school the night George W. was elected. We were tired from a long day of job interviews and feeling defeated by the rain, the long drive ahead, and the radio coverage of the confusion down in Florida. I don’t remember our dinner conversation, but I can’t forget that the rice pudding was gelatinous and faintly blue.
Time for an exorcism.
Special thanks to La Femme Epicure who added almond extract to the whipped cream and brought all the flavors together. Did you know that almonds are actually stone fruit? Apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries taste so good with almond-flavored crusts and creams because the nut enhances what flavor the fruit already pulled from its pit. That’s why the French leave pits in their cherry clafoutis. Personally, I prefer a little extract to a broken tooth.
The result is something to celebrate- cold, creamy and comforting with traditional pudding spices and a surprising freshness from summer fruit and almond cream. Poor rice pudding will never have the visual appeal of a chocolate chip cookie or a tall piece of cake, but that just means more for those of us who know to look past the lumps.
Ghost, be gone.
Classic Rice Pudding Topped with Nectarines and Almond Whipped Cream
Make 1 day ahead to chill
3/4 cups uncooked white rice (sushi, jasmine, plain old medium-grain)
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy cream, divided
pinch confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2-3 pieces stone fruit, diced (we used nectarines)
cinnamon, for dusting
In a medium pot, cook rice in water according to the package directions.
In a separate pot, combine the milk, sugar, salt and cinnamon stick. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape all the “caviar” into your milk mixture. (Save the bean for vanilla sugar). Add the golden raisins and bring milk to a low simmer. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the flavor steep for at least 15 minutes.
Add the cooked rice to the steeped milk and return to the heat, stirring occasionally over medium heat, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the egg and 1/2 cup cream. Cook for 2 minutes more and remove from the heat. Let cool and chill overnight, either in individual serving glasses or in one bowl.
To serve, whip the remaining cream into soft peaks, adding a pinch of confectioner’s sugar and one teaspoon of almond extract to as you go. Dice your stonefruit. Top the chilled rice pudding with a dollop of cream and a spoonful of fruit. Dust with cinnamon and serve.