A retired professor approached me at work recently and said, “My cell phone got wet, so I put it in a big bag of rice to dry it out. The rice did the trick, but now I’ve got a ton of leftover rice. Do you have a recipe for rice pudding — the old fashioned kind, not the cafeteria kind?”
Being the typical non-cooking male, he had no idea what he was asking for — he only wanted to duplicate that sweetly smooth, creamy taste of days gone by and all I wanted to do was fulfill his request with guaranteed satisfaction.
Eons ago, rice pudding was baked in the oven for more that three hours and the cook built up a good sweat because the hot oven had to be opened numerous times to stir the pudding.
Eventually, housewives learned that an equally delicious rice pudding could be cooked on the stovetop without the perspiration.
Along the way, inexperienced cooks tried to use instant or converted rice, but they soon learned the starch in regular long grain white rice was necessary to produce a creamy texture.
The following recipe also requires a little watchful stirring, but I’m sure the professor will be good at that since he has spent so many decades stirring the minds of young folk.
When those young folk graduated, he could always tell if what he taught took hold. The same holds true for this dessert. The proof is not in the pudding — it’s in savoring the perfection.
Plain Old Rice Pudding
3/4 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the water has been absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Then stir in:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup regular sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cook (uncovered) over medium heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently.
Just as the pudding begins to merge into a thick porridge — the last 5 minutes — gently stir in:
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
Note: If I use raisins, I soak them for about an hour in 1/4 cup rum before adding. Instead of cooking the cinnamon, my Momma always waited until the last to sprinkle it on each serving. I prefer the cooked cinnamon. My Granny Franklin never used cinnamon. She preferred 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and more sugar for the farm hands.
Do not overcook or the pudding will be solid instead of creamy. Remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Serve warm. Serves 6.
Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column that runs bi-monthly in the Banner’s Sunday edition. E-mail her at Leba.firstname.lastname@example.org.