This is not your grandmother’s rice pudding. Unless your grandmother’s rice pudding also came with a liberal splash of rum, in which case, cool grandma. No, this rice pudding just oozes sophistication and charm – it’s a beautiful thing. The pudding itself bears no resemblance to the homogenously-textured, hospital tray staple it’s become associated with – instead, the texture transforms into something toothsome and rich, with a distinct creamy bite and wafts of cinnamon and orange zest. The rum syrup smoothes out the chew of the dried fruit, seeping into it and turning up the flavour volume on everything it touches. The toasted almonds give a necessary crunch and browned nuttiness to round everything out. It’s gloriously pleasing and as unrecognizable from cafeteria food as 2009 Chris Pratt is to 2017 Chris Pratt. Sometimes change is good, amiright?
BA’s Best: Rice Pudding w/ Boozy Fruit + Toasted Almonds
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
4 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup Arborio or sushi rice
½ cup white sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1-inch piece of orange peel
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 large egg yolk
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp dark rum + more for drizzling
2 tbsp orange juice
½ cup chopped dried apricots OR ½ cup dried sour cherries
½ cup sliced almonds
For the rice pudding, combine the milk, cream, rice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, and salt in a medium, heavy saucepan. Scrape in the vanilla seeds and add the pod. Bring the mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to ensure minimal pan-stickage. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer gently until the rice is tender and the mixture thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Make sure you occasionally stir the pudding as it cooks, scraping down the sides of the pan to avoid any burnt bits. Remove the pudding from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel. Quickly, but thoroughly, stir the egg yolk into the pudding. Mix the yolk in extremely well otherwise you could end up with little pieces of cooked yolk instead of a lovely emulsified yolk. Once the yolk has been completely incorporated, let the pudding cool until warm (or chill it if you’re the type of pervert who likes it cold).
While the pudding cools, make the toppings. Combine the brown sugar, rum, orange juice, and a splash of water in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in whatever dried fruit you’re using and cook until the liquid is syrupy, about 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to not-lava-hot. While the fruit cools, pan-toast the sliced almonds over medium heat until golden. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.
To serve, divide the pudding into attractive cups or bowls. Spoon the boozy fruit over the puddings, being generous with the rum syrup and adding a drizzle of actual rum if desired. Scatter the toasted almonds over and marvel in disbelief at how adult and sophisticated you are.