Rice pudding is comfort food, no question about it. Sweet and creamy, it’s a relatively substantial custard dish made thick with rice and (usually) studded with juicy raisins. I usually make mine on the stovetop, starting either with leftover rice or with uncooked rice, depending on what is available to me at the moment. I’ve even turned stove-cooked rice pudding into ice cream before. While I like all of these recipes, I can’t help but want to experiment, so this batch of rice pudding got baked in the oven to give it a more custardy consistency.
To put it simply and cut the suspense, baked rice pudding is delicious. This one dish is not only tasty, but it is really interesting because it is essentially two desserts in one. The pudding is a mixture of rice and a sweet custard base, so while it bakes, it separates into two layers: a sweet rice pudding on the bottom and silky smooth custard on top. It is unlike any other rice pudding I’ve tasted. The rice layer is a bit more solid than your average rice pudding, since the weight of the grains pull them down to the bottom of the pan, while the custard/pudding rises to the top, so the first bite can be a bit of a surprise. That said, the two-layer effect doesn’t take anything away from the dish (even if you’re not a fan of the separation at first) because everything mixes together while you eat.
I baked the pudding in a water bath and the custard turned out to be silky smooth as a result. I scraped a vanilla bean into the mix as I put it together, but you can use vanilla extract if you don’t have any whole beans to use. I kept the spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom – to relatively low levels so they didn’t overwhelm the vanilla flavor. Next time I’m going to add in some dried cranberries in addition to the raisins.
Baked Rice Pudding
1 1/4 cups cooked rice
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
2/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 325F.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into an 8×8-inch baking dish.
Place baking dish inside a 9×13-inch baking dish. Transfer to oven and fill outside dish with approx. 4 cups of water to make a water bath.
Bake for 30 minutes, stir, and then bake for an additional 20 minutes (total time approx. 50 minutes). If you don’t want your pudding to form a “skin” on top of the custard, stir more frequently.
Pudding is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the pudding is set (gently pushing the pan should produce an even jiggle of the custard).
Remove baking dish from water bath and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator.