Rice pudding is one of my favorite comfort foods. Though there are a few gourmet rice pudding stores out there (very, very few), rice pudding remains something that is best made and eaten at home. A good rice pudding should feature a combination of smooth, rich custard and very tender rice. It should be sweet, without being too sweet, and the rice should really be the focal point – otherwise you may as well be eating any old pudding! This Perfect Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding is a delicious, simple dish to make when you’re in the mood for a classic, homestyle dessert.
For me, this rice pudding is just about perfect – hence the name! It has a good rice-to-custard ratio and enough milk that the rice becomes perfectly tender as it cooks. It has some milk (any kind of milk can be used, from nonfat to whole, though I recommend low fat) and some cream to give it a touch of richness without making it so decadent that you feel limited to eating a small portion. I used an egg to thicken the pudding and give it a velvety texture. While I have used cornstarch to thicken rice pudding in the past, the egg gives the pudding a better overall texture and also ensures that the leftovers are going to taste just as good as they day they were made.
I like rice pudding both warm and cold. A bowl of warm rice pudding is absolutely delicious on a cold day, while cold rice pudding is good just about any time. This pudding has just the right touch of sweetness and a great vanilla flavor to it. If you don’t have a vanilla bean handy, you could stir in two teaspoons of vanilla extract as you remove your pudding from the heat, however a vanilla bean makes the pudding especially flavorful. I often eat my rice pudding plain, however you can stir in dried fruit, such as raisins or chopped apricots, for texture or fold in a big of whipped heavy cream after the pudding is cooled to give it an ethereal, mousse-like quality, as well.
Perfect Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup (approximately) plain, cooked rice
2 cups milk (pref. low fat)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
Take a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Combine vanilla bean seeds with rice, milk and cream and place in the saucepan. Bring milk mixture to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, and cook until the liquid reduces by at least half, about 30 minutes. The mixture should be roughly 2/3 rice and 1/3 liquid.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until smooth. Pour in a small amount (approximately 1/2 cup) of the milk from the rice while whisking constantly. Stirring with a whisk, stream the sugar mixture back into the large pot. Cook over medium-low heat until the pudding bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and transfer to a separate bowl to cool.
Store, covered, in the refrigerator.