I think that vanilla rice pudding will always be my favorite. Not only is there something very comforting about it, but the plainness of the rice and milk pudding is a great canvas for vanilla to really stand out. That said, there experimenting with new flavors is still a fun thing to do because it both gives you more options (when you have a success) and makes you appreciate the flavors you already enjoy (when you have a failure). I was inspired to put a new twist on my usual rice pudding recipe after using some vanilla rice milk in place of coffee creamer at a friend’s house. That combination was good, and while it didn’t taste like rice pudding itself, it was enough to get the wheels turning.
I prefer to start rice pudding with leftover rice that has already been steamed or boiled in water. I think that since the rice has been cooked through, it tends to have a softer texture in the finished pudding, which I quite like. The pudding also takes less time to make when it is started this way, not to mention that having a cup or two of rice in the fridge is a good excuse to make a batch of pudding.
I basically made vanilla rice pudding, then divided the batch to flavor it further. I used instant espresso powder, but any instant coffee will work. Instant coffee blends easily into the hot pudding and it is very easy to control the strength of the coffee flavor by using it. I also added a bit of cinnamon to the coffee, leaving the vanilla plain. I layered the two flavors of pudding into serving glasses (coffee mugs, in this case) and chilled them so they could set. In the end, the desserts came out tasting like cappuccinos, with a mellow coffee flavor and a hint of cinnamon. The vanilla pudding tasted sweeter than the coffee, so everything had a good balance to it, although you could make the whole batch coffee flavored, if you’re so inclined.
Coffee and Cream Rice Pudding
2 cups leftover cooked/steamed rice (short grain, if possible)
3 cups milk (low fat is fine)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tsp instant coffee/espresso powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Combine cooked rice, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla extract. Cook until just about all of the milk is absorbed (approx 45 minutes, depending on how absorbent your rice is) and pudding is thick.
Divide pudding in half and transfer into two medium-sized bowls. Stir instant coffee powder (use to taste) and ground cinnamon into one of the puddings. Layer vanilla and coffee rice puddings into serving glasses, using 4 glasses if yours are larger and 6 if they’re smaller, or simply add a dollop of each flavor to each dish and swirl for a marble effect. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.