Ever since I made vanilla pudding a few weeks ago, I've wanted more pudding.
I finally decided that I was going to take the time to make more. Smitten Kitchen had a few different (and easy) recipes for pudding that I wanted to try, but I wasn't sure which one I wanted to make. I didn't want to make rice pudding, but as I read recipes, it grew on me.
And that's why I decided to make Almond-Vanilla Rice Pudding (or Arborio Rice Pudding, as it's alternatively called). I had a light dinner, and figured that rice pudding for dessert would be an excellent way to make up for it.
Recipe was simple, but as always, there's a trick to pudding. I thought that this would be more of a hands-off pudding; not so. I had trouble figuring out what temperature I wanted to cook this at. I found that it did best at a medium for heating it, and a medium-to-medium-low for simmering it. If I left it for more than a minute, the top developed a milk skin that I hate. When I didn't scrape the bottom for a few minutes, the rice didn't stick, but the milk solids stuck and turned brown. Once I saw brown flecks floating in my pudding after scraping the bottom, I simply decided not to scrape the bottom very hard; gently grazing the bottom with the wooden spoon was enough to move the rice around to keep it from sticking.
Ingredient list was simple, which I liked. ½ cup Arborio rice; 4 cups milk (I used 1%); ¼ cup sugar (I added a dash of my vanilla sugar to this); 1 bay leaf (I added a few flecks of crushed bay leaf); 1 teaspoon vanilla; and ¾ teaspoon almond extract. The extracts were added after the pudding was cooked, which took about 40-50 minutes from start to finish. The rice was cooked through well before the pudding was thickened.
I ate this both warm and cold, and it was pretty good. It wasn't too sweet, which I appreciated. I'm not sure if I've made rice pudding before, but the Arborio rice worked wonderfully. The rice was tender, and the pudding was very creamy. The pudding thickened up as it cooled. The almond flavor was very, very strong, although I didn't notice it as much the second time I had pudding. If I wasn't a huge fan of almond, I would probably find the almond flavor to be overwhelming (although I probably wouldn't have added the almond extract in the first place). I found the bay leaf to be strange as I heated the milk, because it was the only thing I could smell; the bay leaf reminded me of dinner rather than dessert. I think that it added background taste, though. The pudding was good cold as well, although I think my preference is to eat it immediately when it's warm.
I particularly liked the Arborio rice in it. and I liked the level of sweetness. I'll have to give this another try, now that I know what temperature I want to cook it at, and that I need to stir more-or-less constantly.