Friday, March 8, 2024

Tres Leches Rice Pudding (amazing *if you like* rice pudding)

I hate to include a caveat in the title, because this rice pudding is unequivocally absolute next-level rice pudding perfection, and I want to encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in rice pudding to go make this yesterday and swim in its horchata-style glory. A caveat's inherent misgivingness sort of cuts against my zeal.


BUT. I want you to know that I wouldn't post anything here that wasn't worth posting! How can you trust me on that if I'm not totally honest?

The deal is this: I grew up eating rice pudding (and just a lot of rice, generally) and I love it and I love horchata and I love tres leches cake and typically I welcome an interesting mouthfeel, particularly if what's in my mouth is dead delicious. Moreover: I'm at a point in my midlife home chef / recipe connoisseur journey where it's tough for a recipe to surprise me, i.e., I wouldn't try it if I didn't have a pretty good sense of how it might result, and my sense is pretty reliable. Therefore: This recipe, adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, was a no-brainer for me. To boot: The outcome wildly exceeded my fairly high expectations. And yet: Only two of our household of five appreciate this rice pudding, and I can only surmise that this division among us relates to some kind of misguided, essentialist, "it's a texture thing" rice pudding-aversion on the part of the losers (because, I assure you, the haters are the ones losing out here).

All that to mean: I don't want to pretend this is one of those bogus recommendations a la, "This will make a mushroom lover out of your mushroom-hating spouse!" Or, "Your family won't even taste the rice!"

This recipe isn't going to change anyone's palates. It will simply reward those with the right palate. 

My adaptations were minor: I adjusted proportions and "milks" based on what I had and what I like, and I thickened the pudding with a cornstarch slurry in lieu of an egg.


Tres Leches Rice Pudding
Yield: serves 8

2 cups cooked white rice*
2 tablespoons cornstarch, arrowroot, or tapioca starch
1 cup (8 oz) milk (any kind! I used plain soy milk; the original recipe recommends canned evaporated milk; any refrigerated cow milk would work fine)
One 13.5-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
One 12.5-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

To finish, if you'd like: fresh whipped cream, berries, a dust of cinnamon

Pour your first milk into a large measuring cup. Whisk in the cornstarch or alternative until there are no dry clumps.

Stir the coconut and sweetened condensed milks into the rice, then add the cornstarch-milk mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Drop in the cinnamon sticks, or stir in the ground cinnamon. Place the pan on the stove and cook the mixture over low-medium heat, stirring every couple minutes so it doesn't stick or burn, until about 90 percent of the liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat, and carefully remove the cinnamon sticks, if you used those. Stir in the vanilla extract, then divide the pudding among 8 serving dishes. Deb suggests that you keep the puddings in the fridge until fully chilled, about 1 to 2 hours. And, practically speaking, of course that makes sense for a make-ahead dessert. But it ALSO makes sense to eat a (modest) bowl of this warm from the pot. It's a very decadent alternative to your morning oatmeal. You're welcome.

Dollop a spoonful of whipped cream on top of each bowl of rice pudding, top with some fresh berries, dust with ground cinnamon, then enjoy.

* If you are starting with dry rice, you'll need 3/4 cup uncooked white rice. Put it in a medium saucepan with 3/4 teaspoon salt and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a low boil, cover with tight-fitting lid, and cook for 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and proceed with recipe above.

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