So officially the calender says that we should be in the season of Spring. Well, in my neck of the woods, it is STILL winter. A blizzard rages outside my window; I have enough snow in my backyard to build a massive snow fort if I wanted ( I don't!), and there is no sign of melting until maybe next week. The only bright side to this never-ending winter (besides making snow angels!) is that I can make some wonderful comfort food I haven't had a chance to yet. Things like butterscotch pudding, and chocolate caramel bread pudding and you guessed it, rice pudding! I'm all about pudding lately. Not sure why. Yes, I have all of my teeth, and no I'm not 100 years old. There's just something really homey and comforting about it. March is a tough month for me. It's so long and dreary, and world events are kind of bumming me out. I guess I just need more comfort all around. Or like my friend Mindy tells me on a fairly regular basis "girl, we need to find you a man!" I just hope he likes pudding.
This is nothing like your Granny's rice pudding - there is no cornstarch or eggs or glueyness to it that can sometimes give rice pudding a bad wrap. Using arborio rice creates a luscious pudding, scented with maple and hits of orange and cinnamon. I love the cinnamon sticks nestled in the rice while it bakes - your house will smell incredible. And the brown sugar crust. Well holy smokes! It's a beautiful thing.
The recipe is adapted from Canoe restaurant in Toronto. Originally it called for 4 cups of 10% cream, which would be very luxurious. And go for it, if you like. I substiuted almond milk for 3 1/2 cups, and 10% for 1/2 cup, and that was rich enough. I've never baked with almond millk and I was very impressed. The pudding is rich tasting, but not heavy. You could use all 2% if you like, but don't use skim. The brown sugar crust sort of melts and you are left with this delicious caramelized brown sugar syrup. Spooned into my pretty blue dishes, and sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg and orange zest, the rice pudding soothes this winter weary soul. The blizzard can rage on for all I care. I have pudding to see me through.
Orange and Cinnamon Scented Rice Pudding With Caramelized Brown Sugar Crust
4 cups 10% cream (use whatever liquid you want. almond milk; 2%; or a combo of whatever you like)
1 cup arborio rice (do not subsitute any other rice)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks (if you don't have, 1 tsp of ground cinnamon is fine)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
In a large bowl, stir together liquid, rice, sugar, syrup, orange zest, vanilla, and spices. Scrape into a buttered 10 cup baking dish. Nestle the cinammon sticks in rice. Cover tightly with alluminium foil and bake at 325*F for one hour. Stir, cover again, and bake for 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven, and take out cinnamon sticks. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the rice and put under broiler for about 4 minutes, until bubbly. Keep a close eye so as not to burn. That would be awful! Best served warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Makes about 6-8 servings.