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Variations on rice pudding theme

When I need comfort food, I think back to my childhood. While chicken soup played a big part in curing colds and the flu, at the age of 8, when I needed my mommy to help me get over my best bud’s defection to another best friend, she made me rice pudding.

Since then, rice pudding has been synonymous with fixing any bad day.

The key ingredient to rice pudding is, obviously, rice. You can use any kind of rice, but short grain rice seems to work the best. The texture of rice is determined by a mixture of amylose and amylopectin. Long-grain rice has more amylose, which is stiff when cool. Short-grain rice has more amylopectin, which stays soft when cool. Since rice pudding should be soft and creamy, short grain is the best.

You can make rice pudding on the cook top or bake it; both ways produce a fabulous dessert.

Note, for those with lactose intolerance, use rice milk.

Very Creamy Rice Pudding

1/2 gallon milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup uncooked rice

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla

Cinnamon to taste

In a large saucepan, combine milk, sugar and rice. Simmer, covered, 1 hour, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat and let rest 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine eggs, whipping cream, salt and vanilla. Stir into rice mixture and return pot to low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch dish and cover with foil. Poke a few holes in the foil to let the steam escape. Let cool for 1 hour. Remove the foil, sprinkle cinnamon over the top and cover again with the foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Serves 8 to 10.

Maple Rice Pudding

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons uncooked rice

2 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon water

3 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff)

1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of ground cloves

1 tablespoon butter or margarine (optional)

In a saucepan, combine the rice and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups of the milk, both sugars, maple syrup and maple extract; bring to a boil and let simmer over medium heat until thick and creamy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and butter. Mix to combine. Cook stirring over low heat for another 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, or serving bowls, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8. This can be refrigerated and served cold.

Chocolate Rice Pudding

2 1/2 cups rice

1 teaspoon salt

3 3/4 cups whole milk

1 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 egg yolks

4 tablespoons grated semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice and salt and cover. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Drain. Pour the milk over the rice and whisk in the cocoa powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir to make sure the cocoa is combined, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the rice is soft. In a bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the rice mixture to the sugar mixture, then mix it into the rice in the pan. Whisk just to combine the sugar mixture to the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding is hot but not boiling. Place the rice in a serving bowl or divide it among individual serving cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Grate chocolate over each pudding. Serves 8.

Brown Rice Pudding

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Sliced mango

In a large saucepan, combine the water, rice, lemon zest and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add the milk and brown sugar and mix to combine. Cook, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes or until most of the milk has been absorbed. Stir occasionally. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, top with sliced mango. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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