My husband’s fondest food memory is of his Grandma’s riz au lait, or rice pudding. He remembers going to her house, smelling the vanilla goodness cooking on her stovetop and waiting for dessert with excitement.
I have tried my best to recreate this memory for him and after one that was too liquid, another that was not creamy enough, I finally found the right balance. When he took a spoonful of my latest batch, he said, “Now this reminds me of Grandma’s.” Mine will never be as good as Grandma Emma’s, but I love when food brings back happy memories.
This homey, French dessert is certainly easy to make – you just need to check to make sure the rice doesn’t get overcooked and mushy, but is just cooked through. The riz au lait is perfectly delicious on its own, but I highly recommend trying it with this salted caramel sauce, some chopped hazelnuts or sliced strawberries.
Creamy French Rice Pudding (Riz au lait)
Active time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: about 50 minutes
1-liter (4 ¼ cups) whole milk (do not substitute with low-fat milk, it won’t absorb well)
1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
¾ cup (185 g) round short-grain rice (or Arborio)
Dash of salt
½ cup (120 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Optional for serving: salted caramel topping, chopped hazelnuts
Pour milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the milk and put the bean in the
saucepan as well. Turn the heat to medium-high and when the milk starts to bubble, add the rice and a dash of salt. Turn the heat to very low and partially cover the saucepan, allowing milk to evaporate. Let cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, stir in the sugar, breaking up any clumps of rice. Turn heat to medium, cover partially and let cook another 20 minutes. Stir the rice once or twice during these last 20 minutes to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
While the rice is cooking, stir the heavy cream together with the egg yolk in a small bowl. Once the rice is cooked (it should be tender, but not mushy and the milk should be moderately reduced), take the saucepan off the heat. Discard the vanilla bean and stir the cream/egg yolk into the rice pudding.
Let cool completely and either serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on its own, with this yummy salted caramel topping or with chopped hazelnuts. The rice pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days.
And bon appétit!