The Hawaiian sun has flown the coop, at the most inopportune time at that. We are officially halfway through Spring Break and instead of blaring sunlight and warm sand beneath our toes, we have gotten bitter winds and a reason to actually put our warmest boots on (yes, I guess that means wearing Uggs here right now isn’t so crazy after all – not that you would ever catch me doing it). To think, one of the few chances I have to allot myself beach time, I am bereft of some much needed sunshine. Trust me, you have not seen (nor want to see) my Casper-like skin tone. To avoid brooding over such fundamental matters, I have circumvented the issue of weather by keeping myself all nice and toasty with some befittingly created rice pudding.
Though there are countless variations of this Hispanic bowl of heaven, one thing is for certain: regardless of its ingredient nuances from Colombia to Peru or Mexico to Spain, each element coalesces into a marvelously warm and creamy treat. The simple yet addictive whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Sun, shmun, who said having golden, sun-kissed bronze skin was fabulous anyway!
So far, I’ve made this dessert twice. The first time, I fell in love immediately. It tasted like a luxurious version of this somewhat banal dessert. The product is supposed to be thinner than your average diner rice pudding. However, the second time I made it (photographed above), I left it on the stove a wee bit too long, resulting in a more congealed and gelatinous version of what should feel and taste like creamed silk, if there is such a thing. Nevertheless, it’s good enough to keep me happily at home, no matter the weather.
Arroz con Leche
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 strips of lemon or orange zest (can use a peeler to get larger pieces)
3 whole cloves or a tiny pinch of ground cloves
4 cups water
1 cup whole milk (you can also opt out for lower fat milks)
2 cups coconut milk (the original recipe uses all regular milk instead)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins (optional, but better when used)
Soak the rice, cinnamon sticks, lemon or orange zest and whole or powdered cloves in the water in a heavy saucepan for 1 hour.
After soaking, bring the rice mixture to a boil on high heat, uncovered. When it starts to boil (about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.
While rice is cooking, beat the egg in a bowl. Add the milk and stir well to mix. Add the egg mixture, condensed milk, salt, vanilla extract and raisins, if using, to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, until it thickens slightly or until desired consistency about 20 to 30 minutes (depending upon consistency preference, but remember, as the rice cools, the pudding thickens. So, if you want a creamier consistency, feel free to pull the pot off the stove at an earlier – 15 to 20 minutes – time. Otherwise, for a more traditional and thicker pudding, leave the pot on the stove for up to half an hour)
Remove citrus zest and cinnamon sticks. Let cool uncovered, then chill the rest of the way in the fridge.