If you have ever been to France and browsed the dairy section of any supermarket, you would have noticed the huge range of rice-based puddings and desserts. Like many of the recipes in this book, rice puddings and cakes were part of my staple diet as a child. They are the ideal pick-me-up for kids (or adults for that matter) on the run.
- 20 g fine salt
- 180 g arborio rice
- 500 ml full-cream milk
- 250 ml whipping cream (35% fat)
- 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthways
- 150 g sultanas (golden raisins)
- 1 egg
- 320 g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp orange blossom water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time overnight
Lightly grease 10 x 185 ml ramekins and place them on a baking tray. Alternatively, use a 2 litre tall cake tin or kugelhopf mould (because you are lining the base with caramel, don’t use a springform tin).
Bring 1 litre water and the salt to the boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and cook for 4 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. This process is designed to rid the rice of most of its starch.
Put the cold rice, milk, cream, vanilla beans and sultanas in a saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Towards the end of cooking, you will need to stir the rice continuously to prevent the mixture catching on the base of the pan. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg and 120 g of the sugar until thick and pale. When the rice is ready, add the egg mixture to the rice and combine well. Stir in the orange blossom water and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. To make the caramel, put 80 ml water in a saucepan, then add the remaining 200 g of sugar. Cook over high heat until the sugar begins to caramelise around the edges, then reduce the heat to low and cook until golden. While the caramel is cooking, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to clean off any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Working quickly and carefully, pour the caramel evenly over the base of the ramekins.
Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla beans into the rice mixture, then discard the beans. Fill the caramel-lined ramekins with the rice mixture all the way to the top. Cover with foil and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and doesn’t wobble when you gently shake one of the ramekins. Remove the rice cakes from the oven and leave to cool, then refrigerate overnight.
The following day, place the ramekins in a 200°C oven for 3 minutes. Run the blade of a paring knife around the inside of each ramekin, then invert the rice puddings onto serving plates. It is important that you reheat the ramekins in a very hot oven — dipping them in boiling water will not be hot enough to soften the caramel at the base of the puddings.
Recipe and images from The French Baker by Jean Michel Raynaud (Murdoch Books, $49.99, hbk).