vanilla bean rice pudding with roasted plums {gluten-free}

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Have you ever been super into something but no one else seems to share your same enthusiasm? 

This was me and my relationship with rice pudding in college. 

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Close to my university there was an amazing rice pudding shop that sold only that - big huge bowls of delicious rice pudding in the most creative and enticing flavors. I frequented that place more than I care to admit. This was when the frozen yogurt craze was just budding and everyone... err, at least I felt like everyone was watching their figure so it was VERY important to load up on non-fat frozen yogurt as a "treat" instead of full-fat rice pudding. (We all know that that low-fat lie is a bunch of garbage by now right? #fullfatforlife) But this pudding place was conveniently within walking distance of the gym... so, I'd go work out and then get a cup of pudding. Seemed fair.

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I always wanted my girlfriends, roommates or date-of-the-moment to go with me and sometimes they'd appease me, but they just didn't share the same level of enthusiasm for rice pudding as I did. 

My enthusiasm has not died. 

Rice pudding also reminds me of visiting my great grandmother. (It is kind of a grandma thing huh, rice pudding? Have we discussed yet how I am like a grandmother in more ways than one? ie, rice pudding. ) She lived in Utah, and I was attending university in Utah too, so I made it a point to stop by sometimes. Although I'm ashamed to admit I probably saw her more when I was a little girl and our family would trek up to Utah for a tiny piece of our summer or winter break to visit family and eat fresh bread. 

It seemed like whenever we would visit great grandma she would give us a small bowl with a plop of delicious cinnamon and plump, raisin-filled rice pudding. When you're little, raisins by themselves or posing as cute ants-on-a-log (aka celery with peanut butter) are okay, but raisins IN something was a big no-no - especially cinnamon rolls and pudding. But never wanting to hurt my great grandmothers feelings I would always eat the raisins. She was proud of them, those raisins, and always watched me when I would take a bite. My other family members gobbled the stuff up (with no complaint about raisins) and we usually cleaned her out of it.

And now, after all that, this is not my great grandmother's rice pudding. I actually think my desire to have a smooth rice pudding without raisins is what sparked the quest to develop this recipe. (I do have a fun variation resembling great grandma's pudding at the very end of the post though, one that I dare say is better than gg's... and I think she'd agree.) 

This pudding has very few ingredients, which means its simplicity lets all the components sing with goodness. It's subtly sweet and addictive and I hope you get just as excited about the tiny specs of vanilla bean in a sea of bright beautiful cream as I do. Please share in my weirdness. 

I also still crave rice pudding regularly. Is this normal? 

In fact I went a little rogue on this craving and made batches and batches of pudding to get the recipe just right while my parents were in town. After the 3rd batch my mom took a bite, said it was absolutely delicious then asked, "Where's the raisins?" 

Love you friends. xo

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vanilla bean rice pudding with roasted plums 

by Robyn Holland |

serves about 4 | makes 3 heaping cups of pudding

Consistency is a big thing here. It has to be creamy, without a hint of grainy starch, and thick-ish without resembling wall paper paste, and the rice has to be soft but not mush. I basically like my rice pudding how the French like their rice pudding - saucy and perfect. The stark contrast of the not-too-sweet-but-sweet-enough vanilla rice pudding meshed with sharp tanginess of the not-so-ripe-but-ripe-enough plums and the tiniest drizzle of maple syrup is completely magic. I mean it. The textures, the flavors, the smells, the vanilla bean with that milky cream and the cardamom with those plums - uh - I could eat all 4 sittings of this pudding in one go and not even blink about it. It's pretty stinking amaze, but as you know, I AM rather bias towards rice pudding. 

bakers note: The stirring of the rice while simmering in the milk and cream is key. It releases some of the starch but not too much of it, so take care not to over stir it, but please don't just let it sit there either. I get specific with the amount of stirring you should do below. Also, the addition of the milk after the rice has cooled completely is also key. Don't skip either of these steps and you'll be a rice pudding baller. Raisins optional. 

rice pudding:
3 cups / 720ml whole milk
1 cup / 240ml cream
½ cup / 100g + 2 tablespoons basmati rice, rinsed in really hot water for 30 seconds
pinch of kosher salt
½ vanilla bean, scraped, but using both seeds and pod
¼ cup / 120ml maple syrup, plus extra for serving if desired, please use real maple syrup, none of that fake stuff
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract if you don't have a vanilla bean
pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup to ¾ cup / 60ml to 120ml whole milk, to add at the end when pudding has chilled

Using a strainer, rinse rice in really hot water (the hottest you can get from your tap) for about 30 seconds to remove some of the starch. 

Scrape the vanilla bean seeds from the vanilla bean pod and set aside. Don't discard the pod! 

In a medium size sauce pan simmer rice, 3 cups of milk and 1 cup cream with a pinch of salt and the vanilla bean seeds and vanilla pod on a low-medium heat for 35-40 minutes, or until rice is tender and soft, but not mushy. Take care to stir the rice and milk about 2-3 times every 5 minutes with a heat proof spatula, so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and more importantly, so that some of the starches are released from the rice to thicken the pudding. I use the spatula to scrape down the sides of the pot too to ensure all of that vanilla bean goodness stays IN the pudding and not stuck to the sides of the pot. tip! if you don't have a vanilla bean, you can just add more vanilla extract at the end of the cooking period. See note in ingredients. 

After 35-40 minutes (my rice pudding took 38 minutes almost exactly) remove rice pudding from heat, but continue to stir for a minute or two. tip! You'll know it's ready because the rice will have absorbed a significant amount of the liquid and be a much thicker consistency. Remember the rice will continue to absorb more liquid as it cools.   

Gently stir in maple syrup, vanilla extract and another pinch of kosher salt. 

Bring pudding to room temperature first, by transferring it to a medium size bowl, covered, and either refrigerate it or leave it out until it cools down.

When pudding is room temperature, stir in your remaining ¾ cup of milk. You can add a little more milk if you'd like an even saucier consistency, but take note that if you serve this with a drizzle of maple syrup, that maple syrup loosens the pudding up a bit too. You can always add less milk too, if you'd like a much thicker consistency. I love a saucy rice pudding, so I added the whole ¾ cup of milk to the cooled pudding. Remember rice is a sponge, so I find it best to add this extra milk after it's cooled so it doesn't get soaked up again. 

Serve pudding in shallow dishes for dessert or breakfast, topped with roasted plums (see recipe below) and more maple syrup. This pudding is also fantastic with fresh berries of any kind, or any fresh stone fruit of any kid. OR delicious just the way it is. xo

(See Great Grandma's spin on rice pudding below)

to make the roasted plums:
¼ cup / 50g sugar
4 plums, pit removed and sliced
pinch of cardamom (about half of ⅛ of a teaspoon)
pinch of salt
1 to 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
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Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. 

Slice plums and toss with sugar and cardamom on a sheet pan. note: It definitely makes for an easier clean up if you line the pan with foil, but, I suggest not doing this so you can scrape the bubbling sugar and mix it with butter to create a sauce at the end with ease. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until plum juices have released and are bubbling. You should be able to smell them and they should smell like heaven. 

Immediately after removing the plums from the oven, throw in 1-2 tablespoons of cold butter and swirl it around with the plums and the browned sugary juices to create a "sauce". I used a heat proof spatula to make this happen so I could really scrape some of that hot sugar off of the pan and mix it with the butter. 

Serve plums still warm, on top of rice pudding or oatmeal or yogurt or ice cream. 


to make it Great Grandma's Rice Pudding:

Follow vanilla rice pudding instructions exactly through the very end of the recipe then steep ¼ cup raisins in simmering water + 1 teaspoon vanilla for about 5 minutes. Set aside. 

Add 1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of cardamom to the rice pudding and gently fold in. 

Strain raisins patting them dry with a towel and then gently fold in the pudding. There you have it. This version was wildly more popular with my family. Grandma would've been proud. xo 

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