Americans often have a tough time making rice pudding since our long grain rice tends not to bake up well when it’s added to custard in its raw state. The solution: make rice pudding with cooked rice. The result is every bit as delicious, plus it’s convenient if you order out a lot of Chinese food. The individual rice grains tend to maintain their integrity at bit more — i.e. are a bit chewier — but I like the contrast. Here I should note that everyone has their own favorite version from childhood. I’m not putting this forward as the standard by which all rice puddings should be judged. It happens to be one I like.
I’ll also say that I’m always appreciative when I find rice pudding on a pastry table. When I was a kid the big hotels in Chicago always had a large dish of rice pudding somewhere on the buffet along with the Napoleons and mini fruit tarts. To this day when I see that I think: very classy. Not everyone is in the mood for a mound of chocolate mousse after a rich lunch. A smart pastry department understands that. Start by assembling your ingredients and preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the milk and the eggs:
Add your flavoring, salt and sugar.
Whisk it all together.
Pour the mixture over the rice and raisins, which you’ve stirred together in a 1-quart baking dish.
Stir it a little.
Bake about 90 minutes until it’s lightly browned on top and is firm in the center.
Serve warm or cold, lightly dusted with cinnamon (even plain ol’ rice pudding can have an elegant touch). Eat with child-like glee.