'Make a remark,' said the Red Queen; 'it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!' --Lewis Carrol, fromAlice's Adventures in Wonderland
February is finally here, and I’m glad of it.
In February, you do not need to charm or entertain, nor announce resolutions. All you have to do is rise in the morning, address the tasks at hand, and be. The sheer relief of February quiet is enough to make anyone turn to pudding.
And turn to pudding is exactly what I did today: it was rice pudding today, but I’m open to most every variety, from bread pudding, to stirred pudding, to sticky pudding, and even ready-made cups of pudding when time is short.
Pudding is a simple luxury. Unlike foie gras with blackberry gastrique or egg and basil roulade with yellow tomato coulis, you do not need to “understand” pudding. You just eat it. When you are filled with doubt, the thing about pudding is that you can count on it. It has no nasty surprises, no guesswork. Pudding cheers, fills, comforts and makes you feel, for a few fleeting moments, safe.
Elaborate foods may be just the thing when a person is in tip-top fighting form, but in this month of deep winter (made deeper with Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for six more week’s of it), most people would be much better off with a dish of pudding to revive the spirit.
A few year’s back, when I was feeling particularly low, a friend instructed me to dress myself, make a pot of tea, and plunk myself in a chair until she arrived.I plunked and sipped until she finally came by and presented with a glorious dish of rice pudding and a big spoon. I did not know that I wanted rice pudding, but somehow she knew it was exactly what I needed.
Once I was back to being myself, I asked her for the recipe. It is rich and creamy, with plenty of vanilla and a sprinkling of spices (the latter of which are highly adaptable to your tastes and what’s in the pantry). You can add raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, chocolate or a sprinkling of nuts; it doesn’t need them, but any would make an excellent addition.
I’ve since done some tinkering with the original rice pudding recipe to lighten it (e.g., evaporated milk in place of light cream, a bit less sugar, and a few less egg yolks), but it is still a wonderful form of edible therapy. The second recipe, my chocolate pudding, is one I developed last year for my cookbook (it came out last October), Enlightened Chocolate; it ranks high on my list of favorites.
And while I would never turn down a world-class meal at a fine restaurant, I would happily reverse my steps on a chilly February evening if someone offered me either of these spoon-wonderful puddings.
Enlightened Rice Pudding with Vanilla & Spices
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
1 and 3/4 cups 1% fat milk 1 12-ounce can fat free evaporated milk 1/3 cup sugar
Bring water with salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and stir in rice. Cover pan and reduce heat to low, then cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the milk, evaporated milk and sugar and cook over very low heat, covered, until mixture resembles a thick soup, 50-60 minutes.
In a medium bowl whisk the egg, egg whites, vanilla, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg white pepper, and salt. Whisk about 1 cup hot rice mixture into egg mixture, then stir mixture into remaining rice. Cook over low heat (do not let boil), whisking constantly for 2 minutes.
Transfer pudding to a medium-size dish or six 8-ounce ramekins (or bowls) and chill, its surface covered with wax paper, until cool but not cold, 1 to 2 hours. Makes 6 servings.
(Note: I'll post the nutrition analysis tomorrow--must go and make dinner now!)
Rich, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding
Rich, smooth and decadent: there’s a reason why chocolate pudding is always in fashion.
1/2 cup sugar 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process) 3 tablespoons cornstarch Pinch of salt 2 and 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup milk and whisk to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in remaining milk.
Whisk mixture over medium heat until thickened and beginning to simmer, about 5 minutes. Simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate, vanilla and almond extract until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Divide pudding among four 8-ounce custard cups. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Makes 4 servings.
Camilla’s Note: Pudding can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with and keep chilled.
Nutrition per Serving (1 ramekin of pudding): Calories 247; Fat 5.5g (poly .18g, mono 1.8g, sat 3.3g); Protein 8g; Cholesterol 7.1mg; Carbohydrate 50g. (Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)