When I announced that I’m hosting Sugar High Friday this month, I made a secret promise to myself that I would also make January 2011 a grain-free month: that all the recipes I would publish this month would be void of any grains, true grains. In effect, kind of participating along with you all who are joining in on the SHF grain-free challenge. As well, I also appreciate the simplicity of grain-free baking, which is something I like to fall back on now and then as gluten-free grain-based baking is still sometimes of a learning curve for me as far as how different grains behave and interact with each other, though I’ve learned quickly – and continue to learn.
That said and that personal promise being not so secret anymore, this promise has cracked slightly to allow this rice pudding, which leads me to return to that challenge of food photography I so love. Perhaps it’s because rice is in a clump, virtually shapeless without help and that’s what makes it so danged elusive to take decent pictures of. To make it more visually interesting, I use the sharpen tool on Picnik to make the grains of rice pop a little more. I use a point and shoot – there’s only so much I can do with the camera before I must resort to photo editing, minimal at best.
Anyway, I don’t come on here to stand on a soapbox and rant about my photography shortcomings: this was never the intent of creating this blog nor is it one I intend to embark upon, especially as I’m not yet confident enough or know how to answer questions regarding food photography. If I must rant, I must also give a solution. (Something I’m trying to learn and apply in other areas of my life as well.)
I doubt very few remember but I once posted rice pudding – twice, actually – in my early days of blogging. I’m posting it again not so much out of hope that this time it will be seen but that I think this version is way better. What’s funnier is that I looked at that recipe only once and went from there, just going by feel, and it was while I was adding a little bit of this, a bit of that, I thought to myself that rice pudding really is easy. It’s practically a no-brainer and, unless there’s something really specific about it, you don’t really need a recipe. At it’s most basic it’s just rice, milk, some sort of sweetener, and spices.
There’s always the simple route of rice pudding: a bowl of rice to which milk and spices are added, a drizzle of honey, like eating oatmeal but for some reason I don’t find it that appealing. I will eat it but it’s not my first preference when I want rice pudding. No, I want baked rice pudding. Most, if not all, recipes I find online and in the cookbooks I’ve perused are stovetop ones and you cook the rice in the milk and spices, which I don’t recall anyone in my family doing. We always baked it, made with the leftover rice from dinner and eaten for dessert; leftovers, if any, for breakfast. Whenever I think of rice pudding, I have one memory that always sticks out of me reading The BFG while eating rice pudding when I was little. I remember, too, the old smell of the worn and stained pages of that library book, the spine falling apart; the Brett Helquist illustrations that had an endearing charm of their own.
(The other rice pudding that always drives me crazy is when it uses eggs – what’s the point? I’ve never seen any of my family cracking eggs into a bowl of rice to make pud.)
If I mention photography again, it is only to say that I had a time with a shot of pouring the almond milk over the pudding. Despite it being a little too close, it was the best shot I got out of the batch I did, considering I was holding the camera in one hand and pouring with the other – the camera being in my left hand, which is difficult when the shutter button is on the right side. Are there any left-hand digital cameras, I wonder? (I’m right-handed, but it would be nice to have a left-hand camera, if there is one, for those times I’m doing shots like this singlehandedly.) Plus, not to mention I was taking pictures of someone else’s food and I can quickly get self-conscious when I know they’re waiting to eat and they can see me taking pictures of their food.
The amount of spices is really an estimated amount. When I’m cooking, I usually just dump things in unless I’m being precise and making something within that mindset of a scientist than artist. (Artists will smear the paint across the canvas and let come what may, a practice of intuition, while scientists will measure and meticulously observe every detail, letting not one escape their notice.) Generally, though, like everything, tweak it to your liking: add more, add less.
In regards to the amount of rice, the cup measurement differs slightly if you’re cooking rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop. The amount of a rice cooker cup is typically 180 milliliters, equal to a US cup measurement of 3/4 cup or 240 milliliters. Keep this in mind when you’re using leftover cooked rice and if it was cooked in a rice cooker or on the stove.
Serves 5 to 6, depending on appetites
3 to 4 cups cooked rice (we used long grain white rice here, though we’ve also used brown rice)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened or vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat), tinned or made from scratch
About 1/2 cup unsweetened and unsulphured currants
2 to 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground clove
About 2 tbsp. honey (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Stir the rice, almond milk, and coconut milk together in a large bowl. Mixing in one at a time, add currants, spices, and honey, until completely mixed.
Pour the rice pudding into a large baking dish and spread evenly. If there are parts that aren’t mixed properly, such as the colour being uneven, stir to completely mix. Dust with extra cinnamon, if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!