Rice pudding is a simple and very old recipe of uncertain origin that began to be common in many households around the beginning of the 18th century, and by the 20th century, it was ubiquitous.
Several countries have their own version -- Spain, Portugal, Turkey and the United States, among others. Milchreis is the German version, made by cooking short-grain rice on the stovetop in milk with sugar and vanilla. Unlike in the U.S., where rice pudding is a comfort food-type dessert that's often found in diners and served with whipped cream and a cherry on top, German milchreis is usually served as a sweet main dish with fruit or compote or simply with sugar and cinnamon on top.
- 1 cup white rice (short-grain)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 cup milk (or 3 cups milk plus 1 cup cream)
- 2-inch piece of vanilla bean (split open; or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- Cinnamon to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Optional: fruit compote
- Mix the rice, sugar and salt in a large saucepan.
- Stir in the milk and add the whole piece of vanilla bean or vanilla extract.
- Place the mixture over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is soft and the milk becomes thick. Stir often.
- Scratch out vanilla seeds and stir into the pudding as it cooks and discard the bean.
- Serve warm with cinnamon and sugar or fruit compote or both.
Cooking in a pressure cooker virtually eliminates any chance of the pudding burning on the bottom. Bring the pudding to a boil in a pressure cooker (no lid) the first time, remove from heat, then fasten on the lid but don't close the vent. Let it sit on the warm burner for 30 minutes. Check the rice and if it is not soft enough, bring it to a boil again and repeat.
Change up this basic recipe by mixing in nutmeg, cardamom, jam or preserves, raisins, dried apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried apples, dried peaches, walnuts, pecans, almonds or a mix of several of these options.
Dried fruit and nuts make a tasty combo. The rice pudding is so mild that you can change the flavor significantly by making additions.
If you are partial to cinnamon, go ahead and mix some into the pudding, as desired, as well as sprinkling it on when you serve the pudding. It goes especially well with raisins if you have chosen to add them.