Rice Pudding

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I LOVE rice pudding. It was a big treat for us growing up in a household where desserts were a rarity. And it was a dessert that, like apple crumble, was totally legal for BREAKFAST too! My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I’ve made it too.

I’ve been hankering for it recently, and I realized I haven’t made it in almost a decade. BECAUSE THE PIE *HATES* RICE PUDDING. So in all the years we’ve been together I’ve only made it once.

Well that’s about to change. If he doesn’t like it, then it means I can have the whole thing to myself for breakfasts and desserts for, like, a WEEK.

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Now there’s kind of two schools about rice pudding – there’s the totally squishy school of puddings, where the rice pudding actually is more pudding like – and then there’s the baked pudding school, where it’s more like a casserole with custardy bits surrounded by crunchy. I’m kind of somewhere in the middle, but on this one I’m going to go with the more creamy stove-top version. I also like mine with raisins and orange zest and cardamom and lots of cinnamon so if you don’t, well – just leave them out. But I’m going to judge you for that. I won’t judge you for replacing dairy with coconut milk – that stuff goes well with everything.

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The type of rice you use can determine how creamy your pudding will turn out, and as traditionally this dish likely emerged from leftovers, take a look at what you’ve got stored in your fridge. If you use arborio rice, for example, your pudding will be very much like risotto (because that’s what arborio rice is for). Short or medium grain rices will also make for more creamy puddings. And then the spices you use all depend on which grandma’s recipe you’re using, and where that grandma is from. So this is *my* version, that I came up with after some experimentation. It’s not quite my mother’s. It’s not quite my grandmother’s. It’s all mine. I’ll be the grandma some day with this recipe.

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Before you start, measure out 2 cups milk or cream and crack open a 400mL can of coconut milk (or use any combination thereof).

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Beat up 1 egg and put that in a dish. Actually, scratch that. Put an egg in a dish. THEN beat it. Hard to do it the first way ’round.

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Zest as well 2 oranges and put the zest in a dish. Juice the oranges and drink up that glorious vitamin C. You’re gonna need it – winter is coming.

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Now, grab 1 cup arborio rice (the risotto stuff).

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I plopped it in a large pot with 2 tablespoons butter and let the butter get all melty and bubbly and stuff.

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Then I poured in 2 cups water and brought the whole thing to a simmer.

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FOR LIKE EVER. Seriously it takes forever to cook risotto. Keep stirring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

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Getting there …

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… almost there …

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When you can kind of scoop it to one side and it doesn’t flow back super fast you’re probably ready for the next step.

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Now you can pour in the milk and give it a stir. Tip in the egg as well and stir it around before the milk gets hot enough to curdle the egg.

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Bring it to a simmer and let the mixture begin to thicken, which it will do pretty quickly. While that’s happening, I grabbed 1/2 cup raisins and left them to soak in 2 splashes warm water and 1 splash bourbon (optional).

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Tip some honey into the pot until it’s sweetened to taste. I used about 1/4 cup honey.

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You can add in your orange zest now, as well as 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cardamom.

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Then I chucked in the raisins, bourbon-water and all.

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Lower the heat and allow that to simmer, stirring occasionally.

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The liquid will begin to disappear.

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We are almost there. I dig those totally round air bubble pockets.

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When the pudding is at a consistency that you like (i.e., when you stir it the liquid doesn’t form pools) then it’s ready to serve. You can enjoy it hot and liquidy or cold and solid – it’s entirely up to you!

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I don’t know what this is … Apple Cheesecake Maybe?

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Okay.  So.  I’m cleaning out my freezers.  This means that sometimes I come up with odd things to eat.  Today’s experiment resulted from the discovery of half a package of puff pastry and a plastic container filled with leftover cupcake frosting.  And so it begins.

Now, I’m not putting up this recipe specifically because I think it’s something you should make yourself.  It all depends on what you have hanging around your house.  This is more to show you that you can use your imagination when it comes to throwing a few ingredients together.

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Anyway, here’s what I did.  Preheat your oven to 375°F and haul out a large pie plate.

I had a small plastic tub full of what looked to be about 2-3 cups cream cheese frosting leftover from various adventures.  Basically it amounts to cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, and vanilla, and it’s fantastic.  It freezes really well, too.

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So I dumped that in a bowl and added 3 eggs to it, for cohesion.

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Then I finely chopped up 4 apples (three Red Delicious, one Granny Smith, for tartness).  Chuck those into the frosting mix.

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I also managed to cleanly slice off most of my thumbnail, but don’t worry, it didn’t make it into the dish.

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Gave it a stir.  The apples and the frosting, not my thumb. Obviously.

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Took my half package puff pastry and set it out on a floured surface.

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Rolled it out thin enough to fit in my pie plate with some overlap.

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Filled it most of the way with my apple filling.

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Gathered the corners together.

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It kind of sort of looks like I did it on purpose, no?

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I had extra filling so that went into a casserole dish.

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Then I baked them for an hour, until the mess in the casserole dish was cooked through in the centre.

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And the puff pastry was crackly and brown.

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We ate this warm with a bit of ice cream, like it was a pie, but you could eat it like a pudding, too.

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Slutty Brownies for My Birthday

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It’s my birthday.  Hooray!  Happy birthday to ME!

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As such, it means I can do whatever the eff I want to do today.  And I choose to be totally lazy and completely unhealthy and make these brownies*.  I’ve been hearing amazing things about this thing called a “slutty brownie,” and after looking them up on the interwebz I decided to go to the source, which, apparently, is a lady known as The Londoner.  Seems legit.  I could definitely get behind this sort of recipe.

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Normally I’m not one to make stuff out of pre-packaged food.  It’s just not my style.  For the most part, if you make something from scratch it tastes way better and is far more satisfying to make.  In this particular case, however, I think I can make an exception.

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It IS my birthday, you know.  But I have to say that the word “chocolatey” versus “chocolate” is always worrisome, though these did include real chocolate after all.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking dish with parchment.  I figured that seeing as some of the contents of my dish would fit normally into a square pan, and because I had extra ingredients on top of that, I should use a bigger pan.

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So you take a some chocolate chip cookie dough. In the British version, cookie dough comes in a box like cake and brownie mix, but here, unless you want it in bulk, it generally comes pre-made in refrigerated rolls.  The Londoner recommends using a teaspoon extra oil and water than recommended for the dry mix, because the cookie dough will be baking longer than usual and might dry out.  And you want this baby to be moister than moist.  So mix that up according to directions and add a bit more liquid. Smoosh the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan.  Use your fingers to make it all even and stuff. I decided I needed an extra roll of cookie dough.

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Take a package of Oreo cookies (double-stuffed is better, apparently), and line them up in the tray.  She says not to use the broken ones, but how else would one fill the gaps?  It’s thrifty.  However, I didn’t have any broken ones.  Way to go, modern packaging.

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And I didn’t have enough Oreos, actually.  So I moved everything to a smaller pan, which just involved some re-smooshing, and was very easy.

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Still didn’t have enough Oreos, though, and I couldn’t justify going out for another package when I was only a few short.

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So I just moved them over a bit.

THEN.  Then.  You take a box of brownie mix.  And you mix that up according to its directions. Mine had chocolate chunks in it!

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No need to add anything extra.  Just do it.  Giv’er.

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Pour that loveliness over top of the Oreos.  I’m serious.  Do it.  If you used a bigger pan like me you will need to spread it carefully so everything is covered.

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Bake that sucker for 40-50 whole minutes, then remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.  Mine was big, so it actually took an hour.  A smaller pan would probably take you about 30 minutes. Look at that lovely shiny/crackly top!

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When it’s still a little warm, use the parchment as handles to remove the gloriousness from the confines of the pan, set it on a cutting board, and cut it up.  I recommend smallish cubes, as larger cubes of the stuff might result in DEATH.  And nobody likes death.

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Serve it up with a dollop of ice cream on top, or whipped cream, or caramel sauce, or fudge sauce, or all four in combination.  With a cherry on top.  And sprinkles.  Okay maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

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And I’m not going to give you storage instructions because if you have any sense, there won’t be any left to store.

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* This is actually a lie.  I don’t do ANYTHING on my birthday.  It’s a rule.  I made these a week BEFORE my birthday (because despite what you may believe I don’t get up at the crack of dawn and bake in time for a 7AM NST post).  The Pie is creating a magical birthday cake for me as we speak.  There may be a post on it.  Who knows.

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Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

I had to fill in (on rather short notice) for one of the members of my Sweet Treats group at work, and so this is what I came up with.  I LOVE (love, love, love) meringues.  Always have.  In fact I think they’re the first thing I ever baked.  And so every time I make something with egg yolks I take advantage of the extra whites and whip up a batch.  The Pie isn’t a huge fan of the crispy, chewy, sugary goodness, but that hasn’t stopped me yet.  I’ve even branched out and made different varieties of chocolate meringue, one of which I posted about here.  But I keep seeing fruity versions, so I thought I’d give that a go.  Most of the recipes call for food colouring and raspberry or strawberry extract, neither of which are particularly yummy to me.  I mean, I understand why you would use them in this case — the fluffy egg whites are pretty delicate and would collapse if you put too much heavy stuff into the mix.

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But I think we can give this a bit of a go, with some real fruit.  We just have to be very careful.

What you need is some egg whites, at room temperature.  I have some pasteurized egg whites that came in a carton which has been sitting in my freezer since Cait and Jul were here, so I might as well use that. Then you need some cream of tartar, which is your stiffening agent. And some sugar.  For sweetness.  Obviously.  You can use any sweetener you like, but I prefer the ease of good old regular sugar.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

And you need some fruit.  I’m going to use about a cup and a half of frozen raspberries here, which I thawed, and I’m going to gently stew them for a little bit with 1 teaspoon corn starch.  To prevent lumps of corn starch forming, mix the spoonful of starch with a small amount of the raspberry juice first, to form a slurry (this technique works really well when adding thickener to gravies, too).  I added in a tablespoon or so of sugar, just to get rid of the bite of the raspberry acid.

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Then I’m going to strain them (and by that I mean shove the mess through a sieve with a spoon), and come out with a nice little coulis.  Let that cool for a bit.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Now you can start your meringues.  Preheat your oven to 250°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

The regular proportions I use come from The Joy of Cooking, and involve 4 egg whites1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla (which I made from rum!) and 1 cup sugar.  You can multiply or divide this recipe however you wish.  In my carton o’ egg whites the label says there is the equivalent of 8 egg whites, so I’m going with that proportion, which is a double batch.

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Of course, I didn’t learn until after I’d put it all together that pasteurized egg whites (such as those that come in a carton) do not lend themselves well to making meringue.  So I had to start all over again.

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SO very much not what I was aiming for.

So you have your room temperature egg whites, and you chuck them in the bowl of a mixer with your cream of tartar and your rum/vanilla, and you beat the crap out of it with your whisk-y thing.  When you’ve got nice foamy peaks, you can start adding your sugar in, a little bit at a time.  Keep beating until you have nice firm peaks.

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That’s more like it!

These peaks not only hold their own weight, but they can support the weight of the heavy metal whisk as well!

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Once the egg whites form stiff peaks, you can gently fold in your coulis.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

I spooned the meringue stuff onto the baking sheets in decent cookie-sized heaps, and ended up with 42 of them.  Bake them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (maybe a bit longer if they’re still squishy on the bottom, and make sure to rotate your sheets if you’ve got them on two levels), and let them cool inside the oven after you’ve turned it off.  If you cool them too quickly they’ll collapse.  Store them in an airtight container and make sure to eat them all within a few days of baking.

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Greetings from inside the oven …

These are strongly reminiscent of those fruit-flavoured hard candies that they hand out in restaurants, that you suck on for a while and then you chew and the inside is all squishy and sticks together.  That’s what biting on these is like.  Taste is very similar, too.

Rum-Raspberry Meringues

Crispy Won Ton Crackers

Add a touch of the fancy to a regular meal by whipping up these super-easy crackers as an accompaniment.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 400°F.

Get yourself a package of won ton wrappers.  You could probably use round dumpling wrappers as well, but I haven’t tried those.  Separate each wrapper and brush both sides with melted butter, using a pastry brush.  If you want to be slightly healthier you can use vegetable oil, but I like the darkness the butter creates.  Place those suckers on your baking sheet.  Don’t fret if they don’t lie flat — they’re going to curl anyway.

Sprinkle the wrappers with salt and pepper.  I added a bit of premixed Tex-Mex spice for flava.  You could probably do a sweet version of these with brown sugar and cinnamon too.

Bake for 5-10 minutes, until the wrappers are crisp and full of bubbles, and they’re as dark and toasty as you want them to be.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then serve.

CRUNCH!

Walnut Cheesecake Squares

These were another creation for a research participant, and I like them because they’re not too sweet.  And because the base is the same as the topping the whole thing is incredibly easy.  This recipe is from Esther Brody’s 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9×13″ pan and line it with parchment paper — then butter the parchment paper as well.

Mix together in a bowl 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, and 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You’re looking for crumbs here, so if you have walnut pieces, pop them in the food processor (slightly more than the cup measure as it will settle) for a spell.

Using a pastry blender:

Or two knives:

Cut in 2/3 cup cold cubed butter until the mixture is entirely coarse crumbs.

This may take a while, so be patient.  Too large pieces of butter will result in holes in your base.

Pour half the mixture into your prepared pan and press it to the bottom.  Set the other half aside.  

Bake the mixture in the pan for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool slightly.

In another bowl, beat 1lb (500g) softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth.

Beat in 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk, then add in 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over that nice warm base.

Sprinkle the reserved base stuff evenly over the top.

Bake the whole shebang for 20-25 minutes more, or until everything is just set, and then remove the pan to a rack and let it cool completely.

Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled squares out of the pan and cut them into squares.

If you have any left, store them covered in your refrigerator.

Raspberry Ice Cream

I’m taking advantage of the berries on sale at the grocery store to make raspberry ice cream out of season.  Obviously, local raspberries would make this frozen treat even better, but we do what we can with what’s available.

Take two cups of fresh raspberries (frozen will also do, just use a little bit less), and wash them and do all that good stuff (though perhaps not if they’re frozen).

Take a cup of granulated sugar.  Y’know, like, a cup.

Pour both the raspberries and the sugar into a food processor.

Blend for about 45 seconds until you have a lovely thick pulp.  Pour the pulp into a strainer suspended over a bowl.

Try not to spill too much.

Use a rubber spatula to force the pulp through the strainer until only seeds remain.  Compost them there seeds.

Now you have a lovely red and now seedless pulp.Add to your lovely red and now seedless pulp a teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 cups whipping cream, and between 1 and 3 tablespoons of a fruit-based liqueur, such as kirsch.  You add the alcohol to make the ice cream softer — David Lebovitz says so.  Swirl that stuff around.Here is where I became an idiot.  My parents’ Austrian neighbour came back from a trip abroad and gave us two little bottles, one of nut schnapps and another of what I thought was kirsch.

Because that’s what it says.  You can see it right there.

But I dumped the whole thing in the mixture before I actually read the rest of the label and discovered it was in actual fact CHERRY BALSAMIC VINEGAR.

Ooops.

But you know, once I mixed everything together, it didn’t taste that bad.  Honest.  I added some of the schnapps as a corrective, as well.  It tasted a little more tart than usual, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I was worried it would be a floor pizza situation, but I figured I would roll with it and see what came of it.

Of course, whether that will affect the quality of the frozen product remains to be seen.  Wrap up your bowl of mix and chuck it in the fridge overnight.

This is also a good time to freeze the parts of your ice cream maker that need to be frozen, if they do.  I have one of these Donvier non-electric turning ones, where you freeze the liner.

The next day, just plop your mix into your maker and follow the instructions for your machine.

With mine the process from thick goo …

… to frozen goo …

Takes about twenty minutes.

Pour out into a freezable container and chuck it in the freezer to harden up.

Serve when you’re ready. 

This version tastes a wee bit like balsamic vinegar but it ain’t bad.  Next time, though, I think I would leave out the vinegar part.