Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Exploration of Pudding

Today is my oldest niece’s birthday!  She’s turning 12.  Happy birthday, Elizabeth!

Coincidentally, it’s also Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday.  She’s turning 85.  If she makes it 5 more years, she’ll be the longest reigning English monarch ever.  Pretty cool, huh?

I think it’s appropriate to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday with a post about traditional English pudding.

Most of us Americans believe that pudding looks like this:

Homemade chocolate pudding.  One of my favorites!
However, England has a more liberal definition of pudding.  For instance, this is pudding:

Black pudding, aka blood sausage

As is this:

Remember this?  Yorkshire pudding!
It’s all very confusing if you’re not familiar with English tradition.  But basically, a pudding in England is traditionally baked, and it can be anything from black pudding (a black colored sausage) to rice pudding.  And rice pudding is what we’re going to cover today. 

I pulled rice pudding from The Secret Garden.  The movie was always a favorite of mine as a child, because the main character’s name was Mary and she hated “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” being sung at her just as much as I did.  But it’s also a great story.  The author, Frances Hodgson Burnett describes Mary Lennox after she comes in from playing in the garden:

[Mary] had such red cheeks and such bright eyes and ate such a dinner that Martha was delighted.
“Two pieces o’ meat and two helps o’ rice puddin’!" she said. "Eh!  Mother will be pleased when I tell her what th’ skippin’-rope’s done for thee.” (Hodgson Burnett 102-3)

I have seen rice pudding referenced in a lot of other British literature, so I decided to try it.  To my recollection, I have never had rice pudding before this week.  My sisters or mom might tell me otherwise, but trying it on Monday was like trying it for the first time to me.

Most Americans think they have tried rice pudding.  They have probably eaten something like this:

 Or, even better, this:

*shudders* I’m sorry, but if you think you’ve tried homemade pudding, any flavor, by making it from a Jello packet, you are woefully mistaken.  Pudding (the American kind) isn’t even worth the effort unless it’s truly homemade – with milk, eggs, cornstarch and sugar.  Oh man, my mouth is watering thinking of it.

Sorry, that was a tangent.  My point is, rice pudding came from England, and is traditionally baked.   It isn’t much like “Americana” pudding at all.  I got my recipe from, but I did a little research first.  A couple other recipes include eggs, which I liked, but they also include weird ingredients that didn’t seem very traditional, like lemon sauce or raisins.  So I chose this one, because it is not too complex, with subtle flavors that could almost classify it as bland.  It wouldn’t be British otherwise.  :)

Notes: The original recipe called for a vanilla bean.  I replaced it with vanilla extract.  Also, this recipe calls for “caster sugar,” which is a really fine sugar, much like powdered sugar, except that powdered sugar has cornstarch in it to keep it from getting lumpy.  I put granulated sugar in a blender and blended it for about 30 seconds.  Voila!  Caster sugar.  You could probably get away with using powdered sugar, though.

Blending the sugar
Left: Blended, Right: granulated.  The blended one looks lumpy because it lacks corn starch, unlike powdered sugar.

Traditional Baked English Rice Pudding

·  2 ½ cup whole milk
·  1 ½ tsp vanilla
·  ½ cup short-grain rice
·  3 tablespoons caster sugar
·  2 tablespoons butter
·  1 teaspoon cinnamon
·  1 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Put the rice and sugar in an ovenproof dish. Pour the milk over the rice. Stir in Add the spices and vanilla and stir to mix, then dot the surface with butter.
  3. Bake uncovered for 2 hours. After about 40 minutes, stir the surface skin into the pudding, and repeat this after a further 40 minutes.
  4. Allow the pudding to finish cooking for the final 40 minutes without stirring.
After 1st 40 min.  It was pretty much still liquid.
After 2nd 40 min. Hardened skin on top, but liquidy underneath.
After last 40 min.  All done!
Follow the directions exactly, and you’ll get traditional rice pudding!  It’s a yummy treat.  Cut it into squares and serve.  I like it better cold than hot, but you can serve it both ways.

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about black pudding, click here or here. Be prepared to be grossed out!


BrittanyDanielle said...

Yea...that black pudding made me want to be sick. Especially because I thought you were actually going to make it! Good thing I kept reading :)

Rachel said...

I don't like rice pudding or horchata... but Jedd loves both. It makes sense you like it, since you love rice so much.

Carrie said...

Tacy and I tried black pudding when we were in the UK - disgusting.