Although it feels odd to say it, my history with rice pudding is a complicated one. My mom ate it often when I was a kid. Not the homemade kind, but the kind that came in a small individual package with a pullback foil top. I had no major objections to it. But this was not my thing, nor my sister’s for that matter; it was simply “mom’s treat”. Fast-forward years later, post-culinary school, when I got my first cooking job. If you’ve read my about me page, my pastry connection is explained a bit more there. Rice pudding was a signature dessert at the club where I cooked, it had always been and it always would be a menu item. It was old school and terrifically popular. Thus I made it in great quantities for the restaurant, for lunch and dinner service as well as private parties. I made it religiously, every other day. I was given some freedom with the recipe. It just needed to be a traditional one, with raisins, I could make it with my eyes closed, and I could tell when it was done by smell. After I left my position there and accepted a position managing a restaurant, I stopped making rice pudding. I was incredibly thankful for that!
Over the past few years, I have begun to see this old classic make its way back onto menus, from the traditional to the unusual. Enough years have passed since my time making rice pudding that I was able to entertain the thought of eating and making this sweet treat once again. This is my recipe for a more modern version of the old classic that once tortured me so. The use of coconut milk lightens this pudding and creates a subtle coconut flavor that I love.
Rice pudding began long ago, a common item in the kitchens of noble kings and queens. Rice, once an expensive luxury import, was only available to the very elite. The first rice puddings resembled more of a savory pudding side dish served along with the entrée. Later, when sugar got incorporated, this specialty item evolved into more of a sweet treat that was served as a dessert. Not until the 18th century, when rice became substantially more affordable, did rice pudding became more common–so much so that large institutions like hospitals and schools offered rice pudding as a cheap dessert that was easy to produce in quantity.
Rice pudding is something you will see all over the world. Recipes greatly vary greatly even within a single country. The classic creamy dessert can be boiled or baked, served warm or cold, with no form or even molded. In New York City, there is even a store that is solely dedicated to rice pudding: at Rice to Riches, you can choose from 19 daily made unusual flavors such as “The Edge Of Rum Raisin“, “Take Me To Tiramisu” and “Hazelnut Chocolate Bear Hug.” They are sold in 6 to 80 ounce containers. Many rice pudding recipes use arborio rice, a short-grain rice that when cooked, stays firm and chewy due to starch content. That said, for this toasted coconut rice pudding recipe, I actually prefer ordinary inexpensive long grain rice such as Uncle Ben’s. If you want to learn more about the various kinds of rice out there, click here. In this recipe, I incorporate shredded coconut within the pudding itself to add texture, in addition to using sweet toasted coconut chips as garnish to separate this pudding from its mushier and blander counterparts. Garnished with a touch of lime zest, this delicious rice pudding recipe is not overly sweet, and makes a great compliment to any meal.
Toasted Coconut Rice Pudding
- For the Toasted Coconut:
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut chips
- 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Pudding:
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 1/2 cups milk, plus an additional 1 cup milk to finish the pudding
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- zest of 1 lime, for garnish
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Step 2 In a small bowl add the egg whites, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla and mix well to incorporate. Add the coconut chips and toss well to evenly coat.
- Step 3 Spread the coated coconut chips out on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes until starting to turn golden brown in color around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool and reserve.
- Step 4 In a medium saucepan add the rice, shredded coconut, coconut milk, heavy cream, 2 1/2 cups milk and the split vanilla bean pod including the seeds. Place over a medium flame and simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid has thickened, about 25-30 minutes.
- Step 5 While the rice is cooking, place the 2 egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in a in a large mixing and whisk until pale and yellow in color. Set aside.
- Step 6 Once the rice has thickened, remove from the heat and slowly whisk the rice mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. Mix well to incorporate. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Pour the rice-egg mixture back into the saucepan you were using. Place the saucepan back on the stove over medium heat. Stir continuously and allow to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Be very careful not to allow the pudding to burn.
- Step 7 Remove form the heat and pour pudding into a glass or ceramic bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool on the counter slightly, about 25-30 minutes.
- Step 8 When the pudding has cooled enough, chill in the refrigerator until cold, at least 1 hour.
- Step 9 When ready to serve, remove the rice pudding from the refrigerator and using a rubber spatula, mix in the remaining 1 cup of milk. Feel free to add additional milk to get the pudding to the consistency you desire. Mix well to incorporate.
- Step 10 Scoop pudding into individual serving dished and garnish with toasted coconut chips and lime zest.