July 4th is right around the corner. I need to come up with a dessert to bring to a celebration party far away from home. So it has to be a make ahead dessert that travels well. I was in the middle of making Dorie’s rice pudding, strawberries and spiced hibiscus syrup, chosen this week at Tuesday with Dorie, as we bake through her book, Baking Chez Moi. There was a lot of idle time (30 to 40 minutes) when I just stood next to the stove and stirred in the pot waiting for the simmering rice to thicken to the proper consistency. The idea came to me, out of the blue, that I could easily adapt this rice pudding into an appropriate festive dessert for the party. Substitute blueberries for strawberries, I’d have all the right colors. The red from the hibiscus syrup, the white from the rice and the blue from the blueberries. Just perfect for the occasion.
I like the plan.
The jewel-red color of the syrup comes from steeping dried hibiscus flowers. Can’t really taste anything much from the dry flowers. Something happened. Adding the warm spice of cardamom, handful of bruised peppercorns, a strip of orange peel and the finishing squeezes of lemon juice to the syrup transformed what’s reputedly a homey rice pudding into something quite elegant and sensational.
This has become more than a respectable plan. This dessert has all the optics and the taste.
After one spoonful of the pudding, we were more than convinced that the rice pudding with blueberries and hibiscus syrup can be a real winner. The short-grain Arborio rice imparts a lovely creamy texture to the pudding, similar to that of risotto, except it’s smoother. It shouldn’t be a surprise given the amount of whole milk added, four cups for only half a cup of rice. (I almost ran out of milk. I can think of using almond or coconut milk for a vegan alternative.) The rich creamy texture is further enhanced by the fragrant vanilla bean. These two special ingredients deliver a silky luscious texture and scent that you don’t usually associate with a rice pudding. This is a very satisfying and — highly adaptable — pudding, unlike any other I’ve tasted.
All I need now is to scale the recipe and make the pudding, in larger quantity, to suit a big crowd (which seems to get bigger each year) amid the backdrop of Independence Day festivity by the pond, fireworks and all, nestled in the bucolic New England countryside. Can’t wait to put the plan to the real test on the 4th!
|Red, white and blue pudding and the pursuit of happiness|