Rice Pudding – Thanksgiving Remix

Ohboyohboyohboy – my favorite time of year has arrived! It’s time to throw out any sense of dietary moderation, surrender any inkling of self control and promise myself that I’ll get back to my once-draconian workout regimen as soon as I finish off that third helping of mashed potatoes… Eh, maybe tomorrow. Yes, the holidays are upon us!

Around our house, Thanksgiving is a two-part affair. Part one takes place down in Figure Five on Thanksgiving day with hubby’s family (if anyone can point out Figure Five on a map, you score some serious bonus points). There we have the basics and the classics: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, Sage’s infamous green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie – the list goes on and on. The flavors are simple, the ingredients are traditional and the portions are enormous. Part two takes place on Friday in Fayetteville at my parents’, where Mom likes to put an unconventional twist on the classics. She’ll add bold seasonings and atypical ingredients to the basic flavors of Thanksgiving dinner, making for a different meal every year, but one that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Rice Pudding Ingredients

In keeping with Mom’s nonconforming ways, I recently made a Thanksgiving-themed dessert that is a comfort classic with a few unexpected ingredients. I took a standard rice pudding recipe and turned up the volume by adding pumpkin, spice and a generous helping of brown sugar and bourbon whipped cream. I started by using Arborio rice, which is the short-grain Italian rice most commonly known for its starring role in risotto. With a high starch content and creamy texture, Arborio would compliment my rice pudding’s consistency perfectly. The remaining ingredients for a classic rice pudding can’t get much simpler: milk, cream and sugar.

A unique addition to my pudding was vanilla sugar. Having scored a Ziplock bag-full of vanilla beans from a friend’s recent trip to India (thanks, Gina!), I used a coveted few to make a jar of vanilla sugar. I simply cut the beans in half and then split them lengthwise down the center, then stuck them in a 16 oz. mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Every day the sugar gets a little more vanilla-y – and every day I have a harder time not sprinkling it over everything from oatmeal to fruit to my tongue.

To put a Thanksgiving spin on my version of this classic, I substituted half the sugar for brown sugar, added a few sprinkles of pumpkin pie spice and a dollop of pumpkin puree. Half an hour on the stovetop with an occasional brisk whisk, and my pudding was done: thick, creamy and decadent. But why not just take it over the top? Next stop: whipped cream, and lots of it.

Time for Treats

To compliment the spiced flavors of the rice pudding, I added a kick to basic whipped cream with bourbon, a few spices and a little brown sugar. A while back, you may recall, I made a similar whipped cream for my sticky bun bread pudding. This one varies slightly, with a little more spice – and lot more bourbon. I also added a thin layer of brown sugar between the pudding and the whipped cream – the brown sugar slowly melts into the warm pudding, creating a super-sweet, syrupy layer between the two.

Pumpkin pie again this year, huh? Why not spice things up with something comforting, decadent and unique? This pudding can be served hot, chilled or at room temperature – whichever you like best. A cute way to serve this holiday pudding is in individual portions, by using 8 oz. canning jars and wrapping each with a cheery bow. Your guests will feel special – and they certainly won’t have to share. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Rice Pudding with Spiced Bourbon Whipped Cream

For the pudding:
2 c. milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Arborio rice
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. vanilla sugar
1/2 c. pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
extra brown sugar for sprinkling
*if you don’t have vanilla sugar, substitute regular
granulated sugar and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the whipped cream:
1 c. heavy cream, chilled
2 Tbs. bourbon
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Melting Brown Sugar

In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine the milk, 1/2 cup of cream, rice, sugars, pumpkin and spice, whisking to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook over low heat for half an hour, whisking occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. Remove from the heat. Divide into jars or serving bowls, and top each with a generous sprinkle of brown sugar.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, combine the chilled cream, bourbon, brown sugar and spice, and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream over the rice pudding and serve immediately, or chill up to 6 hours before serving.

*Side note: I got different textures when using whole milk versus 2% milk. With the whole milk, the texture of the pudding was grainier but thicker, probably due to the higher fat content. With the 2% milk, the texture was creamier but ever-so-slightly runnier. To ensure creaminess, try using 2% milk.

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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.