It seems like I’m breaking free from a cold that has kept my head underwater for the last four days. I’m finally able to smell, and therefore taste, the food I make AND can look at words on a computer screen for more than ten minutes without feeling like I’m being abducted by aliens aboard a ship with bright lights and weird symbols. Not being sick also means I can enjoy dairy with the reckless abandon to which I’ve grown accustomed over the years. I wanted to celebrate all these things – not being sick, regaining the ability to enjoy food, being able to live my life free of haze – with dessert. Celebrations, in my mind, always call for dessert.

The weather is cooling down, so I wanted a celebration dessert that could not only be served warm but also provide the same feeling of full-body warmth, like soups and stews. It had to be chock full of dairy and chocolate, because I needed to up the indulgence ante. Maybe some whiskey, if I could swing it. Lo and behold, I came upon some recipes for rice pudding and my decision was made. Rice pudding fulfills all the requirements listed above, along with the added nostalgia of eating rice pudding my entire life. I grew up eating rice pudding with my family in PA, went on many late night grocery runs with boyfriends to get rice pudding and eat it out of the tub, and now I can add making rice pudding and sharing it with my friends as a adult wanna-be to the nostalgia check-list.

Rice pudding takes a little bit of time to make, but that’s it. The process is straightforward, the ingredients are usually on hand, and the final product is worth every minute of it. I plan to make rice pudding pretty often this coming winter! (My roommate has been warned.)

Chocolate Rice Pudding

(Recipe adapted from My Feasts)

Yields about 4 cups of pudding

Notes: The original recipe calls for ¼ cup arborio rice, but I did a little research and it looked like a lot of people used a cup rice per quart of milk. I took the leap and added an entire cup of rice. The pudding was delicious off the stove and delicious warmed up, but very, very rice-y. If you prefer a higher pudding to rice ratio, I’d recommend using 1/2 to ¾ cup rice (1/4 cup seems like very little if you’re craving rice pudding). Also, the addition of whiskey at the end is optional but AWESOME. If you’re not a whiskey drinker, try Irish crème or another fun liquor. You have a lot of leeway.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

1 cup arborio rice, uncooked

2 tablespoons whiskey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa powder, sugar, salt, milk, and rice. Whisk to fully incorporate all ingredients.

2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, and then reduce heat to low and let pudding simmer gently for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently so the rice does not scorch, until rice is cooked and pudding is thickened.

3. Take pudding off heat and stir in whiskey (if using), vanilla, and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted.

4. Let pudding cool to desired temperature and serve!

Storage: This rice pudding kept well in the fridge for three days, and, although it cooled into a block, was great heated up. Keep pudding in an airtight container. If you decided to store pudding in a bowl and don’t enjoy puddin’ skin, place the plastic wrap cover directly over surface of pudding.

There wasn't a line, but the pies were almost sold by 8:45 am!

Since I work in retail, my “weekends” consist of Monday and Tuesday, which for a long time made me sad because everyone does all the cool things on the real weekend! I thought twice about whining this particular “weekend”, because I was able to not only visit one of my dearest, loveliest friends in New York City, but also because I got to eat lots of dessert! And get a pie for Thanksgiving!

A few days back, I was reading about different bakeries in the city on account of my being obsessed with Baked Explorations, and my friend sent me a link to this article. We had (sort of) been reading about the same place! Around the same time! Holy same-wavelength Batman! After my brain melted a little, I read that the week before Thanksgiving they only make a hundred pies a day, sell them and only them from their storefront, and close up shop once they sell out. The flavors sounded intriguingly delicious (bittersweet chocolate pecan, salty honey, bourbon sweet potato, salted caramel apple, and honeyed pumpkin), and we had to go. It was a necessity. Salty honey?! The thought of salty honey custard made me really excited.

At 8 AM, we trekked from his room in Chinatown to Brooklyn, getting there around 8:30 AM and seeing that they only had a handful of pies left. I panicked a little for no reason, as per usual, but we got our pies, two bittersweet chocolate pecan, and went to Prospect Park to come down from a pie purchasing high. And discuss our next visit to Four and Twenty Blackbirds to try everything else.

It’s sitting in my fridge, calling me… but no, I’m staying strong until tomorrow. You’ll get pictures. I’ll try not to include any of me drooling on a plate.

(Side note: Are pies the new cool thing?)

Because we had to save the pies for Thanksgiving and, well, other people, we had to fulfill our dessert quota for the trip. He mentioned there was a place that ONLY served rice pudding, and I started to make some odd, involuntary noises that are code for “TOO MUCH EXCITEMENT!!!”, which luckily he understood. It’s called Rice to Riches, and it’s set up kind of like a gelato bar, except with rice pudding.  My friend said it reminded me of a retro spaceship from the future, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

They had at least twenty flavors to choose from, among those were pumpkin, cherry mascarpone, chocolate chip, cranberry orange, just to name a few. And you got to choose a topping! And it came in Tupperware! I love Tupperware! I love rice pudding!  We ended up getting a chocolate hazelnut puddin’ with “cloud nine”, or whipped cream, and spiced eggnog with “black magic”, or crumbled chocolate cake bits.

I have a few friends who don’t care for the city, which is understandable in the sense of commotion, noise, buildings, dirt, the sheer amount of flesh squeezed into tiny places, et cetera, but I’ll never be able to rule out New York City, or any city, because of the phenomenal food offerings. NYC in particular, really, because every time I visit, there is always something new and wonderful and DIFFERENT to try, different in the sense of the food or atmosphere. The best part of all? In the city, even Mondays and Tuesdays can feel like a real weekend!

Rice puddin' on a space table. How amazing is that?!