Rice Pudding, Smoky-Style


Smoky Rice Pudding: Lapsang Souchong Rice Pudding, Caramelized Apples and Quince, Bourbon.

On the day after I posted about my Coffee & Tea Emotion, I heard a sound that I know realize heralded a new dawn for my tea confections: it was a thump on my doorstep. By the time I opened my door, the speedy — and either klutzy or angry — deliveryman was gone, but there was a box waiting for me. A box full of teas, from my friend, Pouneh, who had been privy to my tea/dessert musings in New York.

I’ve started experimenting with the tea that I hadn’t tasted, but had vaguely heard of: Lapsang Souchong. The first time I brewed it — and in fact, every time since — I inevitably find myself wondering: “Who’s BBQ’ing?” The tea’s essence is to utterly smoky that it still astounds me, no matter how I’ve come to expect it.

This smokiness is an amazing gift for desserts. As far as I can tell, pastry people don’t have much in their flavor arsenal for smoke… grilling fruits counts, I suppose, but burning things doesn’t. It seems like lapsang souchong is able to impart a flavor that the molecular gastronomists would envy, but without the molecular finagling. Part of me thinks “And it’s just tea!” but another part me — the part that remembers the month that I spent with natural healers in Belize in 2002 — thinks, “Plant leaves are powerful things.”

I thought about grinding it up like a powder, but I wanted it to be a more elemental part of the dessert, so I thought about an infusion. I turned to rice pudding; I like rice with smoky food and obviously, the sweet creaminess would link it to dessert. Caramelized apples w/ smoke seemed like a yummy seasonal twist. And the bourbon would kick it all up.

And I liked it. Smoky, creamy, fruity, caramely. I also liked how the soft textures of the rice and apples played off each other while the gooeyness of the caramel and creaminess of the pudding did the same. And the bourbon loosened it all up a bit. It was the type of comfort food that makes you close your eyes and savor.

Plating-wise, I swear it looked nice — I just need to figure out how to photograph my lovely Pierre Herme Emotion glasses so that they look good. I thought about adding something to the bottom of the glass for a tri-color effect, but part of me thought: this is rice pudding — it’s just right with something on top of it, not under it.

Rice Pudding: This recipe (halved). I scalded the milk, added the loose tea leaves, covered the pan, let them infuse for 10 mins, tasted, added more leaves to get a stronger flavor (probably 2-3 tbs total), infused for 5 mins, tasted, was happy w/ the flavor, strained it, and got on with making the rice pudding. I tried not to reduce the milk too much b/c I knew that it’d firm up a lot as it cools, but I still went too far — by the time it cooled, it was pretty stiff. When I folded the whipped cream into it, it wound up a bit like rice bound by whipped cream. So, I stirred in more milk, and that fixed it nicely.

I chose this recipe b/c I didn’t want an eggy taste with the tea (many rice puddings are made like an anglaise/pastry cream), but subsequent research brought up that lapsang souchong is often used for tea-marbled eggs and other egg dishes; and eggs and rice works. So, I’d want to try an egg version in the future.

Caramelized Apple and Quince: I used a recipe from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course for the Caramelized Apples. The picture of the gem-like cubes of apples sold me completely on the idea. And they tasted fantastic. I added quince by cutting them into 1/8″ cubes so that they would cook in the same time as the 1/4″ cubes of apples — I used pippin and braeburn, though she recommended mutsus or granny smith. I like this recipe b/c it uses the dry method of caramelizing sugar, but you add the sugar 1/4 cup at a time so that it remains manageable and doesn’t burn as easily, as a whole pot of sugar often does with that method. Butter and apple juice were also added.

The recipe is a little oddly written. You’re supposed to caramelize the apples, and then do other things for the dish she’s assembling, and then return to “melt the caramel” w/ apple juice and butter. Since I was just making the apples, I decided that it was best to let them infuse a bit in the caramel before continuing, after all; some still had to get rid of their opaqueness.

Bourbon: Jim Beam. I just poured a little bit over the apples in the glass. I thought about adding it to the apples and caramel, but they already had their own charm. I like the wetness it gave the dessert — like a bit of raw juiciness to go with the apples.

4 Responses to “Rice Pudding, Smoky-Style”

  1. Catherine Says:

    Wow! Amazing! But this looks like something I’d have to order in a restaurant vs. make. The flavor combos sound wonderful. Bravo!

  2. Nina Says:

    Hehe Thank you! 🙂
    But you could do it! It’s just a matter of infusion — infusing the milk w/ tea, then the rice with milk, and then the apple w/ caramel… and then pouring alcohol over it all. But yeah, I guess it is a matter of having a lot of time to do it — all that does take a while! At least it all keeps well — I’ve been enjoying the leftovers for a couple of days. 🙂

  3. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » S’Mores Candy Bars Says:

    […] My first thought for a S’Mores Candy Bar involved a marshmallow layer, a graham cracker layer, and a ganache infused with Lapsang Souchong Tea. I thought that the smoky flavor imparted by the tea would be a clever way to simulate a campfire smokiness. I infused the cream for 5 minutes for the ganache, and it turned out with a somewhat off-putting smokiness. It wasn’t vegetal from over-steeping, but vaguely sick-making nonetheless, so I didn’t even want to try for a weaker infusion. […]

  4. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » Chocolate Mint, Six Ways Says:

    […] Mandarin Orange-Chocolate Mint Rice Pudding – I based it on this recipe, the same recipe as I used for my Lapsang Souchong Rice Pudding. I infused the milk with mandarin orange peel and mint leaves. At one point, the mint was getting too strong, so I fished it out and left the orange peel in until the flavors were balanced. Then I made the rice pudding. For some reason, though, it took FOREVER for it to cook this time. The rice was so reluctant to soften, and I had to resort to adding water so that the dairy wouldn’t congeal too much around hard rice. […]

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