I really love rice pudding. But I'm something of a pudding snob... I know... what are you going to do? Make your own!
I know a lot of folks make rice pudding from left over long grained rice, but it never seems very creamy, and I like creamy. I also am opposed to custard puddings. I mean, I don't want to feel like a sinner for eating the stuff. Well, after a little bit of research and a little bit of trial and error, I came up with a simple, no frills recipe that is absolutely divine. And there are no eggs and no heavy cream. Eat your heart out!
The big thing leading to success in this recipe is the rice grain. In the attached picture, I have long-grain rice and pearl rice side-by-side. It is easy to see the difference between the grains here. The pearl rice is much better at sopping up liquid (which is why it is also used in risottos). However, don't be fooled into buying that expensive Arborio rice unless you absolutely have to. I buy "Arroz Grano Corto" or pearl rice in the Hispanic aisle of my grocery for much less.
1 cup pearl (Arborio) rice
2 cups water
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins
1 - 2" stick cinnamon
Bring water and rice to a boil in a heavy sauce pan (minimum 2 quart size), reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cover and add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium until milk is heated through. Reduce heat back to low and let rice continue to absorb milk, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes, or until milk is mostly absorbed. Watch to be sure it doesn't stick or scorch. Remove cinnamon stick. Pudding is great warm or cold.
You don't have to use the raisins, but they add a very important flavor element to the pudding. If you really can't stand those plump little things in there, I've experimented with simmering the raisins in the water for a few minutes (and then straining them out) before adding the rice and it comes out OK. The pudding is fine without them at all, but as I said, the flavor is much simpler. And this is a great recipe to use those old, almost like a brick raisins in your cupboard. They plump up just as well as the new ones do. Also, while you can use 2% or even 1% milk in here, you will not get the creamy texture without using whole milk. It also will not firm up when chilled unless you use whole milk.
Another way to serve this recipe is as a dessert. Mold pudding in small plastic wrapped bowls or ramekins. Let chill until firmed. Unmold onto a plate and top with something sweet. I made a simple blueberry compote (see below) and poured it over the top. Yummy!
To make the blueberry compote, I put 1 cup of frozen blueberries into a 4 cup glass bowl with 1/4 cup water, 2 teaspoons corn starch, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I microwaved it, stirring frequently until it thickened and the sauce became translucent and shiny. You could do this with just about any fruit and can also make it in a sauce pan on the stove.