Baked Rice Pudding (Riz au lait) with plum compote

One great thing about France is you can drive around, stop in any number of small towns, from the Jura to Normandy, and check out regional specialties. People often come to Paris and ask about where they can get a good cassoulet, or bouillabaisse, and they look positively crestfallen when I tell them they really need to go to Gascony or Marseille, respectively, if they want to get the real deal. Some dishes are so specialized, though, that even the locals might not have heard of them, as was the case when we were trying to find Kig ha farz in Brittany, and no one I asked about it, even knew what it was.

People were looking at me like I was speaking in some crazy language, which the Breton language might sound like to someone (especially when spoken with an American accent), but when I finally found someone who did know what it was, she said that we had to go to another part of Brittany to get it.

Although I have a Kig ha farz recipe on my site, I did come across another one in a book of Breton recipes I picked up while there. I know people in Brittany have a sweet tooth, as evident by all the Kouign amanns in every bakery, and even at roadside stands, but their recipe called for 3/4 cup/150g of sugar, which seems a lot for a dumpling that gets paired with meat and vegetables. (My recipe has 1 tablespoon.)

The book, however, inspired me to make the recipe for baked rice pudding that was in it. It was titled Riz au lait au four de la voisine which referenced a time when les femmes brought their rice pudding to the local baker, which they would cook using the residual heat of the ovens, once they were done baking their loaves of bread for the day.

While everyone is going on and on about all sorts of plums that are in season where they live, the humble quetsche, also called Italian prune plum, or damson plums, remains a favorite of mine. Right now, they’re abundant at the Paris markets. Like mirabelles (and bagels), les quetsches inspire a frenzy of interest in France, and in places where they’re not easy to come by. I’m into any kind of plum, to be honest, and prune plums come at the end of the summer stone fruit season, sticking around through the first part of fall. I like their concentrated flavor and they make a lovely jam-like compote when baked in the oven.

The recipe in the book didn’t, um, quite work as well as the picture indicated, so I retooled it, dialing down the sweetness, and upping the creaminess quotient by cutting back on the rice, and cooking it longer. It went through a few iterations in my kitchen until I got it right.

Making a baked rice pudding requires a leap of faith. You need to take it out of the oven when it’s still quite liquidy because it thickens as it sets, which is a little scary. But as it settles into a creamy custard, it’s hard to stop digging your spoon into it while it’s still cooling. (And I’ve got the brûlures in my bouche to prove it.)

The first time I made it, I used a wide gratin dish and it came out a little dry (above), with a flabby top crust that looked nothing like the perfectly browned crust in the book, which was either the work of the rustic fire lapping away at it, or a good food stylist.

I tried it again in a smaller, deeper dish, and it came out fine (below), but was unevenly cooked inside. Some of the bits of rice had separated from the custard, and remained a little too distinct. I wanted a smooth, meltingly creamy pudding. I also swapped out the vanilla bean with a couple of bay leaves, which took it in a direction I didn’t want to go in.

So I gave it another go. I remembered a Spanish rice pudding from Penelope Casas that I made many years ago, that called for what seemed like an unreasonable amount of milk (I can’t find the recipe but I think it was measured by the gallon…), and just a few spoonfuls of rice, cooked on the stovetop, until your arm fell off. This time I stirred the rice while it was cooking in the oven, every so often, in favor of getting that silky texture I was looking for, and saving my right arm for more important tasks, like writing this all up.

The other upside of baking the rice pudding is that you can bake the plum compote to go along with it. So there’s that, too.

People often describe rice pudding as “comfort food,” but I’m going to go a step in another direction and call it “something hard to photograph.” It’s creamy, runny, and hard to control, with errant bits of rice running amok and plum syrup going all over the place. It’s sort of the plain-Jane of the baking world. At some point, I’m going to have an in-house food stylist on call, but until that day comes, it’s rice pudding, in a bowl, with fruit alongside it.

I’ve seen recipes that say you can use any kind of rice for rice pudding, but I used round rice. Arborio or bomba rice fit that category, although the more ordinary (and less-expensive) riz rond is what most French people use for riz au lait. In fact, on the package, it says “Idéal pour les Desserts.” After all that testing, I wanted my rice pudding to be idéal, and it was.

When also using my non-tired arm to upload photos to this post, I realized the plums were so delicious that I couldn’t resist eating one of them while I was taking the pictures, hence the missing quetsche between the picture above and the one below, hence the discrepancy. Which I’m not apologizing for. It was delicious.

[Be sure to scroll down after the recipe. I’ve written up some notes about the blog, and upcoming activities that you might be interested in.]

Baked Rice Pudding (Riz au lait) with plum compote
Print Recipe
6 servings
This recipe is open to lots of variations. Instead of the vanilla, you could flavor the rice pudding with a cinnamon stick or two, a dusting of nutmeg, some orange zest, or maybe a dash of orange flower water with a few cardamom seeds. A handful of raisins or dried cranberries (or cherries) would also be a nice addition, added right at the startI used round rice, which is also known as short-grain rice in the U.S., and is available in most supermarkets and grocery stores. Arborio or bomba rice could be used.For those avoiding alcohol, in lieu of the wine, use water or apple juice, to help create extra sauce with the plums. The sugar can be replaced with 2 tablespoons of honey and, like the vanilla bean in the rice pudding, a cinnamon stick or spices (such as star anise or allspice) can replace the vanilla.The compote is even better the next day, when the juices have had time to thicken, so feel free to make it in advance. It can be served at room temperature or warm.
For the rice pudding
1/2 cup (105g) round rice, such as short-grain rice
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out
4 cups (1l) whole milk
2 tablespoons (30g) butter, salted or unsalted, cubed
For the plum compote
1 1/2 pounds (700g) prune plums
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine (see headnote)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out
1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC).
2. In a 2-quart baking dish, or larger, with high sides, mix the rice, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean & seeds. Pour in the milk. Mix it with the other ingredients, then strew the bits of butter over the top.
3. Place the dish of rice in the oven, stirring the rice every 10 to 15 minutes, being sure the scrape the bottom of the baking dish to avoid any grains of rice sticking there. Don't worry if the top starts to brown; simply stir that in*.
4. While the rice pudding is baking, make the compote by slicing the plums in half and removing the pits. Lay them cut side down in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the wine over the plums, sprinkle them with sugar, and tuck the vanilla bean between some of the plums, so it's mostly submerged in liquid. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until the plums are soft and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the plums.
5. Bake the rice for 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring as directed. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes, to thicken, stirring occasionally. The rice will seem very liquidly, but will thicken up as it stands. (See note, below.)

Serving: Serve the rice either warm, at room temperature, or chilled with fruit compote. If plums aren't in season, it's lovely served with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce, poached pears, sliced fruit, or even a dollop of your favorite jam.

*(There may be bits of browned topping mixed into the rice pudding, which I don't mind.)

Checking for Doneness: Baking this rice pudding requires a bit of a "leap of faith," since it'll still be quite liquidy when it comes out of the oven. I did a little video of it here, of how the rice pudding looks when it's best to remove it from the oven. If for some reason it's still too milky when cooled, you can cook it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring it frequently, until it's the texture you'd like it to be.

Notes: I haven't tried this with nut milk or other types of milk (including coconut or oatmeal), but it should work. Since there are no eggs, it's quite possible to make it a non-dairy dessert. If you do try it with an alternative milk, feel free to share how it works out in the comments.

 


Some Blog Notes!

-I’m in the process of upgrading the server on the site. It’s going to make loading the pages a lot faster and will be taking place over the next few days, more or less. The site may experience a bit of downtime while making the switch, and if it does, it’s only temporary. Thanks for your patience while the work is going on.

-I’ve finally finished the Paris Bakeries page here on the site. I spent the last few years visiting the pastry and chocolate shops of Paris, hundreds of them in fact, taking photos at each address (well over a thousand!) for my Paris Pastry App. However, the technology got the best of me and it eventually won. I was unable to keep up with the technical demands and constant maintenance of the app, and I and my partner/editor for the app went through three teams of app developers trying to get it right.

Making it even more of a challenge was shops would change hands, open additional addresses, move to another neighborhood, close, or the quality might change, and it was impossible for us to keep up as we couldn’t update the app whenever we wanted to. So I made the difficult decision not to continue it. (In addition, the publisher folded.) If you have the app on your phone, it will still work…unless Apple changes its iOS, which was another challenge we faced : (

The upside is that because my original intent was to have a comprehensive list of Paris pastry and chocolate shops out there, I’ve built a page on the blog and put my favorites there. You can access it by clicking on the menu bar at the top of the page, where it says “Paris Bakeries.” I’ll be adding more in the future, with updates new discoveries.

-I’m going to be on book tour this fall and winter in the U.S. for my upcoming book, L’appart, which is now available for pre-order. I’ve put the dates and locations that are confirmed on my Schedule page and have been making Facebook Event pages for the appearances, where you’re welcome to RSVP so the venues know how many people to expect. Due to space considerations, some events are ticketed and may require signup, and others will be open to all.

I’m going to be adding more places in the next few weeks. As much as I’d love to, I’m doing my best to go to as many places as I can. But if there is a venue in your city that would like to host me, there is a link on my Schedule page for them to contact my publisher, to make arrangements.

-You may have noticed that the blog is sporting fancy new social media “sharing” buttons. Sharing has always been a big part of the internet, and blogging, so if you like a post, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with others. Thanks…for sharing!

-Lastly, I’ll be taking a break for a couple of weeks to recharge. I’ll be turning off comments next week while I kick back, and will be back shortly with more stories and recipes.

– David

Baked Rice Pudding: Your search for the perfect rice pudding ends here!

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49 comments

  • Adele
    September 7, 2017 5:09pm

    Oh it looks so good! And I love plum compote, which we called stewed plums when I was growing up and my Mom would make it at the end of every summer.

    Last Fall, we stayed overnight in a wonderful B&B near Mont St. Michel, and the baked rice pudding was served at breakfast, as a traditional Breton dish. It was so smooth it was hard to tell it had ever been rice, with a rich, cinnamon-y flavor. Alongside was a sampling of homemade jams (I’m sure one of them must have been plum!) Reply

  • Terri
    September 7, 2017 5:15pm

    After visiting Normandy my husband fell in love with Teurgoule. We make that occasionally. Learning to let it cook as long as it does was kind of scary – 5 to 9 hours depending on the recipe but it causes the rice to start breaking down and it comes out creamy and delicious. We took a huge double batch to a potluck of about twelve people and came home with an empty bowl! Reply

  • Britta
    September 7, 2017 5:17pm

    This Is Just To Say
    William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    saving
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold Reply

    • September 7, 2017 5:24pm

      !!!!! My first thought – after being desperate to make this beautiful dish, of course! Reply

  • September 7, 2017 5:32pm

    Rice pudding is so ubiquitous in the yogurt aisle, that it’s useful to get a recipe for making it from scratch–this looks infinitely more tempting than the industrial pots at the supermarket. (Maybe that’s a dangerous thing.)
    For cassoulet, send folks to Castelnaudary or Carcassonne! Reply

  • Evelyn
    September 7, 2017 5:36pm

    Enjoy a well deserved rest! Gotta recharge that wonderful wit:-) Reply

  • Laura
    September 7, 2017 5:46pm

    Just happen to have a bowl of beautiful dark plums. Will definitely try to follow your recipe. It seems like the perfect dessert, as we transition in to Fall. Reply

    • September 7, 2017 5:49pm
      David Lebovitz

      I love baked plums. The cooking seems to melt the tart skins and juicy flesh so nicely. If you use another type of plum, check the baking time – they may take more of less, depending on variety, ripeness, etc. Reply

  • Sharon
    September 7, 2017 5:51pm

    David, where I grew up, and also where I live now, what were/are sold as prune plums are not like Damsons at all – they have much less tang. Maybe there are regional differences in using the name. But what I used to eat out of hand as prune plums would have very little character cooked. Reply

    • September 8, 2017 8:25am
      David Lebovitz

      I asked a friend who is a master gardener about the varieties of plums (like Montreal bagels, people seem to have the same attachment to Damson plums), and he said that so many of these plums have been crossed and hybridized, it’s hard to pinpoint the actual variety in many cases.

      Indeed, when I was buying quetsches at the market here, they had two other varieties of “prune” plums that were remarkably similar; Stanley (which were the same shape, but larger), and another one whose name escapes me.

      Most plums increase in flavor when baked, due to the tartness of the skins, but you can use a variety of plum that you like in this recipe – it’s pretty adaptable! Reply

  • Thea
    September 7, 2017 5:58pm
  • Vivien
    September 7, 2017 5:59pm

    I love baked rice pudding. My mom made rice pudding this way and so of course I am somewhat biased to the point that I find rice puddings made on a burner quite lacking. But…. Mum made hers with whole milk like you do in your recipe. I usually opt for 1/2 & 1/2 or occasionally coffee cream and sweeten it usually with maple syrup being Canadian. I have never used baked plums but will try now but usually use fresh raspberries or peaches when in season and just plain old rice pudding otherwise. Good even cold for breakfast. Yummmm Reply

    • Vivien
      September 7, 2017 6:20pm

      PS … Mom and I, like you, don’t use eggs in our rice puddings either. So no custard type rice puddings here. Yippeeeee Reply

  • Dee Ann
    September 7, 2017 6:01pm

    Ah, damsons…my mom made the best preserves with them…left the seeds in…only family members and very close friends ever got to taste them and we all knew to watch for the seeds…like a treasure hunt in your mouth…all teeth intact for everyone. Reply

  • Petra
    September 7, 2017 6:31pm

    This is how I grew up making rice pudding, and is still my favorite kind of rice pudding. We used to add a strip of lemon peel while it was baking to flavor the pudding.

    I have made it with almond milk, which works although the end product won’t be quite as creamy white – it turns a little tan which isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but still very tasty.

    I’ve also done it with coconut milk – both the full fat version that comes in cans, and the lower fat (45 calorie – unsweetened) version that comes in cartons. Reply

  • September 7, 2017 7:29pm

    Damson plums or Zwetschgen as they are called in Germany are so delicious.There are not available here in California, I miss them. In Germany these plums are made into a thick dark jam that is cooked for hours in a large kettle. It’s called Zwetschgenmus. Luisa Weiss has some great recipes in her book and on her website.
    Your rice pudding looks divine. Reply

  • Irene K.
    September 7, 2017 8:13pm

    This type of plum sometimes available at Berkeley’s Food Bowl. This is the best kind for making jam, compote, prunes and even making brandy (but that’s a different subject).
    As for the rice pudding, our (Hungarian)recipe calls for making it on stove top – almost like cooking grits – and sprinkle the top with sugar and cocoa powder. Reply

  • Rochelle Mansfeld
    September 7, 2017 8:20pm

    In the New Zealand version (Edmonds – the doyenne of NZ cooking/baking) they leave the rice to soak with the milk and sugar for half an hour pre-cooking – maybe that’s how they get the lovely creamy effect.
    http://edmondscooking.co.nz/recipes/desserts/rice-pudding/ Reply

  • Gina Bisaillon
    September 7, 2017 8:43pm

    Ah,nostalgia! You have brought me back 50 years, when a favourite chain of restaurants here in Montreal (Murray’s) had “rice custard pudding” on the menu – the only place where you could get baked rice pudding – and it was wonderful. They served it with cream on the side, but that plum compote would have worked as well. Reply

  • Gina Bisaillon
    September 7, 2017 8:45pm

    P.S. My Mexican sister-in-law puts a cinnamon stick, some lemon rind and vanilla in her rice pudding – the best combination I feel. Reply

  • Louise Yenovkian
    September 7, 2017 9:07pm

    Can’t wait to try the plum compote. With our California plums, this will be delicious. Thank you David for posting. Reply

  • Joycelyn
    September 7, 2017 9:27pm

    Being Brit born, Canadian raised, it was only baked rice pudding in my parents home, grandparents home ( also Brits) and my home. There’s no stirring mid bake as the pudding always went in the oven with the roast or other dishes needing baking.

    You actually forgot the most important part, the sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg on top before baking.

    Everyone fought over who’d get the crusty skin that formed! Reply

  • StrictlyMystic
    September 7, 2017 10:45pm

    In addition to that scrumptious looking dessert, I really like your pairing of the checked blue towel with the circle-edged plate in your photograph. Reply

  • Brad McNeal
    September 7, 2017 11:24pm

    Always love it when an alcohol substitute is noted.
    Also I like to know if the dish should not be prepared if no alcohol substitute should be used. Reply

  • Andrea
    September 7, 2017 11:51pm

    David, thanks for all the hard work so I can look like a hot shot when I put this luscious dish on the table.
    Enjoy your weeks off; we’ll be busy catching up on previous posts. Reply

  • Martha
    September 8, 2017 12:58am

    This rice pudding recipe is very similar to the one my grandmother always made. So good! And the plum compote is a perfect compliment. Have an enjoyable and restful break! Reply

  • Angharad
    September 8, 2017 1:50am

    There were always fights over the brown skin on top of the pwdin reis growing up in Wales. ( A close cousin to Brittany btw) Always had it with a spoonful of jam. Whole milk, round rice and sugar Reply

  • Gavrielle
    September 8, 2017 4:57am

    I’m very intrigued by the plum compote as I have a damson tree and there’s only so much jam one can eat, but I’m a bit hesitant as I’m not sure damsons are edible other than as jam as they’re so very (deliciously) tart. I’m wondering if prune plums are sweeter maybe? Reply

    • Gavrielle
      September 8, 2017 6:03am

      Right, a bit more research and I’m convinced this is doable with damsons. Just have to stone the little darlings now… Reply

  • Barbara Schuppe
    September 8, 2017 5:00am

    This recipe is very similar to the Swedish version I grew up on–except minus the vanilla and butter and sprinkled with cinnamon when the skin formed. It is baked at275-300F for about 2 1/2 hrs. No need to stir at all. It is comfort food for sure. Plum compote will be tried soon as an addition. Thanks for the memories. Reply

  • Jessica
    September 8, 2017 5:30am

    This looks incredible and I think I could cozy up to this every night. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy your rest from social media, it’s well earned. Reply

  • Jessica
    September 8, 2017 5:34am

    Over the moon excited that you’re coming to DC! Reply

  • Nandi
    September 8, 2017 6:17am

    Dear David, I treasure your blog posts! They lift my spirits. Your recipes are always carefully presented and I thank you for sharing everything you do so generously with the rest of us!
    Blessing, Nandi  Reply

  • Michele
    September 8, 2017 11:24am

    Hi there, baked rice pud is standard fare for us Brits. We have pudding rice easily and cheaply available in supermarkets – it’s like a cheap risotto rice.

    Most of the UK’s pudding rice comes from around Venice, which suggests that it’s close to arborio in type. Short grain round rice should easily be available in the US since the States is the 4th largest exporter of rice.

    A few comments on your recipe David: we Brits would make it in the proportion of 1:8 rice:milk. So 150g rice with 1.250L whole milk. The richer the milk the better and you can even substitute a can of evaporated milk for 400ml. I’d only put 50g sugar (otherwise too sweet), stick in a vanilla pod, MUST grate the top with nutmeg, and bake it at 150C for 2 1/2 hours WITHOUT stirring – otherwise you will spoil the nice brown top. This longer cooking will deal with the unevenly cooked rice grains, so everything will get properly soft.

    But thank you for reminding me how nice rice pud is! I appreciate all your recipes. Best, Michele Reply

  • September 8, 2017 12:09pm

    Great Job!. You have once to try the Turkish version of rice pudding: sutlac in fact Sütlaç. one day I noticed that my mother made the best pudding when I pudding at a friend of my parents by chance. I asked my mother what the problem was and she told one by one the key point how to make Sütlaç. With her experience, I once shared a pudding recipe on my blog. (sorry for bad Eng. I hope you can understand my comment) :) Reply

  • KarenTheCondimentQueen
    September 8, 2017 2:57pm

    Oh, just YUM on the plums…must search far & wide for those here in The South. Until then, Roasted Peaches with Sorghum and Rice Pudding in the Zojirushi. Perfect every time! Reply

  • Bebe
    September 8, 2017 4:08pm

    The plums in your photo are what we call Italian prune plums. Very dark skin, rather egg shaped, yellow-green inside. They cook into the most glorious richness, beautifully red. Beyond yummy. Laurie Colwin adored them and offered many recipes for compote and other delicious things. She baked her compote.

    We get them for a very short time at the end of September-early October (Southern California) and when they are gone, they’re gone. Costco used to have them in 4 lb. clamshells and I’d pit and freeze them in halves, packed flat in 1 qt. freezer bags. Haven’t seen them there for several years. Reply

    • Bebe
      September 8, 2017 4:20pm

      Marian Burros’s plum torte (for which she preferred Italian prune plums) was the New York Times’s most requested recipe. Here it is from Epicurious, where they don’t require a subscription:

      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/plum-torte-108123

      This is the cake-like deliciousness that I’ve made since it first showed up in the NYT in the 1980s. This version uses 24 plum halves, which totally cover the top. Better than other versions that use fewer. The combination of sugar, lemon juice and rather a lot of cinnamon on top makes this very special. Reply

      • Bebe
        September 8, 2017 4:44pm

        Checked my handwritten copy of this recipe. The plum halves were to go in skin side up. For the topping, 2 t. lemon juice sprinkled over. 2 t. sugar. 1 T. cinnamon, which sounded like a lot but was perfect. Reply

        • Bebe
          September 8, 2017 4:47pm

          Forgive me. My recipe card is yellow with age! Topping sugar should be 1-2 Tablespoons, not Teaspoons.

          Easy cake. Lovely! Reply

  • September 8, 2017 5:59pm

    HEAVEN! And bravo to Britta for her WCW poem. The pic of the milk going into the pudding is HEAVEN-LY. It does the job. Never mind about food stylists. : ) Reply

  • Jess
    September 8, 2017 7:42pm

    Hello,

    I was just curious, are you doing any talks or book signings in Paris?

    Thanks and happy travels! Reply

  • tati
    September 8, 2017 11:02pm

    Please don’t by any means employ a food stylist. Your photos are deliciously real. I love them and they often find their way into my practice sketches. Looking forward to the new book and trying this recipe. yum! Reply

  • Kay
    September 9, 2017 7:17pm

    What am I to do with the seeds from the vanilla bean? Do I put them in with the rice?
    Making it now… Reply

    • September 9, 2017 7:21pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I thought it was clear but you add the vanilla bean & seeds. Reply

  • Tiffanie
    September 10, 2017 2:10am

    Turned out very nicely with half coconut milk and half almond milk, plus vegan margarine for the butter. Reply

  • Megan
    September 11, 2017 7:28am

    I make a very similar rice pudding but often toss in a small can of coconut cream to the milk which gives it a lovely creamy coconut flavour. Excellent with sliced mangoes in summer. Reply

  • September 11, 2017 10:41pm

    Great recipe. It similar to the “risgrynsgröt” we make in Sweden. You boil a small amount of rice with lots of milk with a piece of cinnamon.
    It ‘s traditionally served with more milk, sugar and ground cinnamon at Christmas. This recipe sounds more interesting. Reply

  • Jilly
    September 12, 2017 3:48pm

    This makes me feel like trying to bake congee! A regular savory congee. Gotta try it, thanks for the inspiration! Reply

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