My daughter Patty asked me if I knew the recipe for rice pudding as made by a family friend, Helene Kataria, way back in the 1960's. I don't know exactly how Helene made it but it was baked and had numerous additions of milk while baking, and it was the best tasting creamiest rice pudding I ever ate. I've no idea where Helene might be today so I started a quest to make an excellent rice pudding, both for my daughter and as an entry for Food Nirvana. After all, rice pudding is one of the best appreciated comfort foods by just about anyone you might ask ... provided it is a very good rice pudding. The sad truth is that I tried to make it a few times many years ago and I failed miserably. Either the rice was hard in the middle or the sauce curdled. I gave up. Now things have changed a lot relative to what I know and what I found to describe avoiding the problems I had making it as a young adult.
I captured three recipes from the Internet and I assembled what I think is the best ingredients combination and amounts and cooking procedure. I had some personal ideas about making this pudding creatively that I did not see in any Internet recipes. The first idea is to achieve a special taste and creaminess by using evaporated milk in the process to replace some of the initial amount of regular milk. The second idea is to avoid steps that produce a drier, custard-like pudding, such as happens in many baked versions. Finally, I think if you want creamy pudding of top caliber then some heavy cream should be one of the ingredients, added after the boiling period is completed. Oh, I do love raisins in rice pudding so they are listed in my recipe, but you may choose to include them or not to suit your taste.
I made the pudding according to my ideas and the assembled composite of Internet recipes. I am very happy with my results! Food Nirvana now has a very fine creamy rice pudding recipe. My daughter will be very pleased.
Does the pudding taste like that made by Helene? No, but it is close, and now I know the difference. Helene used evaporated milk in her additions during the baking cycle, which yielded a sauce ratio higher in evaporated milk than regular milk. If you want to try Helene's approach you can do it in this stovetop recipe by doubling the amount of evaporated milk and using only one cup of whole milk, but if you use this approach the rice should be precooked/simmered in water with the saucepan covered, in half the normal amount of water and for half of the normal cooking time. Then it is ready to be drained and used in this recipe. The idea is that the thicker the sauce is in the beginning of cooking, the harder it will be to get the rice to absorb the necessary amount of water to be soft throughout. Thus, pre-boiling the raw rice briefly in water initiates the softening effect of the water absorption process.
Note that both methods will produce excellent and somewhat different rice puddings. I suggest trying both and then home in on what pleases you best.
I have one other footnote to add. When first made, foods like rice and pasta have absorbed the proper amount of moisture to provide the right texture or tenderness. In both cases allowing that type of food to sit in a liquid or semi-liquid environment in refrigerated storage for a few days after cooking inevitably leads to additional moisture being absorbed, which is undesirable, for the overall food composition becomes drier, with pasta or rice swollen and the dish not as moist as when originally prepared. With pasta dishes it is easy to avoid that problem by keeping the pasta segregated from the sauce when serving it and especially when packaging leftovers. In the case of rice pudding, and other rice dishes, there is no easy or obvious way to avoid the problem, other than to 1) Eat all of it within a day or two, and 2) In the case of rice pudding you can add some milk to a dish of it and mix it when it is too thick, and that greatly improves the quality. Enough said.
The rice should be precooked at a very low boil in water with the saucepan covered, in half the normal amount of water and for half of the normal cooking time. Drain any remaining water from the rice.
Bring the milk, evaporated milk, precooked rice and salt to a boil over medium high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use my 2 1/2 quart tin lined solid copper French saucepan that is perfect for making sauces and candies), stirring every few minutes. Pay close attention as the mixture reaches the boiling point as it will foam and boil over if the heat is not reduced quickly, especially if you covered the saucepan with a lid to reduce the time required to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer the mixture uncovered until the rice is tender, about five minutes longer than the normal recommended cooking time for the type of rice you are using. Stir the mixture frequently, like every minute or two, to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Add up to 1/3 of a cup of milk two or three times during the cooking when the mixture becomes thick enough that steam bubbles appear to "pop" up from the bottom of the saucepan. And remember to test the rice after the first 20 or 25 minutes and every five minutes thereafter to know when it has simmered long enough to be soft throughout. Be sure to test the rice at the end of the extended cooking cycle as it should be tender all the way through. If it is not, then continue simmering and stirring for an additional five minutes, adding 1/3 cup of milk first to slightly thin the sauce and provide more liquid for the rice to absorb.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and keep it covered with a lid for ten minutes. That will complete the water absorption process.
Whisk the eggs well in a one quart mixing bowl. Add the brown and white sugars and whisk until well blended. Add the heavy cream and whisk until the mixture is uniform. Add one cup of the hot rice and milk mixture to the egg mixture, gradually, while whisking rapidly to incorporate it.
Return the saucepan to the heat.
Add the rice modified egg, sugar and cream mixture to the saucepan of cooked rice and milk and stir slowly and continuously, on low heat, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice pudding is thickened, or until it reaches a temperature of about 160ºF. Be careful not to have the mixture come to a boil at this point or it will curdle. I recommend using a candy or frying thermometer to be sure the temperature does not exceed 165ºF. You should see a small amount of steam coming from the pudding periodically when it reaches the correct temperature. Note that the pudding may appear a bit too runny but that changes as it cools.
Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla, raisins and cinnamon until everything is well mixed.
Put the pudding into a 2 quart serving dish and cover it with plastic wrap to keep the pudding surface from drying and forming a skin.
You can serve this pudding warm or cold. It is delicious both ways. It will thicken considerably if chilled in the refrigerator, and you might decide to stir a small amount of heavy cream into it immediately before serving.
Some folks love the taste of ground nutmeg in rice pudding. You might substitute nutmeg for some of the cinnamon, perhaps using 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, or whatever ratio and total amounts please you best. Remember to make spice amount changes in small steps, mixing well and tasting samples as you proceed, so as not to put too much spice into the pudding by mistake.