Rice pudding is simple comfort food. Because the rice is cooked in milk or cream, it’s quite rich. I love to serve rice pudding with rhubarb because the rhubarb cuts perfectly through the richness of the rice. That’s also why this dish is often served with sour cherries. Rice pudding craves acidity.
You don’t need a ton of spices to make rice pudding taste delicious. The only spice I use to season the rice is a whole cinnamon stick. Cinnamon is my favorite spice for sweet foods. I would choose it over vanilla any day.
It’s important that you use the right variety of rice to cook your rice pudding. In Germany, it is sold as milk rice. It is quite similar to Italian risotto rice. So you can substitute that for German ‘Milchreis’. Don’t make the mistake to use basmati or jasmine rice. You will never get your rice pudding creamy with these varieties.
Don’t leave your rice pudding unattended
It’s important that you cook your rice pudding over low heat so that the milk doesn’t boil over. Once it starts to get thick, you will need to stir it constantly. Rice pudding can burn very easily. If that happens, the whole batch is ruined. So, never leave your rice pudding unattended.
The rhubarb needs to be poached very gently so that it doesn’t lose its shape. Rhubarb cooks in a matter of a few minutes. If you overcook it, it will fall apart. Rhubarb compote is still delicious but it doesn’t have the superior texture of whole pieces.
While you certainly can poach the rhubarb in plain sirup, the taste will be much better if the rhubarb is poached in a red wine and spice mixture. The red wine adds richness while the star anise, ginger, and lemon zest brighten the dish up.
Rhubarb needs a lot of sugar to balance its tartness
1 cup of sugar in the poaching liquid might seem like a lot at first but you will need it to counteract the acidity of the rhubarb and red wine. Without the sugar, your rhubarb will taste unpleasantly tart. Also, not all of the sugar in the poaching liquid will be absorbed into the rhubarb.
I’m not a fan of desserts that are overly sweet and I swear that even this large amount of sugar won’t make your rhubarb taste like candy. Instead, the flavor will be perfectly balanced between sweet and sour.
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb (‘Milchreis mit Rhabarber’)
For the poached rhubarb:
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup red wine
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 star anise
- 1-inch knob of ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 2-inch slices
For the rice pudding:
- 1 cup pudding or risotto rice
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ground cinnamon, for dusting
Poach the rhubarb:
- In a large pot, mix together the sugar, water, red wine, lemon zest, star anise, and ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb slices and bring the poaching liquid up to a boil again. Take the pot off the heat and transfer the rhubarb slices together with the poaching liquid into a large casserole. Be gentle, as you don’t want to break the rhubarb slices. Let the mixture cool down.
Prepare the rice pudding:
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the rice, milk, cinnamon stick, and a pinch of salt to taste. Bring the milk up to a simmer, then turn down the heat to the lowest setting and let the rice pudding simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes until the rice has the consistency of a thick porridge. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent the milk from burning on the bottom of the pot and be aware that milk can easily boil over. Stir one tablespoon of sugar into your rice pudding, more or less to taste.
Serve the dish:
- This dish can be eaten hot or chilled. To serve, divide the rice pudding and poached rhubarb slices among four serving bowls. Drizzle some of the poaching liquid on top of the rhubarb and sprinkle the rice pudding with ground cinnamon.