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.