Rice pudding is not unique in France, in most countries, they have their own version. The recipe is more or less involved the cooking of rice with milk or water with sugar added. Some countries used black rice, some added agent to make it solid. The French version is cooked with pot or in oven with milk and has usually vanilla added, some recipe has additional egg yolks added. The recipe was first recorded in 12th century and it served as a base for Riz à l’impératrice and Riz à la Condé that were popular in the high cuisine in 17th century. Riz à l’impératrice is the molded version of rice pudding, served with candied fruits and alcohol like kirsch or maraschino. With riz à la Condé, fruits especially abricot is served with the pudding.
My husband is a big fan of the French rice pudding. Whenever he saw the dessert menu consisted of riz au lait, he would order one. Most restaurant cooked the traditional recipe of pudding, good but rather filling and rich after big meal. L’Ami Jean’s stood out, their revisited version was very creamy, airy and nearly chantilly like, with his Brittany root of salty butter caramel cream and carnival fair like nougatine with caramel and various dried fruits. Many have agreed that the riz au lait of l’Ami Jean is simply the best. Years ago, we talked to a French 1 star chef, discussing about this dessert, he insisted that the chef Stéphane Jégo must have used a very special rice.
Photo credit L’Ami Jean
I have tried many times to recreate this dessert, trying a lot of different recipes and ended up with more or less the traditional grandma version of riz au lait. Compact and rich style, good but not WOW like l’Ami Jean.
Recently, I tried to make it for husband’s birthday. I first used using this recipe from Le Monde by Christian Ghion. Two problems, it was the classic version and the rice was a still bit hard at the core after half an hour of cooking.
I finally found the recipe of Jégo and made my second test. The problem was the core of rice was a bit hard (I used carnaroli), after 50 minutes of cooking. Then I understood the problem was the rice!
First test on the left and second test on the right
Finally I checked out the video in the link (in French by the chef), and understood several problems.
Several useful tips:
- Rice: should use cheap riz rond (round rice) for dessert, never use risotto rice like arborio or carnaroli
- cook the rice for 20 minutes in the milk, add sugar and cooked 20 minutes more (by adding sugar right in the beginning, you can never get the rice cooked properly).
- Around 5 minutes before the cooking is done, use a whisk and stir constantly the rice mixture to break up slightly the rice, the final liquid should be pearl like.
- Whipped chantilly should be really compact, nearly butter like
- If the rice pudding is very compact because of certain rice, crème anglaise (light pouring custard) should be used, instead of chantilly
Cooked rice before adding the chantilly
Making of nougatine
Step 1 Caramel and butter
Step 2 Add the nuts quickly in the caramel and stir until even. Let the mixture cool off on a silicon pad.
Storage in an airtight box.
All these work for this! But it worths the trouble.
For the whole recipe, it is here: