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Off the Shelf: Basic Fruit and Rice Custard

Since I had leftover rice, I thought I'd give this custard recipe a whirl. I ran into some problems with the oven temperature, which right off the bat seemed way too low. 250 degrees for 45 minutes to cook custard? Really?

As I suspected, the custards were nowhere near done when cooked at 250 degrees. After 30 minutes, they were still completely liquid. I turned up the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cooked them for an additional 20 minutes. I've revised the recipe to cook them at the higher temperature. Start checking at 30 minutes; they may take up to 45 minutes to become completely set.

I thought that Hay's directions to add only 1 Tbsp of rice per custard cup seemed skimpy, but the rice expands in the custard and 1 Tbsp really was enough to give a nice bit of texture and flavor to the dessert without being overpowering. If you like rice pudding, you could add a bit more rice, but I wouldn't use more than about 1 1/2 Tbsp per cup.

A nice addition to this dessert would be vanilla beans or almond extract. Scrape 1/2 of a vanilla bean and add to the milk mixture, or add 1/4 tsp of pure almond extract. Other fruits would also be nice, such as apricots gently stewed with sugar, or berries in season.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

About 2 cups cooked fruit, such as rhubarb compote (recipe below) OR fresh berries
scant 1/2 cup cooked long or short grain white rice
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup superfine sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the fruit in the bottom of six 1-cup capacity ramekins or custard cups. Spread 1 Tbsp of rice on top of the fruit in each ramekin. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and sugar, then pour the custard mixture into the ramekins. Place the dishes in a baking pan and pour in water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake about 40 minutes, or until the custard is set (start checking after 30 minutes). Cool before serving.

Rhubarb Compote
4 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup sugar

Place the rhubarb and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over a low flame until the sugar melts, then increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce heat back to low and simmer until the rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Cool in the pan, then refrigerate until cold. Compote thickens as it cools. Yields about 2 cups.



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