Chocolate Rice Pudding with Caramelized Rice Krispies.
I’m reading lots of cookbooks these days. When I’m not studying techniques and uses of ingredients just for the fun of it, I’m either looking for a way to adapt a recipe to fit an idea that I already have or for ways to integrate/adjust recipes into multiple components that will go into one plated dessert. But when I read about this dessert in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, that was it — I just wanted to make it. There was nothing to add. There was nothing to subtract. There was nothing to change. I challenged myself to think of anything that I would want to do to make it my own. Nothing.
It’s a creamy chocolate pudding studded with Arborio rice and plump golden raisins, and it’s topped with caramelized Rice Krispies. It manages to be full of chocolate, fruit, savoriness, caramel, cold, room temperature, crunchiness, creaminess, turgidity, and chewiness. And although the recipe doesn’t mention salt, the picture of it in the cookbook reveals salt crystals around the rim of the martini glass in it is served. Once again, Hermé thought of everything.
If anything, there may be too many things floating in and about the pudding, but you can’t complain… It’s delightful. I lost count of how many servings I had the first time that I tried it. Each ingredient bursts forth with a unique charm and goes on to play well with the others; it reminded me of a creamy rocky road-style dessert, with rice instead of marshmallows.
The raisins are an especially wonderful touch — the pudding spotlights how their singular sweetness can be downright sprightly. They also bridge the rice and the chocolate. I usually think of raisins as optional in recipes (and I usually do without them), but here they’re mandatory.
And the Caramelized Rice Krispies are crunchy shards of caramelized goodness. There’s a sly contrast btw the crunch of the caramelized sugar and the crunch of the rice.
And sure, there are things that could be done to it… Candied orange peel. Cinnamon. Anise. Plump the raisins in some sort of alcohol. Infuse the caramel with vanilla. But why mess with something so wonderful? If anything, I’m just going to sprinkle my leftover caramelized Rice Krispies on everything that I manage.
Chocolate Rice Pudding: Seemed fine until an instruction to add a little bit of the boiled down rice/milk into the melted chocolate and then to scrape the chocolate mixture into the rice/milk. It seemed like the chocolate had seized and it took for a while for it to smooth out into the milk — but it did eventually and all was well again.
I might want to decrease the amount of rice in it, but then there won’t be as much starch in the milk to hold it together as a pudding. Next time, I’d either strain some out before the chocolate is added or just see how it turns out with less rice.
Caramelized Rice Krispies: These are made with what I think of as the “dragee method” because it’s how we made almond dragees in our confections class. Basically, a small amount of sugar and water are briefly boiled, rice krispies (or nuts, or what have you) are added, they’re mixed off heat until the sugar turns sandy, and then cooked until the sugar becomes a caramelized coating. The rice krispies stopped there, but the dragees were finished with butter and vanilla… and small amounts of tempered chocolate were mixed in until they looked dusty (chilling btw additions) and then they were coated in cocoa powder. Hmm… maybe I do want to adapt Hermé’s recipe… into either Dragee Rice Krispie Clusters or Caramelized Cocoa Pebbles.
I did experiment with his version, b/c it was fussier than the version that I’m used to. I think it’s because cooking rice krispies is different from cooking nuts. Nuts need to be toasted and can withstand heat, while rice krispies… well, they’re already toasted and are usually just doused with milk or marshmallow. So, instead of boiling the sugar and water in the beginning for a minute or so until long thread stage, he specifies to bring it up to 248F… which is great, except that it’s hard to take the temperature of the roughly 1/4″ of sugar that I was dealing with. 248F is firm ball stage, but taking the time to test it with water, would only let it cook far past, again b/c it’s such a shallow amount. He also says to turn the krispies onto a plate after they’re covered in the sandy sugar, wash the pot, cook half of them to an amber color, wash the pot again, and then cook the second half. I had issues trying to get all of the rice krispies to caramelize evenly, so I can understand doing a small amount at a time… but to wash the pot twice in the process? And the first time, you’d be washing away residue of the sandy sugar (which will go down the drain instead of on the krispies).
In the school’s recipe, you just cook the nuts all the way through, only removing them from heat to coat them until the sugar gets sandy or if the nuts get too hot and start to scorch. So, I cooked half of the krispies in a clean pan and the rmg half of them in the original (dirty with sugar) pot. As far as I could tell, they turned out the same.
Also, I wasn’t sure what heat to cook them on. Nuts are best cooked for dragees at a low temperature because they burn easily and the caramel burns easily on them, as well. I’m guessing that the nuts, with their high amt of fat, also retain heat that would contribute to burning the sugar, as well. Rice Krispies, on the other hand, are already toasted and don’t conduct heat especially well, and it seemed like neither prolonged low heat nor brief high heat would be right. I wanted to cook fast, but not too fast –so I did medium-low-ish, and when it started to smell weird or was too unevenly caramelized for comfort, I lowered the heat. I think they turned out nicely.