This method of slow-baking gives a rich, caramelized flavor to the rice pudding and is based on a technique from cookery writer Sue Kreitzman. It takes some time to make, so prepare the rice pudding the day before. Cool the rice pudding before caramelizing the sugar topping. To create the crisp sugar topping without a torch, visit www.CookingLight.com/features for a stove-top method.
Cooking Light DECEMBER 2003
Preheat oven to 300º.
Combine first 7 ingredients in a 3-quart casserole. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to rice mixture. Place dish in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 300º, uncovered, 2 1/2 hours or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Discard cinnamon stick and vanilla bean; stir in cream. Cool.
Combine pears and next 4 ingredients (pears through cinnamon stick) in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Discard cinnamon stick. Spoon about 1/3 cup pear mixture into the bottom of each of 8 (8-ounce) ramekins. Top each serving with about 1/3 cup rice pudding. Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over each serving. Holding a kitchen blow torch about 2 inches over rice pudding, heat the sugar, moving the torch back and forth, until sugar is completely melted and caramelized (about 45 seconds). Serve within 30 minutes. (Do not refrigerate or caramel will melt).
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