Italy’s renowned Arborio rice, a short-grained variety, is best known as the rice of choice for risotto. It works in this elegant rice pudding, as well, which was originally contributed by pastry chef Mimi Young of Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco.
The rich mouthfeel of this pudding needs a rich wine to keep up. Try an Australian Muscat; recommended producers include Campbells, De Bortoli and Chambers Rosewood Vineyards
For the rice
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Arborio rice
For the custard
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 large whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
9 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
To make the rice: Place the milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the rice. Simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes, or until 90 percent of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally. The rice should be firm but completely cooked. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean.
To make the custard: Place the milk and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Add a bit of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking quickly to temper the eggs. Pour the tempered egg mixture into the hot milk mixture while whisking. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the rice and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium baking dish or soufflé dish.
Scrape the rice mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Place the dish in a larger baking pan and fill the larger pan with very hot tap water so it reaches halfway up the sides of the rice pudding dish. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes. The custard should be just barely set, but still creamy.
Remove the dish from the water bath and stir in the white chocolate. Press a piece of plastic film onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, fold whipped cream into the chilled pudding to lighten the texture to the desired consistency. Serve with the remaining whipped cream, if desired.