If there is one particular flavor or smell that describes my childhood that would be cinnamon. I grew up in my grandfather’s pastry shop and it seems like every pastry had cinnamon. Custards were always flavored with cinnamon, even pastry cream which according to all current recipes, it is supposed to be made with vanilla.
Arroz con Leche is our version of rice pudding but in this case there are no eggs involved, no zest, no vanilla, no raisins, only milk, sugar, salt and cinnamon. So simple but so warm. I can say this is my all time favorite comfort food and of course, comes from my grandmother Miren.
I could dedicate an entire post to my grandmother. I suppose most people can but MY grandmother was very special, IS very special I should say. She worked along side my grandfather in the pastry shop. He got most of the credit for their success but she was the backbone. Always very warm, quiet, giving and a very, very strong woman.
Her arroz con leche is legendary in our family but she never wrote down the recipe so my mom and I worked on it for a few days to finally come up with the right quantities of ingredients to make something that resembled my grandmother’s recipe. I think we got it and it’s fantastic. The key has to be good ingredients and lots of love and attention. This is not a recipe that you can whip up in a Kitchen Aid, pour in a pan and leave it in a hot oven. Oh no, you must stand by the stove for almost the entire cooking process, stir and stir, let it do its pil-pil (which is the Basque word for simmering). In this case the love and detail in the cooking process are key. and I often compare it to making a milk risotto.
We always had excellent ingredients available in the pastry shop. The raw cows milk came from the farm up the street every morning. It was delivered in large metal containers and you could always see the fat layer right on top. It was my grandmother’s job to boil it twice to pasteurize it so it could be used in the recipes for the pastry shop. I remember the cream layer on top of the milk… That used to be our afternoon snack spread on a piece of bread sprinkled with sugar. Decadent to say the least. Considering I do not have access to raw milk in Florida, I always use organic whole milk.
Arroz Con Leche
2 liters (half a gallon) of organic whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) of organic milled sugar
100 grams Valencia short grain rice or Arborio rice
In a saucepan, slowly heat the milk, salt and the cinnamon stick. Bring it to a low simmer, the lower the better.
Add the rice and the sugar and stir. It has to cook for about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes in low heat and it must be stirred often, every 5 minutes or so. We want to keep the heat low enough that it doesn’t burn the sugar but high enough that there are small simmer bubbles forming.
The milk will start to turn a little caramel color and that is due to the caramelization of the sugar. A thin layer of fat will also form on the top. Keep stirring and that will disappear although personally I love when that happens.
Ladle into bowls, top with crumbled Maria cookies or graham crackers and sprinkle freshly grated cinnamon on top.
If you don’t want a skin to form on top of the milk, cover the surface with plastic film and then refrigerate. As I mentioned before, I think that’s the best part but that’s just my personal taste.
Enjoy! On egin!
Lavender and Orange Macaroons coming soon….