Guest Author - Deborah Markus
One thing I like about children is that they will start a conversation about something not to make a point or tell a story, but simply because it would be pleasant to talk about whatever it is. This chatter, noun-intensive and lacking in all but the simplest of verbs, can be very restful.
It can also be inspiring, as I learned when walking to the car with my little boy the other day. Apropos of nothing, he began praising various desserts. "Chocolate pudding is great," he said, and I agreed. "Rice pudding's really good, too," he went on dreamily. Then his eyes widened and he stopped in his tracks, turning to stare at me. "You should make chocolate rice pudding!" he breathed.
I told him that I'd never tried it, but could certainly give it a shot. The next day, I did.
I based it around one of my favorite rice puddings. No eggs or cinnamon or raisins, and cocoa for the chocolate flavoring. Unlike most of my experimental concoctions, this one came out right the very first try. It did take a while to cook, though, and quite a while to cool. If you have eager little ones expecting it for dessert, better start it well before dinner.
Boil four cups of water; when it's bubbling, stir in one cup of long-grain white rice. Any variety is fine, as long as it isn't instant. Cover it and let the rice simmer over low heat for at least half an hour. Usually you should leave cooking rice strictly alone, but go ahead and stir this now and then.
When the rice is quite soft, stir in three cups of milk. You can use whole milk or two percent or even half-and-half. Use the richest, highest-quality milk you can find. I used a local dairy's two percent, mixed with a little of my favorite cream. This stuff is so rich and yellow that I always carry it home quickly and with the greatest care; some of it always ends up turning into butter in spite of my efforts.
Along with the milk, stir in a generous half a cup of sugar and four or five tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Make sure that this is completely incorporated into the mixture, then let it simmer uncovered for at least twenty minutes more. Stir it frequently, or it will develop a skin. When most of the milk is absorbed, take it off the heat and stir in a teaspoon of real vanilla extract.
Scoop the pudding into a glass bowl and slip a generous sheet of plastic wrap over the top. Let it cool thoroughly. If you have taste-testers who can't wait that long, spoon some into individual bowls, but be sure to top these with plastic wrap as well -- you don't want a skin developing.
My son and I found this divinely good. It doesn't even need cream. It can be eaten warm or cold, whichever you prefer.