Come see the softer side. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

It's been pointed out to me that I am headstrong, loud, and have a temper that can bubble up as quickly as an Alka-Seltzer tablet plopped in water. It's also been pointed out that these endearing characteristics are probably innate and completely out of my control because I'm Latin American. I'm not offended. If one day I throw a plate at someone's head I can blame it on my ethnicity.

I couldn't help but think of the stereotypical fiery Latin temperament when I was making this recipe. Arroz con leche (riz au lait or rice pudding), is such a languid, drowsy, gentle thing, so tender it's even suitable for those with smooth gums and weak constitutions, and yet, it is among the most well-liked and frequently made desserts throughout Latin America. Maybe we're all bark and no bite.

The accompanying rice pudding recipe requires some care and attention—it needs to be occasionally stirred over low heat for about an hour. I find watching the pudding steadily thicken is quite soothing, and the reward of a warm bowl of arroz con leche is worth every turn of the spoon.

This arroz con leche is flavored with orange rind, cinnamon, and (optional but highly recommended!) dark rum; the scent is deep and sultry. You'll notice I've used dark brown sugar as well as granulated sugar in the recipe: the pudding's color will be golden rather than white, and the flavor more complex. At home I'd use dulce de rapadura or piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar)—do feel free to use either if they're available to you.

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Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding) »


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