Classic rice pudding was at one time considered to be a regal dessert with variations such as Riz a l’ Imperatrice, Riz Trauttmansdorf and many others. These desserts which were bound with gelatin and formed in ornate molds were garnished with fruit and sugar decorations and served at the finest banquets in Europe. Over the years these types of desserts have fallen out of fashion and have been relegated to cafeteria style desserts along with chocolate pudding and tapioca pudding.
In this post I would like to pay homage to this style of plated dessert with my version of rice pudding which I call Coconut rice pudding with strawberry lavender syrup. We serve this in our club and I have also demonstrated it to professional chef groups at the Fall meeting for CAFE (Center for Advancement in Foodservice Education) in Charleston, SC and for the ACF- Saint Louis Chef de Cuisine Association at the venerable Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St Louis. The version that I give here can also be prepared at home in a more simplified way without the hippen masse corkscrew cookie garnish which is another recipe and technique in itself.
The dessert in the opening photo was prepared in a two day period. On the first day I prepared the baked coconut rice pudding, the small cookie bases with a simple pate sucrée dough and the infused strawberry lavender syrup. The next day I mixed the pudding to loosen it up, folded in whipped cream and then molded it into small ring molds. After chilling the molds I unmolded them onto the cookie bases and prepared a simple Swiss meringue (made by cooking sugar and egg whites over a bain marie and then whipping them into a meringue in a mixing machine). After that I decorated the tops of the pudding with the cooked meringue and browned it with a butane torch.
After they were all browned I placed them into large pasta bowls and garnished them with sliced strawberries.
After this step I poured the strawberry lavender syrup around the strawberries just prior to serving.
To add the finishing touch I placed the hippen masse corkscrew cookies and garnished with a small plouche of fresh mint to add a crunch factor and a splash of color. Hippen masse is made with almond paste and is in the class of thin wafer cookies called Tuiles which are baked, then formed while still hot directly after they are removed from the oven.
These corkscrew cookies were made by spreading the thick paste batter through a template with long rectangle shapes and then twisting them around the handles of wooden spoons directly out of the oven. Once they cool to room temperature they are removed from the handle and stored until service time. These are a bit tricky to make and should be done only if one is adept at baking and has the proper equipment like a non stick silicon baking mat.
A good alternative could be a crisp wafer cookie that can be purchased at upscale grocery stores. Additionally, the rice pudding can be scooped out at home onto a cookie base instead of molding into to ring mold. Whipped cream could be used as a garnish instead of the Swiss meringue brulée; however this will change the dessert somewhat so I would suggest to take the extra step and prepare the meringue. Note, use a probe thermometer to make sure the egg and sugar foam is cooked to a safe temperature – at least 145F.
Many classical desserts that were once served are making a resurgence in restaurant and upscale banquets and are all prepared with basic fundamental techniques that can be used in many different ways once mastered. Many of them can be made at home once the basic techniques and recipes are learned and the proper equipment is at hand.