Not to sound like a broken record, but my life has been totally nutters lately!
Between school and work, I’ve been volunteering my time and meager pastry-making skills in a high-volume kitchen in downtown Vancouver these past few days.
Walking into the place, I was definitely nervous — cuz when I say “high-volume”, I’m not kidding around!
They have a frying contraption that’s the same size and shape of a bathtub, a cooking pot that looks like a coffee cup for the Jolly Green Giant, too many ovens to count, and a whole crew of hard working staff.
I’ve been piping a lot of chocolate mousse, making cheesecake batter and tiramisu cream, torching rows and rows of crème brûlée, rolling yule log cakes, scooping Christmas pudding, and helping take some pressure off a really kind and experienced pastry chef.
Just having the opportunity to get a foot in the door at a place where so much is happening so fast has been incredible.
I was thinking the other day that I wasn’t ready for this type of intense work, but then I read a good quote: “Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises, because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.”
There have been some moments when I’ve totally felt frustrated to tears and just wanted to go home (like when I almost ruined a bunch of roulade because I forgot to sugar the top of the sheet cake and then it stuck to the pan when I flipped it over), but sticking things out and overcoming frustration builds character!
I can do this!
Anyways, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while working in a real kitchen is that “real world” pastry isn’t really complicated after all.
I mean, it is and it isn’t — making cheesecake is still making cheesecake, it’s just that you’re making cheesecake for 500 people instead of 5 people, y’know?
One of the other aspects of pastry that I’m really interested in is the plated dessert.
Last weekend I made a fancy-pants rice pudding that, instead of the usual slop in a baking dish, easily became a very elegant plated dessert — a lil’ whipped cream, a sprinkle of toasted almonds, a cranberry here and there, and voila!
This rice pudding is a little on the sweet side (the original recipe called for nearly 2 cups of sugar), but I cut down the sugar by almost 60% to compensate for the sweetness of eggnog and candied citrus.
You can always adjust the sugar at the end of mixing everything up — start with about half a cup if you’re worried, and then taste and add from there, keeping in mind that food will usually taste a little less sweet after baking.
Eggnog n’ Orange Rice Pudding
- 2 cups eggnog
- 1/2 cup arborio (risotto) rice, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 5 large eggs
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup candied orange peel
- 1/3 cup Marsala wine
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup water
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F — set aside 8 small ramekins or one 6-cup capacity oven-safe dish.
In a medium-sized saucepan combine the eggnog, arborio rice, orange zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, and scraped vanilla bean seeds and pod.
Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, stirring often, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. By the end of 15 minutes, the rice mixture should resemble porridge. Remove the vanilla bean pod.
Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, and, in the meantime, make the caramel.
In a small saucepan over high heat bring the sugar and caramel to a full boil — you may swirl the pot to dissolve the sugar, but do not stir it!
Cook until the sugar turns a pale amber colour, then quickly take the caramel off the heat and immediately pour it into the bottoms of the waiting ramekins.
Once the rice porridge mixture has cooled, whisk the eggs and sugar together until smooth.
Whisk the eggs and sugar into the rice porridge, followed by the sliced almonds, candied orange peel, and Marsala wine.
Scoop a half-cup (125ml) of rice pudding into each prepared ramekin. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and put the tray into the oven.
Bake for 40 ~ 45 minutes, or until the middle is set and no longer jiggles when nudged.
Allow the rice puddings to cool on a wire rack for an hour. When ready to serve, run a knife around the inside edges of the ramekins to loosen the rice pudding inside, then carefully invert onto a serving plate.
You can serve these rice puddings either hot or cold, but I think they’re best when warm and served with a bit of something sweet and creamy!
The best part about this dessert is how it looks fancy when it’s actually really simple. Yum!