Spiced Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding

Winter is tricky. It’s freeze-your-face-off cold, and the days are short and dark. It’s enough to make anyone crave comfort food. On the other hand, we’re all trying to eat a little healthier.

This recipe may not be totally guilt free, but it’s pretty impressive on that front. And so rich tasting you only need a few bites. As in risotto, the rice gives off velvety starch, thickening the pudding on its own, with the help of creamy nonfat yogurt. Considering it doesn’t call for eggs or cream or even 2% milk, it came out shockingly rich and fudgy, like Mexican hot cocoa frozen in time. No one would ever guess how light it really is.

For me, though, if you’re going to eat chocolate, it should really be darker. This pudding lacked the bitter edge of serious chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate fan, then this recipe is for you. But if you like your chocolate intense and deep, consider using really good (expensive) and truly dark chocolate—maybe with a 75% cocoa content. I bet it would be nice with a bit of brewed (decaf) espresso thrown in, too. Yum. For Valentine’s day, perhaps?

Or go the other way. It’s kind of sad to lose the lovely simplicity of rice pudding by throwing chocolate into the mix. Chocolate overshadows the custardy, nutmeggy flavor of classic rice pudding, to the point where the nubby texture of rice seems out of place. I can’t guarantee that this pudding will be perfect without the chocolate, but it’s an interesting method to start with. Try dialing back the ginger and increasing the nutmeg, adding raisins, orange zest, etc. Let me know how it goes!

Spiced Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 4

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chips
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek-style

1. Make the pudding: Whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Split vanilla bean and scrape into saucepan, add bean too. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. I love using enameled cast iron for this sort of thing. Add rice; toast, stirring constantly, until edges are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add hot milk mixture; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Add ginger and cinnamon. Cook another 10 minutes or so. If rice is not tender and has already absorbed the liquid, you can add a little more milk or water (or brewed coffee!) and let it absorb the way you do with risotto. Keep in mind that pudding will thicken as it cools—leave it a little loose and liquidy.

3. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Add liquor and chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted. Stir in yogurt. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dessert bowls. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Top with light whipped cream or more greek yogurt. Don’t tell anyone it’s healthy.

In chocolate, dessert, light, recipe, rice

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