Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Comforting and easy, rice pudding is a classic winter treat. It’s often considered a dessert but I usually find myself making a big a batch and eating it for breakfast throughout the week. Maybe not the healthiest breakfast option, but it somehow makes more sense than eating it after dinner. This creamy pudding is not only simple but also budget friendly. You probably already have most of the ingredients. With just basics like rice, milk, eggs, and sugar – you can make a delightful rice pudding in under 30 minutes. There are, of course, variations that have slightly fancier additions. This version from “The Art of Good Cooking” dessert section includes vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, and raisins. These ingredients add tasty layers of flavor but can be considered optional.

I had to make a few more revisions to this recipe than normal. I don’t think it was tested as much as some of the other recipes in my grandmother’s cookbook. It may have been added last minute to fill space among the other somewhat random selection of recipes that make up the dessert section. Most of my revisions are in the measurements. Like most Paula Peck recipes, the ingredients themselves are a delicious combo.


2 1/2 – 3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon and nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon orange zest for sprinkling (optional)

Heat milk and keep it warm. Add about 2 1/4 cups of the warm milk to rice in a deep pot. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently. From time to time, add more milk, as rice absorbs it. When the rice is entirely cooked, it should be in a very light creamy sauce.

Stir in sugar, orange zest, and vanilla. In a small bowl, break up yolks with a fork. Whisk in about a 1/4 cup of liquid from the rice to temper the egg yolks. Add egg yolk mixture to pudding. Replace over low heat, stirring constantly until slightly thickened ( it will thicken more when it cools).

Remove from heat and stir in raisins. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest (optional).

Serves 4-6.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck.


Old Fashioned Cheesecake (strawberries optional)

Old Fashioned Cheesecake

Old Fashioned Cheesecake

There’s a lot to say about cheesecake but very little that’s really necessary. I was surprised to find this old fashioned cheesecake recipe in “The Art of Fine Baking.” It’s not one of my grandmothers well-known recipes and seemed a bit out of place amongst the fancy tortes and cakes. As summer approached, I decided I would try this basic recipe and top it with the fresh strawberries that are now in season and grown locally. My only issue was that the original recipe called for “Zwieback” crackers in the crust. I had no idea what these were and not only did they sound a bit ancient to me, I almost thought they were made up (my grandmother’s maiden name was Zweier, an unlikely coincidence). After a little research, I discovered that Zwieback crackers was a cracker toast often marketed by Gerber and Nabisco as a baby biscuit. It appears that these were discontinued about 4-5 years ago. There are a few homemade recipe versions available online but I opted to replace the Zwieback crackers with good old graham crackers. Since ground pecans or walnuts make up half the crust, the graham crackers don’t take away from the crust’s integrity. That unique rich nutty flavor still gives this old fashioned cheesecake that little special Paula Peck spin.

Note: The baking instructions below have been modified from the original recipe. If a crack-free cheesecake is preferred, bake the cheesecake in a water bath which will allow it to bake more slowly. Simply place the spring-form pan in tin foil and ensure foil is folded up the sides (this protects the cake from any water that could leak through). Pour hot water around the foil lined cheesecake.


1 package Graham Crackers, made into crumbs (or Zwieback!)
1 cup finely grated walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 lbs soft cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 eggs, separated
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup sifted flour

Strawberry Topping
1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Combine graham cracker crumbs, grated nuts, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix with fingertips until ingredients are blended. Spread the crumb mixture on the bottom of the spring-form pan. Press down firmly.

Mix the cream cheese with half the remaining sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest. Beat in egg yolks. Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until very firm. Pour whipped cream on top of stiffly beaten egg whites. Add cream cheese mixture and sprinkle flour on top. Fold together gently.

Pour in prepared pan and back for 45-60 minutes or until cheesecake is firm but still slightly jiggly in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool 30-60 minutes before chilling fully in the refrigerator.

While cheesecake is chilling, make strawberry topping by combining sugar with the strawberries. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Spoon strawberry topping over chilled cheesecake right before serving.

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking”


Frozen Strawberry Cream Torte

Frozen Strawberry Tort Sliced

Few Paula Peck desert recipes really lend themselves to Summer. A couple of fruit tarts, a mousse or two, and a few fruit tortes are summery as is without modification. Maybe because she spent most summers in France, renewing her tastes and inspirition or maybe she just didnt bother much with the heat of baking in a hot humid Manhattan building before AC was a regular commodity. Whatever the reason, this frozen torte is part of this small exclusive group of her summer desert recipes. Not exactly quick or easy, if meringue is foreign to you, but the construction is fairly simple and the finished torte is impressive. There are two methods used in the original recipe for which I have strong opposing feelings. The first is the suggested baking time of the meringue to ensure it doesn’t brown. Though technically incorrect, in my opinion the baking time for meringues takes long enough without having to worry about making sure it maintains pure white and doesn’t brown. In this particular instance, I don’t mind if the meringue is slightly tan on top. It speeds up the baking/drying process and has little effect on the taste.
The second method, which I agree with, is adding gelatin to whipped cream. This works well to stabilize whipped cream if using it like a frosting, which in itself is an interesting technique that I’m not quite used to. Substitute powdered agar-agar or vegetarian gelatin for vegetarians.
A last point that needs to be emphasized is to serve the torte frozen. It just doesn’t taste the same when it begins to thaw. A finished frozen slice should taste creamy and light, like strawberry shortcake and meringue cookies smashed together in a giant sandwich then hidden beneath a layer of silky cream and frozen to combine the textures into a cool summer treat.

Swiss Meringue

5 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons sugar and dissolved gelatin (see note)
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced

Sprinkle strawberries with 1/4 cups sugar and set aside.

Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a  mixer. Beat at medium speed until egg whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating continuously until stiff peaks.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper or grease and flour two large baking sheets. Trace four circles in flour, each 6 inches in diameter. Spread a thin layer of meringue within each circle. Sprinkle one layer with sliced almonds.

Bake meringue layers at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake meringue until puffed and cracked, about 50 minutes. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let cool in oven for 30 minutes until room temperature.

Drain sweetened berries. Combine with about 2 1/3 cups of whipped cream. Working as quickly as possible to prevent meringue from softening, sandwich layers with whipped cream mixture. Place the almond studded layer on top. Place in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until cake is frozen.

Spread the remaining whipped cream around sides. Place again in the freezer. When sides are frozen, the torte can be wrapped for freezer storage for up to 6 weeks.




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