This cream of rice pudding is infused with orange blossom, rose, and nostalgia-inducing mastic. A decadent topping of apricot, saffron, and honey compote is the grand finale in this show of flavors. I love making this in the summer months as it provides for a delicate and cooling dessert on a hot evening.
This dessert is inspired by the flavors of both Levantine and Latin cultures. While the use of rice flour is inspired by my childhood experiences in Puerto Rico, the floral extracts and mastic are so characteristic of sweet side of the Levant. Mastic, also known as Arabic gum, is a resin that comes from the mastic tree. If you have ever had that delicious and sticky Arabic or Greek ice cream, you may find the refreshing cedar-like flavor familiar. A very small pinch goes a long way here – using more than that will result in a bitter taste. I find its use to be optional in this recipe as there are a variety of lovely flavors working together here to bring you joy. Every now and then, however, I do feel the need to travel back to those childhood days when indulging in mastic-infused ice cream on bustling street corners was quite simply the best thing to do.
INGREDIENTS/ MAKES ABOUT 3 SERVINGS
For the Pudding:
4 cups whole milk or plant-based milk
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup ground white rice flour
small pinch ground mastic, optional
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/2 teaspoon rose water
honey, for topping
chopped pistachos, for topping
ground cinnamon, for topping
apricot compote, apricot jam, or rose petal jam, for topping
For the Apricot Compote:
6 dried or canned apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
small pinch saffron, optional
1 tablespoons orange blossom honey
Add the milk, sugar, rice flour, salt, and mastic to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk often for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. Then whisk vigorously for another 3 minutes or until the mixture has a porridge-like consistency. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water and rose water.
Quickly divide the pudding into small serving bowls. Drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of honey over the top of each pudding and leave to cool for at least 20 minutes. This will allow you to invert the puddings onto plates smoothly later on. Let the puddings chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to overnight before serving. Invert each pudding onto another serving dish or alternatively, feel free to serve without inverting. Top with your choice of compote, jam, cinnamon, or chopped nuts.
For the simple compote, bring together the chopped apricots, water, sugar, and saffron in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes or until the apricots have softened, the sugar has dissolved, and sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey. Let the compote cool before topping it on the puddings.