Hazy skies with splashes of pink and blue as the sun dips slowly below the horizon; lake waters calmly reflecting it all as if in a looking glass and an evening song courtesy of the frogs and crickets. I have one eye on the screen in front of me and the other on my little boy as he tries to keep up with daddy's fishing pole moving up and down the bank. It is a beautiful evening that makes me simply glad at heart; if I could capture it all on canvas, I think watercolors would be ideal for the job.
Let us talk comfort food for a minute. This right here has been a childhood favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. When I started working on this recipe, I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t as common of a dish as I had assumed both in my slavic culture and around the world. I found versions of this baked dish that used everything from quark to macaroni as well as a couple mentions of rice. I hit familiar territory when I came across recipes for torta di riso, an Italian rice cake that was very similar to what I was looking for.
My mother's method was a one-pot kind of deal: milk, rice and sugar cooked till tender, stir in the beaten eggs and into the oven it went. It was the same aluminum pot throughout my childhood and we would just cut a slice out and considered it served family-style. I simply wanted to tweak it enough to have it served cake style with the addition of a couple complimenting spices. It is my favorite type of dessert: not too sweet and can be eaten for breakfast, with a cup of afternoon tea, or as a dessert after dinner with some freshly whipped cream and a fruit compote.
Saffron & Cardamon Rice Cake
1 pinch of saffron threads (soaked in 1 tbsp hot water)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp cardamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp sugar
Softened butter and granulated sugar (for preparing the baking pan.)
powdered sugar for garnish
Soak crushed saffron threads in hot water. In a medium sized saucepan heat the milk until steaming.
Add the rice, sugar, vanilla, cardamon, salt and saffron threads to the hot milk and bring to a slow simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook on low heat until the milk has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking and burning. This may take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the brand of rice you are using.
Once cooked, allow for the rice to cool for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate it overnight.
Heat your oven to 400℉. Butter a 7-inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment and sprinkle the sides with granulated sugar. Set aside.
Add the yogurt to the rice and mix until thoroughly combined. Whisk together the sugar and eggs in a stand mixer until tripled in volume, light and fluffy.
Add 1/3 of the eggs into the rice and fold together until there are no traces of egg. Add the remaining egg mixture and fold into the rice gently, retaining as much air as possible.
Transfer the batter to your prepared cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown.
Transfer the baked cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 60 minutes before removing it from the baking pan. Dust with powdered sugar and serve. Enjoy!