BEST- EVER RICE PUDDING

Although the pudding will look a bit loose when cooked and still warm, it will thicken to the perfect consistency upon cooling.

SERVES 6

4 2/3 cups whole milk

1/2 cup white rice,such as basmati,jasmine or carolina long grain

7 tbsp granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean

1  3-inch cinnamon stick

2 large egg yolks

Lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of the milk  with the rice and sugar. With a paring knife,split the vanilla bean lenthwise, srape out the seeds, and add them to the pan. Add the scraped vanilla bean and the cinnamon stick and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

In a medium bowl,whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot rice mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan, add the remaining 2/3 cup milk, an stir with the wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture begins to boil, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the rice pudding to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on its surface. Set the bowl in an ice bath to cool the pudding quickly. When cool,discard the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean. Divide the pudding among 6 small bowls or ramekins, cover with plastic wraps,and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving,Serve topped with a spoonful of whipped cream,if using.

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