I hope you're having a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We had my husband's mother, sister and her husband to our house for Christmas dinner. My husband's father's side of the family is from Denmark, so when I discovered this traditional Danish Christmas dessert (that is also gluten free!), I knew it was going to be the perfect ending to our holiday dinner. Risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) is served cold and topped with a warm cherry sauce. The pudding itself has no sugar in it, but the whipped cream that gets folded into and the cherry topping are both sweetened. Overall, this is not a very sweet dessert.
The Danish tradition is to add a whole almond to the risalamande. Whoever gets the whole almond in their serving wins a prize. Since Paul and I were hosting, I served our bowls first to make sure we didn't get the almond. Then I buried it in one of the three remaining desserts. I had my husband, who wasn't in the kitchen when I did this, serve the dessert to our guests. My brother-in-law was the lucky winner of the prize -- a jar of Maine wild blueberry Champagne jam (little did I know, blueberry is one of his favorites!).
I just love traditions! I would be happy to have risalamande every year for Christmas dessert, and the game of finding the whole almond and winning a little gift is quite fun.
Here is the recipe for those of you who would like to make this dessert next Christmas, whether you are of Danish lineage or not. You can always make risalamande at other times of the year as well. In fact, I think it would make a nice New Year's dessert.
1 cup short-grained white rice (I used arborio rice)
1/2 cup water
4-1/4 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans, scored lengthwise and seeds scraped
Pinch of salt
5 ounces almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped (set aside one whole almond)
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1) In a saucepan, combine the rice and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.
2) Add the milk to the rice and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pods (the pods will add flavor and will be removed later) and salt. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and let cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
3) Remove pan from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pods and discard. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and let cool. Stir in the chopped, blanched almonds. The pudding up to this point can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated.
Note: If you bought almonds already blanched, consider yourself lucky. I had to blanch mine and it was quite a chore. According to directions I found online, you are to put the almonds in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit a minute or two, then drain. Supposedly the skins should come right off when rubbed between your fingers or a paper towel. Well, mine didn't. I stood there for I don't know how long peeling skins from the almonds. Sometimes I would get lucky and a large section would peel off (see below). Eventually my hands starting cramping so I gave up. I am estimating I used about 4.5 to 5 ounces of almonds.
If you have a method for easy almond blanching, please share!!! Just click on "comments" at the bottom of this post.
4) Before serving, beat the cream with 3 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The sauce can be made ahead and reheated in a saucepan just before serving.
1.5 lbs. frozen dark sweet cherries (buying them already pitted will save you lots of time)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or the scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
3 tablespoons pure cornstarch (I use Argo brand)
1) In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, water and vanilla over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch with a enough water to make a thin paste. Slowly add it to the cherry sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Serve warm over the risalamande.