[A]: This is my first post in the new year. What better way to start writing than to write about something sweet and refreshing?
I have realised that the choice of the food we decide to eat has a strong connection to childhood memory. The food that our grandmother or mother had cooked for us always tastes the best. Payesh, which is a rice pudding made with a fragrant rice grown in Bengal called Gobinda Bhog, is the first home made sweet dish that comes to mind. This had been the staple sweet dish cooked to perfection by the matriarch in every family in Bengal for all those special occasions – birthdays, wedding anniversaries and all such festive occasions. So it is no surprise that N got hooked to the idea of baking a cake with rice as soon as she came to know about the Torta di Riso.
We were watching a television program about food from Italy in which chef Gennaro Contaldo was recreating his mother’s orange rice cake (Torta di Riso) which he had loved as a child growing up in the Campania region of Italy. I think the talk of a sweet dish made with rice immediately took us back to our childhood too reminding us about the payesh. The opportunity to bake the orange rice cake came during the Christmas holidays and I grabbed the opportunity with childlike enthusiasm.
The recipe here is from Gennaro with some minor changes. There is a certain amount of skill needed to separate the eggs into egg white and yolk and then beating the egg white. Other than that the preparation is not that difficult and the cake is definitely worth the effort. The taste is zesty and the cake is surprisingly light.
300 gm arborio rice
3 pints milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large free range eggs, the yolks separated from the white
zest from 1/2 lemon
200 gm sugar
40 gm raisins
50 ml orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau)
zest from 1 orange
Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and sugar to the milk in a thick bottom saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes to thicken the milk a bit. Then add the rice and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. The arborio rice is great at absorbing the milk. Remove from heat when the rice is al dente as overcooking will really spoil the taste of the cake. At this point the rice should have absorbed most of the milk but still have a creamy consistency. Allow the saucepan to cool down to room temperature.
While the rice is cooling, pre heat the oven to 180°C. Line a 24 cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and liqueur until creamy. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed.
Add the egg yolk mixture to the cooled rice, then fold in the stiffened egg whites, followed by the raisins and orange zest. Pour in the prepared tin and bake in the oven for one hour.
Take out the cake from the tin when the cake is still warm and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes at room temperature.
We have tried the cake both cold and warm and I have to say that I preferred it slightly warm. To bring in the festive look, I sprinkled some icing sugar along with some additional orange zest on top of each slice.
The cake is excellent with a strong espresso at any time of day including breakfast :-).