Australia, though it does not have the population of the United States, is also a big melting pot of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Melbourne, where my dad was from, is the oldest city in Australia, and I think the second largest, following Sydney. We still have a ton (or tonne for all the Aussies out there) of friends and “rellies” in Melbourne and the surrounding areas, as well as other parts of Australia. Melbourne equals multi-cultural and is very diverse, but one of the largest ethnic groups in Melbourne is the Greek population. Melbourne has the largest Greek population anywhere in the world outside of Greece. So there are many great Greek restaurants and recipes that can be found all throughout the city, and if you love Greek food like I do, this is fantastic news.
We are going Greek today, with a small, but very delicious taste of Melbourne’s wonderful Greek flavors. This recipe has become my new favorite dessert. You’re going to love it as much as I do. It is Risogalo Rice Pudding.
Rice pudding is a dessert that is found in many cultures and many countries, but this one is by far my favorite version, with the addition of a smooth, rich caramel sauce, almond shortbread cookie bits and pistachios. It is rich and delicious without being overpowering or too sweet. Each bite is like a little bit of Heaven with just enough sweetness to give it a bit of decadence as well. When I am cooking, quantities are not really that important to me, because I mix and match and change things all around all the time, but when I bake that is a different story. Baking is more of an exact science and measurements are very important. The most difficult part of this recipe for me was converting everything from the metric measurements to our standard US measurements. All my math teachers would be so proud of the fact that I can still use my brain to find mathematical solutions and make my metric/US measurement conversions. My numbers may be off a bit, but as you can see, they were not off by much, because the results came out very well, and were very tasty. I will be nice too all of you today and give you both the metric and the American measurements. For those of you who know both, please feel free to correct my numbers wherever needed.
There are three components of this dessert. The rice pudding or risogalo, the caramel sauce and the kourambiethes or almond shortbread cookies. The kourambiethes can be made ahead and stored. They are also very tasty when dipped in coffee or used like biscotti.
175 g or 1 1/2 cups rice
700 ml or 3 cups water
900 ml or 2 3/4 cups milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
70 g or 1/2 cup powdered sugar
300 ml or 1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp cinnamon
Add the rice and water together in a heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a full rapid boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes, then strain. After straining the rice and discarding the water, place the rice back in the saucepan along with the milk, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring it back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer again and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid thickens and the rice is cooked. Add the sugar and mix together well. Change the rice to a flat dish and refrigerate for at least an hour to make sure everything sets. Whip the cream and powdered sugar together and gently fold into the rice mixture. Put back into the refrigerator until needed.
Cooking the rice with the milk, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.
Adding the whipped cream and powdered sugar.
Salted Caramel Sauce
500 g or 1 3/4 cups sugar
150 ml or 3/4 cup water
400 ml or 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
30 g or 3 TBSP butter
pinch of salt
Place the sugar and water into a heavy saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved, then leave it alone. You will need to use a candy thermometer and cook it until the temperature reaches 170* C. Brush the sides of the saucepan down about every 3 minutes so the sugar does not crystallize on the sides. You want the sauce to be a nice golden brown. It takes awhile for it to start browning, but once it does, it browns and cooks very quickly, so be careful not to overcook it. Add the cream, butter and salt and whisk together. Cool to room temperature before using. If your sauce is too thick, add some milk as needed to the mixture. Mine was too thick at first, but I added some milk and it came to a nice thick syrupy sauce, which is what I was looking for.
Kourambiethes or Almond Shortbread Cookies
170 g or 1 stick + 5 TBSP butter, softened
50 g or 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
water as needed to help mix the dough together and bind it.
Preheat the oven to 350*F or 160*C
Mix the butter and sugar together. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix everything together. Since I live in Colorado, where it is very dry and also a high altitude, I needed to add about 1 1/2-2 TBSP of water to the mixture to help it mix and bind together. You are looking for a dry mixture, so you do not want to add a lot of moisture, but just enough to make everything stick together. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the dough onto the paper. Press it down with your hands and spread it out to about 1/2 ” or 1 cm in thickness. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely, then cut into “fingers”.
When you are ready to indulge in this delicious dessert, assemble it all together in your serving dishes. Layer it with the rice first, then the caramel sauce, followed by breaking bits of the shortbread cookies and then top with a few roasted, salted pistachios. The result – DELICIOUS!