I make it a point to periodically revisit foods that I don’t like.
This is especially true if someone introduces a new idea for making that food different from versions I had before.
As a general rule I prefer creamy things creamy. I do not like lumps in my creamy goodness. Fruit is occasionally acceptable but when it comes to chewy or crunchy (except bruled sugar) in my creamy I am out.
As such I am not a fan of either tapioca or rice pudding. My tongue stumbles and skips over the chewy bits in an effort to enjoy the intervening smooth textures. This is only exacerbated by the addition of raisins. Thick opaque liquid plus chewy bits and raisins to me feels like the set up of a very bad movie joke.
Still when someone suggested that I should try rice pudding with Arborio rice, I was game!
I had hoped that the texture I loved in risotto would translate beautifully into a creamy rice pudding where the rice almost melted into the flavorful milk broth. Lovingly stirred over low heat I had high expectations of watching the granules of rice puff with milk, giving up their starch in the process and becoming not so much a pudding as a uniform rice custard.
I was wrong.
I probably should have guessed though. The same property that enabled Arborio rice to remain determinately toothsome and tender in a risotto worked against me in the rice pudding. As expected the rice released its starch into the milk concoction creating a creamy-dreamy pudding base but the grains remained individual and quite distinct.
The flavor was superb, rich with caramel and hazelnuts it left me trying to get my fingers into the ramekin so that I could lick off every last bit of thickened cream. The rice absorbed this wonderful flavor as well but remained disturbingly chewy though I made sure to cook it longer than required in hopes that it would go mushy.
It is not a recipe I would make again. At least not with the rice. But the flavor is haunting. Somewhere between a butterscotch pudding a hazelnut gelato; flavors definitely worth playing with again. Though I suppose next time I might try a more traditional pudding thickening the mixture with corn starch or rice flour.
Either way it is another recipe for the tinker list. That vat of recipes that are almost but not quite perfect and need just that skosh more tweaking.
Still I must admit that if I had to eat a rice pudding this recipe would be it. I have never tried one that has even come close to the indulgence that this engenders. The starch leached from the Arborio rice creates a rich mouth feel that has the texture of full fat cream without the cling or the fat.
Caramel-Hazelnut Rice Pudding
5 cups whole milk
2/3 cup Arborio (Risotto) rice
¼ cup Frangelico concentrate 
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized, heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring mixture to a boil and lower the heat until the milk is at a bare simmer. Cook, stirring frequently until the rice is cooked through and tender about half an hour. Be sure to stir the bottom to prevent rice from sticking and burning.
Divide into individual servings or place in a single dish. Allow pudding to cool then refrigerate, covered for 4-6 hours. Garnish with chopped toasted hazelnuts or shaved white chocolate.
 Frangelico is a hazelnut liquor. It comes in a cute bottle that looks like a monk’s robes. Any hazelnut liquor would work well in this recipe however. To make a Frangelico concentrate pour ¾ of a cup into a frying pan and bring to a boil over high heat. It may catch on fire so be careful. If it does simply lower the heat or let it burn out. Reduce until the Frangelico is thick and syrupy. At high heat this happens fairly quickly so be prepared to remove it from heat.