A casserole of sweet, buttery rice scented with vanilla and cinnamon, layered with preserved apricots, and topped with dramatic-looking browned meringue peaks.
- 1 1/2 cup white basmati rice
- 3 cups dairy or nut milk
- 4 eggs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 15-ounce cans unpeeled apricot halves, or prunes, or other fruit
- Italian meringue topping
- 1 cup sugar
- 7 ounces water
- Place the rice in a medium stockpot and rinse thoroughly under cold running water, until the starch from the rice is removed and the water runs clear.
- Add the milk to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is soft and has absorbed the milk, about 12–15 minutes. Let stand uncovered to cool for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using 1 tablespoon of the butter, grease the bottom and sides of a medium baking or casserole dish. (I used a round 10×2″ pie dish).
- Crack the 3 eggs and separate them in two bowls: 3 egg whites in one bowl and 3 egg yolks in another bowl. Set the egg whites aside. Add the 1 remaining whole egg to the egg yolks and beat lightly with a fork.
- Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk to combine.
- Add the egg yolk mixture, the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract to the rice, and stir to combine.
- Spread half of the rice mixture into the baking dish, place the apricots, cut side down, in one layer over the rice, and spread the other half of the rice mixture over the apricots.
- Smooth out the surface and bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes, until the rice on top is golden brown and the apricots start to bubble around the edges.
- 5 minutes before the rice pudding is done, create the Italian meringue topping. Combine the sugar and the water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, and cook until the sugar has melted and small bubbles start to appear on the surface, about 3–4 minutes.
- In a bowl, start beating the 3 egg whites with an electric mixer while pouring in the sugar mixture in a slow stream. Keep beating until the mixture becomes shiny and stiff peaks form.
- Remove the rice from the oven and top with the egg white mixture, creating small peaks. Bake in the oven until the egg white peaks just start to brown, another 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue topping.
- Serve immediately. The rice pudding also tastes great cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.