We've been searching for gluten free recipes and we have decided that this is breakfast food at our house. A thin slice of this Rice Cake, a few slices of fruit, and a glass of milk or freshly squeezed orange juice and we're good to go.
The original recipe is from the British cookbook Italian Cooking by Robin Howe. Italian Cooking was first published in 1956; I'm lucky enough to have the 1979 edition because a quick search on Amazon revealed only used copies.
The cookbook is a charming quirky mix of metric, British Imperial, weight measures, pinches, and volume measures all rolled into each recipe. I've converted the measures to be more consistent but don't obsess over the measures. Judge by look, feel and taste. I bet that rice cakes started out as leftovers that a clever Nonna reinvented for the family. So be a clever Nonna and cook the rice the day before.
This recipe does not turn out a typical North American fluffy cake. Instead it turns out a substantial moist dish that is fantastic for breakfast. You can drizzle a bit of maple syrup for an added bonus but the cake is great straight up. The orange sauce gives cheery good morning dimension to the cake.
Rice Cake (Torta di Riso)
1 litre milk (4 cups)
100 g sugar (4 oz, 1/2 cup)
grated rind of three oranges
pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
225 gr Italian/Arborio short rice (1/2 pound, 1&1/3 cups)
5 mL almond extract (1 tsp)
100 g natural almonds, blanched, skins removed and chopped (4 oz, 2/3 of cup before chopping)
butter to grease pan
30 mL/2 tbsp ground almonds for dusting the pan
aluminum foil or heat proof lid for glass casserole dish
freshly squeezed orange juice from your three oranges
15 mL cornstarch (1 tbsp)
125 mL sugar (1/2 cup)
Put rice, milk, sugar, orange rind, salt, and almond extract into large saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until all the milk is absorbed. Mix often otherwise the rice will burn on the bottom. Once all the milk is absorbed, remove from the heat and let cool completely. Stir from time to time to make sure it doesn't congeal into a solid clump.
While the rice is cooking, squeeze the oranges for the orange sauce. Combine orange juice, sugar, and cornstarch in small saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture over a moderate/high heat. When the sauce thickens and clarifies, remove from heat. The sauce will solidify as it cools but a vigorous mixing will make it pouring consistency.
When the rice is cool....prepare your glass baking dish by rubbing the inside with butter and sprinkling with ground almonds.
Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until they are stiff then beat the yolks until they are a light yellow. If you mix the yolks first, you will have to clean and dry the beaters. Otherwise the fat of the yolks will prevent the whites from whipping. Who wants more work? Not me.
Mix the egg yolks into the rice until thoroughly combined. Fold in the egg whites. Turn the mixed rice into your prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil or a heat proof lid.
Cook at 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. Remove the lid/foil after 30 minutes and cook until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean. If your cake is golden but seems undercooked, you can microwave the cake on high for a few minutes to cook the inside without burning the outside....
... I know... from experience... I'm a careless cook but a great trouble shooter. If you chose a metal dish you are regretting that decision right about now.
When the cake is cool, pour a puddle of orange sauce onto a cake plate and turn out the cake onto it. If you forget the orange sauce puddle, pour it on top. Total baking time is about one hour.Substitutions and Experiments
Try any type of nut that appeals to you, except your husband. If you cannot tolerate nuts, substitute raisins for inside the cake, rice flour for dusting the interior of the dish, and a different husband.... I'm kidding, I'm kidding.
Experiment with the flavourings. Try grated lemon rind and omit the almond flavouring. I'm not sure a lemon sauce will work unless you really bump up the amount of sugar to combat the sourness but go for it anyway. Try vanilla bean and extract.
Omit the orange sauce and drink the freshly squeezed orange juice. Quick - before anyone notices.
My husband is not a nut. Well, not any nuttier than I am and I love him dearly.