Cobblers, Crisps & Puddings, Desserts

Rice Pudding Parfaits with Caramel Apples

3 Comments 13 July 2011

Is rice pudding a seasonal dish? Or do you just make it whenever? The reason I ask?

Most recipes I’ve found that were in magazines were from Fall or Winter issues. And I’d never had rice pudding up until a week before we made some for the blog.

I know, I know, feel free to gasp in disbelief as just about everyone I’d told did. What can I say? Even this food lover hasn’t had everything when it comes to delicious treats. But I’m firmly in the rice pudding camp now. It’s pretty delicious stuff!

I also wanted to make rice pudding because the weekend prior to this batch, my mother-in-law challenged me to find a better recipe than what she’d made when we went to her house for dinner. She made this great dulce de leche version, which I loved but she and her hubby thought was too bland. So I did, and sis and I set out to make a rice pudding that was a little different, yet true to – hopefully – what rice pudding should be like.

Rice Pudding Parfaits with Caramel Apples 008

Arborio rice, the same kind used in risotto, just makes sense for this kind of recipe as well. When cooked, it retains a soft, almost-but-not-quite chewy quality that goes so well with creamy consistency dishes. If you can’t find arborio, see if you can find some regular short-grain rice. In this recipe you’ll pre-boil the rice a little before marrying it up with whole milk.

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Once the pudding is done, you mix in the vanilla – this is done at the end of the rice cooking time so as to preserve that flavor as much as possible. Adding it in while the rice simmers in the milk would cause the vanilla extract to just evaporate. Learned that one from Ina Garten, folks!

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Be sure to place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming. At this point, the pudding has a lot of cooling down to do.

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Meanwhile you can get started on the caramel apples. This is exactly what your sugar and lemon juice mixture will look like – you’re on your way to making caramel!

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Mmm, swirly dirly butter.

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We had some issues thickening the apple mixture. After the original recipe says to add in the whipping cream and thicken for two minutes, we still had a non-thick, soupy bunch of apples. We let it cool, hoping that would let it continue to thicken, but after ten minutes of cooling it wasn’t happening. So we reheated it, brought it back up to a simmer and in about eight minutes, we had a much better, thicker caramel consistency. We’ve noted this significant time difference in the recipe below.

Even in the pic above, the apple mixture doesn’t really look thickened, but trust us, it is. Eight to ten minutes of simmering and stirring is the ticket.

Rice Pudding Parfaits with Caramel Apples

Once the apples have also cooled – or not, you could serve them warm if you prefer, we suppose – spoon up the rice pudding and apples in layers. Or don’t. We decided to do the parfait look, but you can certainly just pile this goodness in a bowl and settle in.

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The pudding turned out very creamy and lovely in a subtle sweetness kind of way. And in looking at other rice pudding recipes, it seems that the dish is traditionally a subtle one, not blasting with intense flavor and we loved it this way!

The caramel apples add a little bit of zing,  but also blend well with the creamy pudding. It’s as if they were meant to be together.

Rice Pudding Parfaits with Caramel Apples

slightly adapted from Rice Pudding with Caramel Apples, Bon Appétit,  October 2009 by Dorie Greenspan

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook time: about 1 hour, plus cooling time    Level: Intermediate    Serves: 6

For Puddings:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Caramel apples:

  • 2 medium Gala or Fuji apples (13 to 14 ounces total)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Whipped cream (for topping; optional)

For puddings:
Bring 3 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in a heavy, large saucepan. Add the rice and boil for 10 minutes. Drain rice and discard the cooking water. Rinse and wipe out the saucepan. Combine milk and sugar in the saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the rice; reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is very tender, most of milk is absorbed, and pudding is thickened but still creamy and reduced to scant 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes (you may need to up this time to 40-45 minutes if you have a lot of liquid after that initial 35 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract. Transfer the pudding to a bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface of pudding to keep a skin from forming; let the pudding cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

For caramel apples:
Peel and core the apples. Cut each into small-medium chunks. Combine sugar and lemon juice in medium nonstick skillet. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and syrup is medium amber color, occasionally swirling skillet, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter to skillet and swirl until melted (mixture may bubble vigorously). Return skillet to medium heat; add cider and pinch of salt and bring to boil. Add apples and simmer until tender, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup whipping cream and boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Transfer apples with caramel sauce to heatproof bowl. Cool caramel apples until lukewarm or room temperature. If you want to use the apples soon after making them, place the bowl in another larger one filled with ice and water to cool faster, or if you have more time, cool them in the fridge. DO AHEAD: Caramel apples can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Stir over medium heat until just warm before using, or serve room temperature, or even cold if you prefer.

In jars or glasses about one and a half inch wide and four inches tall, layer the cooled pudding and apples to create a parfait effect. Optional – top with whipped cream. Or you can simply spoon into dessert bowls and top with caramel apples and whipped cream. Enjoy!


As noted above, we probably should have cooked our rice/milk mixture a little longer than 35 minutes. If you feel you have a lot of liquid left at that point, go ahead and simmer for a little longer. Be sure to keep watching the pudding and stirring – ours did scald on the bottom of the pan a little, but I think I also bumped the heat up a little too much.

Again, on the caramel apples, you may need to simmer them a little longer than two minutes after adding the heavy cream. When we tried thickening for a second time, 8-10 minutes worked for us. Like a gravy, you’ll see the caramel suddenly thickening to the texture you need. And keeeep stirring!

The caramel apples are also a great topping for ice cream. Wink.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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3 Comments so far

  1. Marisa says:

    Love the ribbon around the jars, so dainty and adorable, the contents look delish!


  1. Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding | Full Fork Ahead - March 12, 2014

    […] find lots of various recipes for. Some include caramel, others some kind of fruit topping – sometimes both! Sometimes I just want a really simple one, though, because what really does it for me with rice […]

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