Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Nonfiction Books to Sink Your Teeth Into


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the awesome ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.


I think it’s fairly easy to find good fiction books. There are so many out there, covering every topic and genre, and there are more all the time. But sometimes you want a book based on facts, not just one that reveals truths (as I believe fiction does). Sometimes it’s difficult to find good nonfiction. Not because there aren’t plenty of books, but because many books are published because of the author’s credentials and less because of an engaging writing style. They can be some of the most rewarding or some of the most disappointing  books, and finding one you like cis made even more important because nonfiction usually takes longer to read.

I’ve written some posts on nonfiction books for my reading challenge, but I wanted to share some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed before I started blogging. Some, well most, of these books have very specific topics, and I find that the more specific and narrow the book’s focus is, the more interesting details you get. Maybe you’ll find something that sparks your interest.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet try Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl.

This book takes you through the origins of desserts by geographic area. It talks about the origins of specific dishes as well as the development of new techniques and increasing availability of ingredients. There are some recipes hidden in there as well. On the whole, an engaging and informative book if you think dessert should come before dinner (and lunch and breakfast).

If you’re in the mood for a book about the kitchen, but have less of a sweet tooth try Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.

A treatise on all things kitchen, this book talks about the evolution and invention of kitchen mainstays. If you’ve ever been interested of the development of the fork or any kind of cookware, this is the book for you.

If you’re in the mood for learning about another culture, try Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi.

This memoir about growing up in a Moroccan harem is both challenging and rewarding. It has a lot of insightful, beautiful moments.

It you’re in the mood for a book about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of evil, read From the Ashes of Sobibor by Thoms Tovi Blatt.

A survivor memoir about one of the deadliest WWII concentration camps, this book is a difficult but amazing story that will make you feel so much. I came away from this book feeling awed, inspired, and saddened. It has a lot to say about what humanity is capable of, both good and evil.

If you’re in the mood to learn more about a particular decade try Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

Didion’s masterful collection of essays on various aspects of life in the 1960s is my favorite of the 8 books I’ve read by her. She has a gift for nonfiction (if you like this, read The White Album), and she transports you into worlds you could never have entered otherwise.

If you’re in the mood for a forbidden romance try A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant.

This author and his father find a collection of letters from the 18th century and piece together a great family scandal. It’s a veritable Romeo & Juliet tale, but it really happened. Too bad all our attics can’t yield fruit this juicy. I’ve read three books by di Robilant and also highly recommend his book Chasing the Rose, which is all about trying to identify a particular unknown species of rose on his property and the people he meets and the meandering Italian sort of adventure it takes him on. It sounds really weirdly specific, but I know nothing about flowers at all, and I read the book in one sitting.

If you’re in the mood for a more fashionable book, try Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber.

You may think that clothes are of little importance, but this book shows that they can ultimately cost you your head. This book delves into the ways that Marie Antoinette shaped French fashion and how her morning’s choices influenced politics. I’ve never read anything like this fashion analysis, which brings a whole new layer to anyone’s study of the French Revolution and French culture of that time or Marie Antoinette specifically. You’ll never look at clothes the same way again.

If you’re in the mood for something to read after watching Downton Abbey, try Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnavron or To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

These two books talk about the real women from America who took their money to Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and bought titles.

If you’re in the mood for reading about an author try Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Weight or The Real Wizard of Oz  by Rebecca Loncraine.

This first is a look at the books that Oscar Wilde read, which is a fascinating way to learn about an author. His personal library, reading habits, and relationship to the written word are all discussed. Another interesting author biography is one on L. Frank Baum. Rebecca Loncraine makes plenty of assumptions about details that *may* have influenced Baum’s ultimate creation, but her treatment of the man behind the curtain is still interesting and engaging, even if it has to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. For a more scholarly treatment on Baum and the Oz books, try L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers. Her book delves further into literary analysis, if that’s interesting to you.

I hope if nothing else this list encourages you to give a nonfiction book a chance. Memoirs, biography, and creative nonfiction are great ways to learn about things that interest us and they give us new perspectives.

Has there been a nonfiction book you’ve found particularly inspiring? Let me know in the comments.



Baking for Bookworms: Saffron Cream from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked


There’s not much food mentioned in the Wicked series. Elphaba has way more important things to do than cook. Or even eat. But there are a few foods that manage to convey both a very Oz-like sense of the exotic as well as a dark of mysterious quality–something decadent but not quite right.

Saffron cream is mentioned several times throughout the book. It’s both a decadent treat as well as an expected one on important occasions. It’s a sign that someone’s made an effort, but it’s also associated with dissipation like in the quote below:

“They sang, and chattered, and ordered sandwiches, and Avaric plunked down an embarrassment of coins to demand a salver of saffron cream, in Ama Clutch’s memory. Money did wonders and the cream was found in the larder, which gave Glinda an uneasy feeling, though she didn’t know why. They spooned the airy mounds into one another’s mouths, sculpted with it, mixed it in with their champagne, threw it in small gobbets at one another until the manager came over and told them to get the hell out. They complied, grumbling. They didn’t know it was the last time they would all be together, or they might have lingered.”               162-3

Ama Clutch dies in mysterious circumstances and the saffron cream is associated with honoring the dead. It’s one last night of wild, carefree behavior before the group goes their separate ways. The mood is uneasy, even if it’s only Glinda that feels it. But just because there are some strange associations with this dish doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it yourself!

Saffron is a very strange substance. For one it’s crazy expensive. In fact it’s the most expensive thing per pound that you can cook with. For that reason, there’s fraudulent saffron out there, so you need to be careful. Want to know what to look for in saffron? Check out this helpful post.

Saffron is normally used in savory dishes, but it’s equally good in sweet ones. It’s got a great, subtle, complex flavor.

  • one pinch saffron
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Bring out the flavor of the saffron by soaking the strands in the tablespoon of water for a couple minutes.

Add the saffron and the water to the heavy cream along with the powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

You can put your cream on top of anything you would normally put whipped cream on top of: scones (like these yummy ones I made this morning), hot cocoa, tarts, pies–whatever. It’ll be delicious on everything.


Baking for Bookworms: Baked Alaska Cupcakes from Mary McCarthy’s The Group


Sorry this is a bit on the late side! My brother flew out to Boise this last week to watch a concert with us, and it sort of threw off my posting schedule–though in the best possible way.

Baked Alaska is a strange, intimidating kind of dessert. It has a million kinds of textures, combined in the strangest way. It challenges you to master some of the most difficult techniques in dessert and then you have to set the thing on fire. But it can also be delicious.

This dessert is chosen as the wedding dessert in the beginning of the book. The first marriage the reader sees helps to show the personalities of the various girls the story follows. The wedding, like the girls, breaks with some traditions, and most of the food in the story shows this constant pull between doing things the new, “modern” way and falling back on old, comforting traditions. Although the dessert proves to be a disappointment, like most modern things, the idea of the dessert is what counts to the girls. It stands for everything they hope their post-college lives will be, but it also hints at the disillusionment in store for them.

“The dessert was not all that good. The meringue had browned unevenly; it was white in some places and burned black in others, which gave it a disagreeable taste. Underneath the slab of ice cream, the sponge cake was stale and damp. But fealty to Kay sent plates back for seconds. The Baked Alaska was the kind of thing that in Kay’s place the group hoped they would have thought of–terribly original for a wedding and yet just right when you considered it. They were all tremendously interested in cooking and quite out of patience with the unimaginative roasts and chops followed by molds from the caterer that Mother served; they were going to try new combinations and foreign recipes”                                                                        29

Thankfully, you can make a Baked Alaska that is both impressive-looking and quite tasty. Meringue and I are natural enemies, and I didn’t have much luck with that part (I over beat my egg whites), but one more try and I’ll get the hang of it, and since I messed it up first, you don’t have to.

This recipe will make six cupcakes. They’re best served immediately after you brown the meringue, so only make what you need.


Cupcake recipe slightly adapted from Dessert for Two

You’ll need

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • small handful chocolate chips (optional–you can also swirl in a couple tablespoons of your favorite jam, candies, nuts, sprinkles, or a pinch of cinnamon and chili pepper or instant espresso, or a 1/4 teaspoon of a favorite flavor like peppermint–your cupcake is your oyster. Or rather, your very own cupcake)
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil (you can also use safflower)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • ice cream flavor of your choice. You’ll need a scoop per cupcake. I used strawberry, and I think fruit flavors go nicely, but feel free to be creative with your flavors!
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar or fine baking sugar (regular sugar won’t dissolve nicely)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin pan with 6 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except the sugar, and stir to combine. In another bowl (or in a wet measuring cup to avoid unnecessary dishes) measure out your buttermilk. You can use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar and add 1/3 cup milk of your choice, if you don’t have buttermilk on hand. Add the sugar, vanilla, and oil and mix thoroughly with a whisk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir to combine, being careful not to over-stir. Scoop into cupcake liners and bake for 11-14 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool completely and then scoop out a scoop of ice cream onto each cupcake. You don’t have to be extremely precise, but if you like to be you can dip your scoop in hot water between each cupcake. Freeze the cupcakes for at least two hours, or until you feel the cupcakes have formed a lasting bond, up to a day.

Make the meringue by separating 3 egg whites from their yolks, being very careful not to get any yolk in the egg whites. Place the whites in a very clean bowl. To make sure there are no oils in the bowl, wipe it and your beaters with a paper towel dipped in vinegar. Whip egg whites until light and frothy and then add sugar, one spoonful at a time. Beat for a further 3-5 minutes on high speed, or until stiff peaks form and you can’t feel any sugar when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Using a spoon (you can also pipe this on, if you want to get really fancy), cover the ice cream completely with meringue. The back of the spoon will help you make little peaks. You can either put the cupcakes in a very hot oven (500F) for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully so that the meringue browns but doesn’t burn, or you can use a torch to finish them off, holding it far away from the cupcakes, so it doesn’t get as dark as mine did.

Serve immediately and let everyone be impressed by your prowess! The resulting treat is a not too sweet meringue, with a good amount of ice cream, and a dense, moist cake. I have to admit, I’ve always been intimidated by this dessert, but making it into cupcakes made it easier. I still have a ways to go before I can say that I’ve made a perfect Baked Alaska, but I’m a bit more confident now.

What’s a dessert or meal that’s always intimidated you? Have you ever had the courage to make it? If so, how did it turn out? Let me know in the comments.

Baking for Bookworms: Tea Cookies from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


Sorry this post is late–we had company staying with us and there wasn’t time to sit down and write out a post!

As a child, your worldview is largely based on sensory input. Reality is what you taste, hear, smell, touch, and see. Looking back on these experiences, we can interpret these sensations and try to make them fit in a larger worldview. As she writes her extremely descriptive memoir, Maya Angelou largely leaves out her older interpretations of things that happen to her to focus on the experience of being a child. Part of that experience is, of course, related to food, which has the power to draw out many of our deepest memories.

I chose the tea cookies specifically because they’re consumed in an interaction that would later have an influence on Angelou’s career as a reader and a writer. She’s brought into a neighbor’s, Mrs. Flowers’, home and encouraged to read after a traumatizing incident of rape sends her back from her mother’s home in St Louis to her grandmother in the country.

Sometimes it is kindness that most leaves an impression on us later, and the sweetness in this moment is as much due to the sugar in the cookies as it is to the actions of those who find us at our most vulnerable and make us feel human again.

“She carried a platter covered with a tea towel. Although she warned that she hadn’t tried her hand at baking sweets for some time, I was certain that like everything else about her the cookies would be perfect.

They were flat round wafers, slightly browned on the edges and butter-yellow in the center. With the cold lemonade they were sufficient for childhood’s lifelong diet. Remembering my manners, I took nice little ladylike bites off the edges. She said she had made them expressly for me and that she had a few in the kitchen that I could take home to my brother. So I jammed one whole cake in my mouth and the rough crumbs scratched the insides of my jaws, and if I hadn’t had to swallow, it would have been a dream come true.”                                                           99

One of the interesting things about this passage is the way that perfection is attributed to the cookies. Perfection in childhood seems attainable, if only certain things were different about ourselves and certain things remain unknown about others. But in reality, even happy memories are bookmarked by moments of pain and imperfection, roughness with sweetness. It is Angelou’s ability to deftly juxtapose and bring together such seeming opposites that makes her book truly remarkable.


Tea cookies (also called tea cakes) are a round, simple sugar cookie that can be served with tea or lemonade. You can also spread things on top of the cookies, like jam or lemon curd, make icing or frosting, or sandwich them together.

Adapted from Southern Living‘s recipe.

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional) –if you’re not partial to lemon, you could also use 1/4 nutmeg for more flavor

Beat butter for several minutes until creamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy, 2-3 more minutes. Add eggs one at a time, until blended. Add in vanilla, salt, and lemon zest.

In 1/2 cup- 1 cup increments, add flour and baking soda until well mixed.

Divide dough in half and chill one hour, until firm. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can roll the dough into balls and press them down so you don’t have to roll the cookies.


Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll dough on a well floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness for a thinner cookie, or 1/3-1/2 an inch for a thicker, chewier cookie. Try not to handle the dough too much as you do this as this will result in tougher cookies.

Cut out cookies with a round cutter and place on parchment paper or a silpat. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until slightly brown at the edges. Cool on a cooling rack.

You can then repeat the process with the remaining dough or save it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer.


Is there a memory you credit with inspiring your love of reading? I’ve always loved books, but after second grade my family moved. My teacher gave me a copy of The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum, which she was going to finish reading next year. I sat at our cabin and read this book in one sitting on the porch and I remember looking out and thinking that I was meant to read books.

Baking for Bookworms: Folded Peach Tart from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes


Frances Mayes’ memoir takes the reader on a culinary journey. So much so in fact, that she includes dozens of recipes within the book. Here is one of them, which celebrates two of my favorite things: dessert and fruit (and thus it should be no surprise that tarts are some of my favorite dishes)

The tart is only mentioned with the peach tart, so I will just include her commentary on the recipe:

“I learned to make folded pie crusts from a Paul Wolfert cookbook. On a cookie sheet, you spread the crust, pile the filling in the middle, then loosely fold the edges toward the center, forming a rustic tart with a spontaneous look. The peaches here–both the yellow and the white varieties–are so luscious that eating one should be a private act.”      137

The food in this book is inextricably intwined into the setting. Each informs the other and the food brings the magical place in Tuscany into reality.


Folded Peach Tart

First, you need a crust. You can use your favorite pie/tart crust for this recipe. This is my favorite sweet tart crust (from Williams & Sonoma’s The Weeknight Cook). The easiest way to make this crust is in a food processor, but you can also use a pastry blender or even your hands.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup butter (cold, cut in cubes)
  • 1/3 cup ice water

Combine flour, sugar, and butter until they resemble fine crumbs. Add water and blend until the mixture just comes together.


Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Press into 3 disks and wrap in plastic wrap. You can keep the other two in the fridge for a few days, or you can put them in the freezer for a month. Refrigerate the one you’re going to use for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

  • 3 peaches, cut into chunks or slices
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds (I totally spaced putting these in, but I would really recommend it, it would have added an insanely awesome amount of crunch)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or chai spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll out your crust to slightly larger than pie size. Lay on a baking tray.

Combine the filling mixture of mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and spice. Mix peaches in and spoon into the center of the crust.

Fold the crust around the filling, leaving a four-five inch hole in the middle.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until just golden. Let cool completely and enjoy.

Peaches always make me think of summer. What’s your favorite summer fruit? Let me know in the comments.

Baking for Bookworms: Sugared Biscuits from Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries


There’s not much food mentioned in The Luminaries, and most of it revolves around tea, a tradition observed even in the sparse, rustic setting of gold rush era New Zealand. The rest of the food mentioned is alternatively gruel type porridge dishes and various camp stews, neither of which is as appealing as a cookie…

The sugared biscuits are mentioned around the middle of the novel, during the repast of one of the twelve main characters:

“Harald Nilssen had just brewed and steeped his four-o’clock pot of tea, and was sitting down to a plate of sugared biscuits and a book, when he received a summons in the penny post. It was from George Shepard, and marked “urgent,” though the gaoler did not specify a reason why. Doubtless it concerned some detail of infinitesimal consequence, Nilssen thought, with irritation: some piece of gravel in the gaol-house foundation, some drop of coffee on the gaol-house plans. Sighing, he fitted a quilted cozy around his teapot, exchanged his jersey for a jacket, and reached for his stick. It was jolly bad form to bother a man on a Sunday afternoon.”                  422

What the book seems to show is that even in strange circumstances, people hold onto rituals and regimes. This is more than just a comforting way of making the best of uncomfortable circumstances, it’s the way we make a home and a fulfilling life for ourselves. It is the measure by which others judge us, the yardstick by which we are held as capable or not capable of certain things. And in a mystery novel, attention to the little details, to these routines, is paramount.


Sugared Biscuits

This recipe is adapted from the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

These cookies do not need, and indeed are really too soft, to be rolled, but they are quite delicious.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (plus 1/3 cup for rolling, you can use colored sugar)
  • 2 ounces mascarpone (or cream cheese or goat cheese or ricotta)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or silpats) and whisk dry ingredients together.

Combine sugar and mascarpone. Pour butter over the top and then whisk until smooth. Whisk in oil. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, then beat in flour mixture until just combine.

Roll tablespoon sized balls of the dough into a small bowl of sugar and flatten with the bottom of the glass or with your hand.

Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are set and just beginning to brown (about 11-13 minutes but mine cooked faster).

Let cookies cool on baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Baking for Bookworms: Shirley Temples from Charlotte au Chocolat by Charlotte Silver


Charlotte Silver’s memoir has an extremely close relationship to food because it is the memoir of her childhood spent at her mother’s restaurant in Boston. She was, in fact, named after the French dessert Charlotte au Chocolat. Her favorite drink as a child was a Shirley Temple, and while as an adult she lost her taste for this sweet beverage, I decided that I would try my hand at making this childhood favorite a little more grown up, using homemade grenadine syrup and mixing it with seltzer water (or club soda or soda water–whatever pleases you) instead of a lemon-lime soda to make it a little less cloying.


There are several mentions of the drink sprinkled throughout the memoir, but this is one of my favorites for its detail:

“As soon as I sat down at the table, the bartender made me my Shirley Temple. The martini glass teetered on the edge of the tray. When my waiter handed me the glass, the darker pink of the liquid splashed on the lighter pink of the tablecloth. Maraschino cherries rimmed the orange slice floating in the center and the grenadine tinted the ice cubes pink. I swallowed the beverage fast and waited of the waiter to come back to the table so I could ask for another one.”     81-82


I adapted my recipe for homemade grenadine from The Kitchn


  • 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (sugar, agave, honey)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (optional, but it gives it a richer, subtler flavor)

Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan on the stove and turn to medium heat. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and let come to a boil. Boil for several minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Store in a clean jar in the fridge (lasts about a month)

You can add this to just about any drink, but to make a Shirley Temple, add two-three tablespoons your choice of clear soda (I definitely recommend club soda for a more adult drink).

You can garnish with orange, cherries, or mint leaves.


I absolutely love this grenadine, and love the fact that it has no high-fructose corn syrup or dyes.

Baking for Bookworms: Rice Pudding from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust

It's a bit on the thin side for me, but man does it taste nice.
It’s a bit on the thin side for me, but man does it taste nice.

It may come as a surprise to people that I’ve never had rice pudding. I’m not really sure why except that no one in my family ever made it and my resistance to anything that seemed like tapioca has prevented me from trying it. But I’m 22. I’ve grown as a person. And while you still can’t get me to eat tapioca (not that anyone’s offering), that doesn’t mean I don’t try new things on a regular basis.

Another character who’s resistant at first to trying new things is Tristan Thorn from the book Stardust (as a side note: this book is an excellent adult fairy tale, and the film adaptation is quite good. It’s lighthearted and a good beach or vacation read that you don’t have to mind being caught dead with. Not that you want to be caught dead with any reading material–that is, you don’t want to be caught dead. Or die at all, probably. I’ll stop now.) As he goes on his adventures, food becomes more about sustenance, and though he takes pleasure in many of the things he eats, the food doesn’t play a very substantial role.

However, the rice pudding is interesting, partially because we get an ingredient list for the pudding, and partially because it’s used to illustrate small differences between Victoria (his would-be love) and Tristan. It also shows how small disputes about food become subjects of interest between people and can serve to sever connections as well as bring people together. There are “right” and “wrong” foods for certain occasions, or they have to be prepared a certain way. There are guidelines and taboos that surround food, and Tristan’s family does not follow the established patterns of behavior (or at least that is the line of reasoning taken by the villagers).


This passage comes at the beginning of the book, before Tristan goes on his quest. He works as a shop assistant and is helping Victoria with her shopping:

“Tristan read [the list] to himself, looking for something about which he could begin to talk: a conversational gambit of some kind–any kind.

He heard his voice saying, ‘You’ll be having rice pudding, then, I would imagine, Miss Forester.’ As soon as he said it, he knew it had been the wrong thing to say. Victoria pursed her perfect lips, and blinked her grey eyes, and said, ‘Yes, Tristan. We shall be having rice pudding.’

And then she smiled at him, and said, ‘Mother says that rice pudding in sufficient quantity will help to stave off chills and colds and other autumnal ailments.’

‘My mother,’ Tristan confessed, ‘has always sworn by tapioca pudding.’


Poor Tristan. Health tonics, even the delicious pudding-y sort, are not a very romantic topic of conversation. However, just because it’s not the most romantic dessert, rice pudding is a lovely dish to make for people you care about. And, you can also use up more of that golden syrup you made, so that’s a win.

Rice Pudding

recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1/2 cup raisins (golden or regular)
  • 1/3 cup whisky (if you don’t use booze in your cooking, you can soak the raisins in water or a non-citrusy juice of your choice like apple, pear, or grape)
  • 1 cup medium grain rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (feel free to use half and half)
  • 1 tbs salted butter
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 whole egg, beaten

for caramel pecan sauce:

You could technically get away with not making the sauce, but you would definitely regret it. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Therefore, I must insist that you not deny yourself.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (if you don’t have golden syrup on hand, feel free to use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tbs bourbon or whiskey (this is totally optional)

Soak the raisins in the whiskey for one hour. Meanwhile, do some yoga, catch up on your reading or Netflix queue, give your dog a bath, whatever.

In a small non-stick pot (if you’ve got one it’ll be a life saver) or large non-stick sauce pan, combine the rice, water, milk, cream, butter, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the mixture starts to gently boil.

Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring twice. If the mixture is absorbing the liquid too quickly, you can stop the process at around 18-20 minutes. Basically you want the rice to be fully cooked, but still have some liquid to work with.

This is about the consistency you want before you add the sweetened condensed milk.

While you’re cooking the rice, make the caramel pecan sauce. Put all the ingredients in a pan over medium-low heat (I used the same whiskey from the raisins in the sauce) and let it bubble gently for about five minutes until it thickens. Take off heat and set aside to cool.

Once the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and add in the sweetened condensed milk, spices, and vanilla. Put back on the burner for 5 minutes to finish cooking.

Now take it off the burner again and add your beaten egg, very slowly so that it doesn’t scramble. The heat of the pudding will cook the egg, and it will thicken everything up. Then, stir in your raisins.

At this point you can check the consistency. If it needs to be creamier, add more sweetened condensed milk. If it needs to be thicker, cook the pudding for an extra 3-4 minutes before taking it off the heat.

Serve it hot in small bowls with some caramel sauce on top.


**Troubleshooting notes:

If your rice hasn’t really thickened up at all by the time you add the sweetened condensed milk, don’t worry. Uncover the pot, turn the heat up a smidgen, and cook until it reaches the right consistency.

If you overcook your caramel sauce and it gets solid as it cools just throw the whole thing in a microwave safe container, microwave it until it’s hot (about 20 seconds) and then add about a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of golden syrup or corn syrup.

If your caramel sauce didn’t cook enough, just throw it in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring until it becomes the right consistency.

Is there a dish you’ve tried recently? Let me know what it was–and if you liked it–in the comments.