Baked black rice pudding with pandan and coconut

This sticky rice pudding doesn't require much stirring action.
This sticky rice pudding doesn't require much stirring action. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Gluten-free

It used to be that the only thing that stopped me from eating this rice pudding more often than I did was the long stirring required over the stovetop. The danger, now I have discovered that it bakes perfectly in the oven, more or less unattended, is that it is all too easy to have it every day. When I was growing up in Malaysia, this was a common dessert, though in Indonesia it is traditionally eaten for breakfast.

Ingredients

120g black glutinous rice

30g white glutinous rice

2 pandan leaves (or ½ vanilla bean, split)

70g gula melaka (or other type of palm sugar, or light brown sugar)

20g castor sugar

⅛ tsp salt, plus extra for the coconut milk

120ml coconut milk

shredded coconut, for serving

Method

1. Combine the black and white rice in a bowl. Rinse in cold water to wash it, then drain and return to the bowl. Cover with fresh cold water and set aside to soak in a cool spot for at least an hour (or overnight in the fridge).

2. Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Drain the soaking water and tip rice into an ovenproof casserole dish – I use a deep-sided glass Pyrex dish with a lid – then carefully pour in 800 millilitres of water from a recently boiled kettle. 

3. Scrunch up the pandan leaves, then tie a knot in each one. This not only releases the fragrance, it stops the leaves from going straggly, and makes them easier to remove from the hot pudding later. Tuck the knotted leaves (or vanilla bean) into the rice, then cover the dish with foil (or lid) and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and stir halfway through the baking time, to ensure the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the dish.

4. In the meantime, shave the gula melaka or palm sugar with a large knife. After the 40 minutes, carefully remove the dish from the oven and stir in the gula melaka (palm sugar), castor sugar and the ⅛ tsp salt. Cover again and return to oven for another 30 minutes, or until the rice is soft to the bite – do check, as cooking times can vary depending on the size and depth of your dish. Remove from oven and allow to stand for half an hour before serving; it tastes best when still very warm.

5. Pour the coconut milk into a small bowl, stir in a pinch of salt and set aside.

6. When ready to serve, fish out pandan leaves (or vanilla bean) and spoon rice pudding into serving bowls. Dribble a generous spoonful of the salted coconut milk in the middle of each bowl so it just "stains" the rice. Sprinkle over shredded coconut, and serve. You could, if you wish, top it with fresh fruit, though I personally don't like anything to get in the way of my enjoyment of the soft, comforting grains.