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Yield: 4 to 6 servings

I like my rice pudding soft, super-creamy, with no eggs, served hot. I strongly prefer a baked pudding–so easy, so foolproof. You can, of course, leave the jam out for vanilla pudding, or melt in some chocolate instead at the end of the baking. Pudding means playtime when I get in the kitchen–it’s easy to go wild with flavors. A few other notes: I use a medium-grain rice from my Asian grocery. I have tried the pudding with short-grain brown rice; I’m still perfecting that version. If you try it, at minimum you have to cook the rice partway in water first. I use the freezer jam I make in huge batches every spring, using the reduced-sugar boxes of Sure-Jell. Also, I do tend these days to leave out the butter when I’m sensing that I might eat more than my share.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind — I use 1%)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup arborio or medium-grain rice

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup to 1 cup strawberry jam, preferably homemade, or other flavor, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease or butter a 2-quart or larger baking dish.

In the dish, whisk together cream, milk, butter, rice, sugar and salt (the butter will melt during baking). Cover and bake 45 minutes.

Stir, cover, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the pudding is still a little saucy and the rice is barely chewy. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and jam. Serve or chill; covered, the pudding reheats well.

Related column: Strawberry Dreams

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