By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Here in Firenze (Florence), we eat Budini di Riso daily either for breakfast or for merenda (our tea time). These rice pudding mini-tarts are true comfort food and evocative of my childhood. We go early in the morning to have breakfast in a bar with our cappuccino or our strong espresso coffee shot. Along with a delicious array of cornetti (brioches filled with jam, Nutella, or cream), ciambelle (donuts), and sfogliatelle (puff pastry), there will always be the famous budini di riso. It is made with simple and genuine ingredients such as rice, flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. When these beauties are still hot, they are incredibly delicious. The oval-shaped mini-cakes are a crumbly pastry filled with sweet, tender, fragrant rice pudding, scented with lemon and with a dust of powdered sugar on top.
If you travel Italy, you won't find these delicious treats anywhere but Florence. If you go just
1 km away, you simply won't find it. However, if you want to try this delicious experience, you can make budino di riso at home. It is a very easy recipe, and the result is fantastic.
Budino di Riso
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 organic lemon, zested
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped out with the tip of a knife
2 large eggs, beaten
1 lemon, organic, zested
1 orange, organic, zested
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
Make the Crusts:
Combine butter, flour, and a pinch of salt by working the butter into the flour with your fingertips, working fast.
Mix in the powdered sugar and transfer the mixture to a work surface.
Form the mixture into a volcano shape and add the egg yolks and zest to the crater. Use a fork to beat the yolks in the crater, then gradually mix them into the flour. Once it comes together, use your hands to work the mixture it into a dough, making sure not to overwork it.
Form the dough into a round disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and place on a floured work surface to roll it very thin —apprx. 1/8" (3 mm) thick.
Using a muffin or small tart tin as a guide, use a round cookie cutter or a knife to cut rounds slightly larger than the tin molds. Gently press the dough into the molds and pierce the bottom and sides a few times with a fork.
Pop the tins into the oven and bake until golden brown. It's a good idea to fill each mold with pie weights or beans to keep the dough from puffing up as it cooks. Bake until golden brown—apprx 10 minutes.
Remove tins and allow the crusts to cool.
Make the Filling:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.
Add the rice and stir.
Add the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon, and orange zest. Simmer gently, uncovered, over low heat until the rice is tender and not too dry. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Stir in the beaten eggs and orange and lemon zests.
Spoon rice pudding into each crust up to the edge. Return to the oven and bake until the tops are firm and golden brown—apprx. 10 minutes.
Remove the budini from the oven and let cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).