Persimmon Rice Pudding

This week, with the celebration of Mardi Gras, New Orleans is in full festivity mode.  I figured it would only be fitting to dedicate some of my recipes this week to the famed historical holiday.  This recipe is for a classic New Orleans dessert, persimmon rice pudding.

As far as desserts go, rice pudding, is not really an unhealthy choice.  The only problem with some of the traditional rice pudding recipes is that they add whole milk (or cream), whole eggs, sugar and a good amount of butter to the ingredient line up.  Since I am not a fan of any of these items I decided to recreate a rice pudding dessert that would be healthy and still remain tasty.

Rice is great source of energy, it stabilizes blood sugar levels and is an excellent source of vitamin B1.   Rice has also been known to improve skin health, speed up your metabolism, help with digestion, reduce high blood pressure, improve your immune system and provide protection against certain diseases.  There is little doubt as to why rice has been such a popular food staple for so many centuries.

Variations of rice pudding can be found around the world.  To create worldly taste profiles, different types of rice can be used, along with alterations in the spice blend.   In New Orleans they have long used Persimmon in their savory and sweet dishes.  A classic New Orleans dessert is Persimmon rice pudding.  Persimmon is an edible fruit that is actually classified as a berry.  Persimmon has a soft texture with a sweet and delicate flavor.  The persimmon adds a wonderful sweet and fresh flavor to the basic rice pudding dish.

My first rice pudding ingredient to substitute was the whole milk (or cream) that is used in a traditional rice pudding.  For my healthy rice pudding recipe I decided to go with my favorite go to milk replacement, unsweetened almond milk.  I have found that unsweetened vanilla almond milk works best for this recipe.  You can, however, use coconut milk or even soy milk if you prefer.

The second ingredient for me to tackle was the sugar.  Thankfully sugar is an easy ingredient item to replace.  I have replaced the sugar, in the traditional pudding recipe, with pure Stevia extract.  If you are not a fan of pure Stevia extract than you can use cane sugar or coconut sugar instead.  I have included, in the recipe, the substitution amount for each sugar replacement variation.

The last ingredients for me to replace were the butter and whole eggs.  Because this recipe calls for Persimmon, I wanted to see if the Persimmon fruit puree could act as the butter replacement.   I traditionally use applesauce as my butter replacement and figured the Persimmon puree is similar to applesauce, so it should work.  Fruit purees act like a butter in binding ingredients together and adds a nice level of moisture to the dish.  Whole eggs have an easy replacement as well.  Instead of using the whole egg, just the egg white can be used to accomplish the same goal.  Eggs are used as a glue and as an ingredient fluffier in most recipes.  By using just the egg white you still accomplish this task but with less calories, fat and cholesterol.

The recipe below makes about 4 to 5 servings (depending on serving size).  The recipe can be doubled to fit your particular needs, just make sure you increase the size of the baking dish.  The pudding can be served hot, warm, cool or cold.

Persimmon Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked long grain rice

1 cup persimmon puree (see instructions below)

1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (1/4 cup cane sugar or coconut sugar)

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or coconut milk)

5 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or you can use a gluten free flour like soy flour for a gluten free recipe)

1 egg white 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons raisins

Making a persimmon puree is simple, quick and easy.  Simply peel the skin off the persimmons and cut into cubes.  Place the cut persimmon into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  The puree is now ready to use in the pudding recipe.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine cooked rice and persimmon puree.  Set mixture aside.  In a separate bowl, combine stevia (or sugar), almond milk, white whole wheat flour, egg white and vanilla.   Add flour mixture to the rice mixture and mix well. Stir in walnuts and raisins.

Pour into a greased 1 1/2 or 2 quart baking/casserole dish. Place in the preheated oven and bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until pudding is set. Pudding can be served warm, cool or cold.   Store leftover pudding covered in the refrigerator.  

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