Rice Pudding Cake (Ryžový Nákyp)
Ingredients: 1.5 cups rice (350 g), 4.2 cups milk (1L), 1/5 stick of butter (20g), 3/4 cups powdered sugar (80g), teaspoon of vanilla extract, 3 eggs, canned cherries or apricots, raisins
Prep Time: 2.5 hours, but most of it is “hands off”
Here is a recipe for the one meal that to me symbolizes childhood more than any other dish out there. This sweet rice and fruit concoction was on the list of foods rotated in Slovak elementary school lunch cafeterias. Boy, how much did I look forward to the day when ryžový nákyp was one the menu! The rich taste of the sweet rice blends so well with the fruit. This dish, just like žemlovka or plum dumplings, is served as the main course, typically following chicken noodle soup (or some other soup). Despite the fact it is sweet, it is not considered a desert. Instead, it is one of several Slovak sweet main courses, something not found in the American cuisine.
Of course, every classroom had to have few of those strange kids who were nowhere to be found when this great dish was being served. Follow the recipe below, and be the judge for yourself.
Start off by giving the rice (ryža) a little bath. Seeing how murky the water got, it really needed it! You can also wash the rise in a strainer, but I like to start off by putting it in a pot of water. I feel that gives the rice a better all around rinse. Strain the water and put the rice in a fairly large cooking pot.
Then add the milk (mlieko) and also a pinch of salt if you so desire. Watch the pot as you bring the milk to boil. Milk has a bad habit of liking to spill over – and leaving a smelly burning mess behind. Decrease the heat and simmer until all the liquid is gone. This will take about 30 minutes. Stir to keep the rice from burning.
Now comes the really fun part – making the egg white foam, called snow (sneh) in Slovak. I’ve read various comments online of people asking how to make the foam. It’s really quite easy. Now, perhaps getting the really stiff foam needed for meringue may be tricky, but we don’t need anything like that. Simply place the egg whites (bielka) in a bowl and start whisking.
Wait, how do you get egg whites? This is also easy. Break an egg in the middle and pour out the white into a bowl. Some of it will remain attached to the yolk. Now, holding each half of the egg shell in each hand, start tossing the yolk from one half to the other. This will help separate the white from the yolk. Sometime, you may get a sticky egg “finger” dripping from the yolk, not wanting to let go. If this happens, just grab it between your two fingers and pull off away from the yolk. Save the yolks.
You can whip the egg whites using a hand whisk. But, it’s so much easier to use a small handy electric mixer, like this one! Also, sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the whites. Whisking is a mechanical process and the salt granules help to add little extra drag force to the process. French supposedly insist on using copper bowls, as the chemical reaction of copper with the egg helps stiffen the foam. My grandma does her whisking in a plastic bowl, so for most practical purposes, just use whatever container you have handy.
You should find the rice just about cooked once the milk is gone. Stir in the 3 yolks, 3/4 cups of powdered sugar (práškový cukor), about a teaspoon of vanilla extract (vanilka) and about a fifth of a stick of unsalted butter (maslo). Then stir in about two thirds of the whipped egg white foam (sneh). Place the rest in the fridge.
Here is a picture of what NOT to do next. Before cooking this dish, I did bit of research on the recipes. One recipe said to make a layer of rice, add a layer of fruit, and top it off with another layer of rice. This is what I did. Instead, I should have followed Martina’s recipe, and mixed the fruit into the rice. My resulting dish, although still tasty, was a mess to take out! The thick layer of fruit prevented the two halves from fusing together. Anyway, drain the juice (but save for later) from your favorite canned fruit. Cherries (čerešne) work great. Mix the fruit with the rice, and put everything into a baking pan. Bake in an oven preheated to 375F for about 40 minutes. It’s ready for the next step when the top and edges starts showing brown spots.
After about 40 minutes of baking, take the pan out, but leave the oven on. Take the remaining one third of the beaten egg whites and give them quick fresh whipping. Spread the foam on top and stick back in the oven. Bake for about 15 more minutes, until the top starts getting brown.