I am so excited to get to go home to Puerto Rico this year for Christmas!!! I think it has been almost ten years since I have to Puerto Rico for Christmas. It sounds crazy to even say that but, growing up most of my Christmases were spent in the states. But, even though we may have been far from home Mami always made sure that we had a Puerto Rican Christmas. My favorite thing she would make for Christmas was arroz con dulce. Which translates to rice candy. It’s a sticky sweet coconut rice treat with cinnamon and raisins. It’s delicious, its sweet, it’s sticky and for me it is Christmas.
I remember fondly how the smell of coconut and cinnamon would fill the air when Mami would steep the coconut milk with all the spices. She would take her time with it, stirring the pot to make sure it wouldn’t stick to the bottom. Finally, it would be done and ready to pour out onto a platter. She would always warn my sister and me to keep our fingers out of the arroz con dulce. But we would eventually sneak in and steal a bite when she wasn’t looking. It was relatively easy to hide the stolen bite but spreading the arroz over the hole.
There are so many things to love about this beautiful dessert. It’s creamy, sweet, a little sticky and full of coconut flavor. But, let me tell you about one of my favorite things, the raisins, and the cinnamon sticks. “Say what?” you say. I LOVE the raisins because they get all plump and infused with the sweet coconut milk flavor and I love to suck on the cinnamon sticks. I know it sounds odd but try it and then tell me if I am weird.
There is something very magical and fantastic when it comes to food of childhood Christmas memories. The smell and taste immediately transport you back to that time of innocence. When I take a bite of this dessert, I can almost hear all the sounds of Christmas. Christmas with my family was filled with music, children laughing, adults chatting and boisterous laughs followed by the slamming of dominos.
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- 2 cups medium or short grain rice
- 5 14 oz cans coconut milk
- 1 5 oz can evaporated milk
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 12 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ cup sugar
- 1 cup raisins
- Pour rice into a bowl and add water until covering the rice by two-inches. Let soak overnight.
- In a large pot combine four cans of coconut milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon sticks, cloves, salt and ginger. Bring to a boil and set to low to simmer. Let steep for 15 minutes.
- Drain rice and add to a large heavy bottom pot. I find that a large dutch oven works best. Heat pot over medium-low heat. Leave the coconut milk over low heat. Add four ladles of coconut milk, about two cups, to rice. Stir coconut milk in with rice. Continue to stir until rice has absorbed most of the coconut milk. Continue this process one ladle at a time until you have used almost half of the coconut milk.
- Add remaining coconut milk, stir until well combined and cover. Cook covered over low heat for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Add sugar and raisins, stir until well combined. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until rice is tender, stirring frequently to keep from sticking to the bottom. (If the rice begins to dry out before tender add 1 - 2 ladles at a time until tender.)
- Add remaining can of coconut milk to rice pudding. Stir until well combined. Continue to cook uncovered until creamy like a soft pudding. It’s ok if it a little runny because the rice will continue to absorb the coconut milk as it cools.
- Pour pudding out on a serving platter and let cool at room temperature before serving. Garnish with cinnamon.