The first time I invited friends over for an ambitious and authentic Turkish dinner is kind of a haze; I set my roommate’s terribly tacky potholders on fire (accidentally, but to minimal regret), made a hummus that was far too tahini-rich, and had to use a knife instead of a corkscrew. The single most successful dish I made was also ostensibly the one that took the longest to make, and was especially challenging on my short attention span.
Note: Before you inadvertently turn a batch of pudding into a cosmetic masterpiece, pay attention to where you’re getting your rosewater from. It’s become increasingly trendy to use rosewater toners (the Whole Foods beauty aisle is full of them), but those are often mixed with witch hazel, or are not FDA approved. I went to an Armenian grocery store to pick up a glass bottle that was specifically marked for baking and cooking. You’ll likely have luck at many Middle Eastern grocery stores, as rose flavoring is very common in deserts from this region.
If you don’t have short grain rice, regular jasmine will work in a pinch, but it does adversely impact the texture and cook time. This recipe doesn’t have a ton of ingredients, but it does require constant vigilance with a wooden spoon—otherwise, you’ll risk the mixture clumping up at various stages, instead of turning into a smooth pudding. I used a 4.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, which also meant less risk of my rice sticking to the bottom. —Oset Babur
Start by bringing water to a boil in a smaller saucepan, stir in the rice, and simmer covered until the liquid is absorbed, as you would when making rice regularly, about 15 minutes.
Then, use a heavier pan to dissolve sugar in milk—keep the heat low, and stir often. Add the cooked rice to the milk mixture in the heavier pan and raise the heat to a boil. In another bowl, dissolve the rice flour in 1/4 cup of water, stir in some of the hot milk, and pour this mixture into the simmering milk in a steady stream, constantly stirring. Lower the heat and gently cook the pudding for about 30 minutes, again, stirring constantly. If yours is still looking a little soupy after half an hour, give it as much time as it needs, but resist the urge to turn the heat up. The mixture will slowly thicken to the consistency of a porridge or thick bisque.
After removing the heavy pan from heat, add in the rosewater and stir thoroughly. Your pudding shouldn’t be terribly pink, but the rosewater will leave a slight tinge and a beautiful fragrance. Fill your ramekins and dust with cinnamon (or, let guests decide how much cinnamon they want). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. The mixture will thicken and will become the ideal thick consistency only after being refrigerated.