Patience is not a virtue of mine. From the moment I injured my finger I have pestered my doctor, and now my hand therapist, about when I can start cooking (with two hands) again, and writing (with two hands) again* and playing tennis (I have a two-handed backhand) again. And so on.
While the answer is not as soon as I would like, the good news is that it is now only a matter of weeks before I can start employing my recuperating digit in small tasks. Even better: both my doctor and my hand therapist seem optimistic that I will eventually recover full use of it, provided I perform my prescribed exercises faithfully and don’t try to rush things. So, while I am not good at being patient, I have, in the interest of my finger, not to mention my career and longterm well-being and sanity (and that of my family), strived to be a good patient.
I thought it would be nice to celebrate this bit of happy news with a small homage to that gentle virtue—patience—in the form of this gentle, slow-baked farro pudding. You may well be familiar with farro, a grain that dates back to Roman times, but is enjoying immense popularity right now. Traditionally, it has been used in those hearty vegetable soups typical of Italy’s Garfagnana region, a rugged corner of northern Tuscany. But nowadays it is featured in all sorts of recipes, from grain salads to risotto-style dishes.
This sweet, slow dessert, however, is a departure. It is similar to rice pudding, only better, in my opinion. The farro is baked in cinnamon- and lemon-infused milk (or a mixture of milk and cream) for several hours in a low-temperature oven, with nothing more than a little stir now and again to help it along. So yes, it takes awhile, but it is easy to make. And it is worth the wait, for what emerges is a lovely thickened cream the color of caffe’ latte, in which the fat grains of farro are suspended like rough-textured pearls.
You can certainly eat the pudding warm, as you might be inclined to do in February. But, again, you will be rewarded if you wait a few more hours and allow it to chill completely in the refrigerator. Served cold, this pudding is a luscious treat any time of year, a mood lifter with its flowery aroma of cinnamon and citrus, cool and soothing by the spoonful, nourishing, and definitely good for what ails you (and me).
*This post brought to you by my right hand.
This recipe is from my book Big Night In.
- 1/2 cup farro
- 4 cups whole or reduced-fat milk, or 3 cups skim milk and 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 (3-inch) strips lemon peel
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Vegetable oil for coating the baking dish
- Whipped cream for serving (optional)
Place the farro in a medium-sized saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the farro in a colander and transfer it to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the farro just until the grains are coarsely ground, 30 to 45 seconds.
Heat the oven to 275 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the farro, milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and lemon peel. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture and add the pod as well. Mix well. Coat a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish with a little oil. Pour the mixture into the dish and place in the oven. Bake the pudding for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until thickened and creamy. Stir it briefly every hour or so to prevent a skin from forming.
Remove the pudding from the oven. Discard the vanilla pod and the lemon peel if you can locate them. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the top of the pudding and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
To serve, spoon the pudding into individual custard cups and garnish with a dollop of whip cream, if you like, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.