My obsession with rice, stoked by my recent move to Charleston and last week’s Lowcountry Rice Culture Project forum, is brand new. But my obsession with rice pudding dates back to childhood; the dessert preference is likely a relic of my family’s Sephardic heritage (high on my to-research list is the culinary leanings of Charleston’s early Sephardic community.)
So I was terrifically excited to discover that rice pudding has a permanent place in the display case at Sweet Radish, the gluten-free bakery which yesterday opened on Spring Street. Owner Julia Ingram sells the pudding in little glass jars for $3 a serving; if you return the jar, you get a dollar back.
The pudding itself is excellent. The rice grains retain enough chew to texturize the suggestively sweet porridge, which happily occupies the middle ground between sturdy and soppy. But what makes the dessert a standout is the base layer of Asian pear butter, made according to an apple butter recipe which belonged to the grandmother of Andy Henderson, Ingram’s boyfriend and Edmund’s Oast’s executive chef. The tart puree, rich with the concentrated flavor of fruit sugar, is an unexpectedly exotic and sophisticated touch at the bottom of the jar.
Sweet Radish sold out its inventory on opening day, and was close to repeating the feat when I dropped by after lunch today. Don’t put off your pudding break.