How to make malabi, Israeli milk pudding

Like creamy, sweet things? Try malabi, a traditional, rose-scented milk pudding.

Slide a spoon into the softly yielding white mass and put it in your mouth. You’ll taste rose-flavored sweetness and a light, creamy texture that keeps you dipping your spoon back in until the pudding’s all gone.

Here in Israel we call it malabi. It’s milk pudding, made in 10 minutes. Sounds like a dessert for children, and children naturally do love it, but I’ve been served malabi in restaurants and at dinner parties.

There are two ways to make malabi: one is an old-fashioned, rice-flour based version. Modern cooks often prefer to use cornstarch instead. Rice flour is easy enough to make in the food processor – just whirl raw white rice around in it until it is fine, floury particles. Or pick some up at the health food store. When made with rice flour, malabi has more body and a slightly gritty texture, compared to cornstarch-based malabi, which is silky and very light.

Recipes vary a little. Some call for half milk, half light cream instead of only milk. Some people flavor their malabi with rosewater, some with orange flower water. Very old recipes call for mastic, a resin from a shrub belonging to the pistachio family. I saw one recipe that requires flavoring the pudding with two leaves of a bitter orange tree, or the flowers. Until now, I’ve favored vanilla and rosewater. There is something so soothing about the perfume of roses.

Toppings vary too. I like to top malabi with chopped pine nuts and walnuts, or with chopped pistachios. Some dust a little cinnamon over the top, or sprinkle shredded coconut and peanuts. And everyone swirls a little syrup over the pudding. It can be any kind of syrup you like. Even maple syrup.

Here are two basic malabi recipes.

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