Sütlaç’s closest kin is rice pudding, but you’ll notice that the inside texture is silky, and the top is coated with a thick and creamy skin. It’s perhaps accurate to call fırın sütlaç (or, oven-milk pudding) a cross between Crème brûlée, custard and iced arroz con leche. While originally made with rose water, today’s sütlaç is more commonly flavored with vanilla. Served cold in thick clay dishes, it’s the perfect dessert to cool off on a summer eve – or cool your tastebuds after a spicy dinner.
History: Fırın sütlaç originated in Ottoman kitchens. The original name “sütlü aş” identifies it as hailing from the Rumelia (now Balkan) region, which is why you can find similiar rice pudding dishes across the Balkan states. Today sütlaç is popular across Turkey, though rice grains, ingredient ratios and topping or flavoring will vary from region to region.
Recipe: Unlike crème brûlée, sütlaç’s main ingredient is simply milk. Most cooks swear by using fresh and unpasturized whole milk when making the dessert. While not exactly a health food, sütlaç won’t kill your gut or fill you with regret.
If you want to make sütlaç you will need: 4 cups milk (preferably fresh), 1/2 cup rice, 2 T cornstarch or rice flour, 1 cup sugar (or pekmez), 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 beaten egg yolk.
- First, boil the rice with 2 cups water (though some recipes recommend cooking the rice with milk to give it fuller flavor).
- After cooking the rice (about 25 min), stir in all but 1/4c of the milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat, letting it boil gently for about ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk.
- After ten minutes, add the cornstarch mixture to the rice and milk, gently stirring it in. Lower the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- After the pudding thickens stir for another 2-5 minutes before removing the mixture from the stove and pouring 1/2c-1c servings into individual bowls or foil tins. Swirl a small part of the egg yolk into each serving.
- Let sit until the pudding has cooled to room temperature, and then sprinkle with sugar and broil in the oven until the top has browned.
Our Favorite Variations: If you want to truly try sütlaç, make sure you are tasting the real deal. The pudding should be ice cold, have a thick skin half golden-brown, and be served in a red clay cup. Traditional sütlaç is flavored with rose water (not vanilla) and topped with crumbled pistachios, and can be found at Ottoman restaurants; for more modern variations, try a dessert cafe like MADO.