Heat the oven to 350°F and butter a shallow 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, milk, bay leaf, salt, and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring from time to time, until the rice begins to soften but isn’t completely tender to the tooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
Combine the vanilla seeds and pod (if using) and the cream in a small pan. Scald the cream; set aside to cool. (If you’re using vanilla extract, add it now.) Discard the vanilla bean pod. Add the cream, raisins, and currants to the rice and pour the mixture into the baking dish.
Bake uncovered until a golden skin forms on the top, 20 to 25 minutes. The pudding will be a little soupy the first day and will thicken and improve by the second and third days.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on six servings;
Photo: Amy Albert