In a saucepan over medium to medium high heat, place one quart of whole or extra-rich milk, 1/2 cup long grain white rice, 1/2 cup sugar and (optional) a pinch of salt. Stir frequently as it comes to a boil.
When it is bubbling nicely but not boiling over, set a timer for 45 minutes, lower the heat gradually to maintain a slow simmer and continue to stir periodically while you are doing other things in the kitchen. Do not allow it to boil too energetically or to stop boiling altogether, admittedly a delicate balance to maintain, especially on certain ranges.
As you approach the 45 minute mark, the pudding will start to thicken and develop a skin, which you must repeatedly stir back in. After 45 minutes, evaluate the thickness of the pudding and if it needs to cook down more, keep adding time in 5 minute increments until you like the consistency. This varies according to the milk, the rice, the weather, your mood, your stove, etc.
When your personal private magic consistency has been achieved, spoon the pudding into dessert cups, small ramekins, small bowls, or whatever you have on hand. I like the Crate and Barrel footed glass dessert dishes and for one batch this size, I use 6 of them.
Sprinkle each serving generously and as evenly as you can with cinnamon and pop in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
Now you have a choice: when the pudding is completely chilled, you can cover it immediately with plastic wrap to keep it soft or you can leave it uncovered several more hours or overnight and it will develop a thickened, chewy crust. Then you must remember to cover it or it will dry out too much.
The crust is optional and is both traditional and deliberate in our family, but I do wonder if it was originally a happy accident when someone forgot to cover the pudding after it had cooled. It’s delicious with or without the crust but please, just don’t try to cover your pudding while it’s still warm. The pudding will sweat and the moisture will collect and rain down on the cinnamon and it will not be pretty.
This is my favorite kind of recipe, long on method but requiring just a few simple ingredients which are completely transformed by careful attention into something delightful. Enjoy!