Then I found this genius upon genius recipe. In addition to the split vanilla bean and almond extract, some brilliant foodie with too much brain power for their own good thought to add bay leaf to the mix. I was wary at first, but when I threw it all into a pot on a blustery Saturday afternoon and stood over that pot for a full hour, inhaling the most beautiful scent I've ever experienced, I surrendered that foolish skepticism. I can say now that I will NEVER make rice pudding without the bay leaf again. And to anyone who will (or won't) listen, I can't shut up about it. It is truly, truly incredible.
The recipe says it serves four but we scarfed most of it that night for dessert, leaving a couple spoonfuls for breakfast. And it really should be eaten then, when it's cold and clotted and a jumpstart to the senses. My next batch will most certainly be a double, since I can't afford the same heartbreak of a one-serving rice pudding experience. It will be a monster vat of vanilla-almond-bay perfection that will sit in the fridge next to a carton of berries, just waiting for me.