swiss easter rice tart

I have what some might consider an unhealthy interest in celebrating religious holidays that have nothing to do with my own, yet the fixation is more of a cultural than a devotional one. Growing up in a one-religion household, you miss out on certain foods. In the same way that I’m sure a lot of people who had never tried hamantaschen or latkes before have had their curiosity piqued by mentions of them, I am itching to try one of those yule logs with marzipan mushrooms or one of those mega-hams people bake for Easter, something not one even one of my most bacon-loving Jewish friends has ever tried. I strive to break down culinary cultural barriers! Or, I just like pork. Anyhow

falling rice

The New York Times ran an article last Wednesday about Easter baking that is more traditional than, say, egg-shaped pastel cakes or bunny cookies, and I was captivated by something called a Swiss Easter Rice Tart, with a custard base, ground almonds and lemon zest. It wasn’t just me; within 12 hours of the recipe’s publication, both my mother and a friend had drooled over it to me, imploring me to make it but my only response was “when the heck would I have an excuse to bake an Easter tart?” I mean, between the “Easter” in the name and the article’s note that it is “served only at Easter” (emphasis mine) it seemed like it would be pretty hard to pretend its something I normally bake, just because it’s the second-to-last Sunday in March or something.

boiled rice

But just like that, I was invited to an Easter dinner at the home of a friend from high school, making all of my secular dreams come true–not just Easter ham but a real, fitting excuse to make the rice tart! Sadly, these are what pass for celebrations in my life these days. Except, I’m not sad about it at all.

still warm swiss rice tart

I was imagining the tart as something like a rice pudding, baked in a tart shell, or in other words: impossibly delicious. However, it’s really not quite the same thing. The rice primarily cooked in boiling water, meaning that it doesn’t pick up as much creaminess and near the end, it is pureed, so it bears little resemblance to its pudding counterpart. The flavors were mild enough that I added almond extract to give it a flavor of well, anything. I desperately wanted to make it again with whole raspberries pressed in right before it is baked, or topped with a tart fruit sauce, but then it wouldn’t exactly be a traditional Swiss Easter Rice Tart anymore, would it? So, in the end, though it was delicious in its own way, I just wasn’t head-over-heels for it. Fortunately, the Easter ham–oh right! and the awesome company–far exceeded my expectations.

My next task: One of these fruitcakes I hear can be eaten up to ten years after they’re made! My mind boggles.

swiss easter rice tart

Swiss Easter Rice Tart
Adapted from

8 to 10 servings

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and more for dusting
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
11 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, in 11 slices
1/2 cup long-grain rice
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely ground in food processor
3 large eggs
Confectioners’ sugar

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the baking powder in food processor. Pulse to blend. Add 10 tablespoons butter and pulse 3 to 4 times, until butter is in pea-size pieces. Sprinkle in 3 tablespoons cold water. Pulse 4 times. Dough will not come together. Turn dough out on lightly floured work surface and knead gently a few times to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, half fill a 3-quart saucepan with water, bring to a boil, stir in rice, lower heat to medium and cook until rice is soft, about 15 minutes. Drain rice and return it to saucepan. Add milk, remaining butter, 1/2 cup sugar and remaining salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until mixture has thickened almost to a risotto consistency, about 25 minutes.

3. Place saucepan in a large bowl of ice and water 10 minutes, to cool mixture to tepid. Purée in food processor. Pour into a bowl and add lemon zest. Mix ground almonds and extract if using with 1 tablespoon flour and add to bowl. Stir in eggs one at a time.

4. Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove pastry from refrigerator and place on lightly floured surface. Lightly dust top with flour. Use a rolling pin to press down on dough to soften it. Roll out disk to 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press dough evenly into pan. Trim edges flush with pan. Pour filling into pastry.

5. Bake about 35 minutes (mine took 45), until filling is set and golden. Cool on a rack. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar before serving.

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75 comments on swiss easter rice tart

  1. Susie

    It sounds like it might still be something worth trying. I wonder how “traditional” it is. I’ve never heard of it before (born & raised Christian) but just wondering if this might be one of those recipes someone claims is a traditional dish but maybe…isn’t? (Now I’m sure someone will write that their Aunt Celesta has been making it for 97 years.) I may try making it with some fruit involved, as you suggested. You know, I appreciate the recipes that you DON’T like almost as much as the ones you do. You’re doing us a public service, Deb. Thank you!

    1. Helen in CA

      I think the key word here is SWISS Easter Rice Tart. Considering that Swiss isn’t a common ethnic food source……

  2. Kaye

    How do you get your tart shells so PERFECT? I have been reading and zealously following your instructions on how to do this, but apparently it still eludes me, much like whipping a proper egg white into “stiff peaks.” Fortunately I can pass off the less-perfect Whole-Lemon Tartlets as “unfit for company” and keep them all to myself. :) Perhaps with this recipe I will conquer all. I appreciate the raspberry tip!

  3. well it sure does look delish! i really wanted to make this when i saw it in the times this past weekend. it just looked so creamy and custardy. i was imagining a rice pudding with eggs. i didn’t realize it actually got puréed. thinking about now, i prolly fancied this recipe because the photo makes it look like one big lemon tart … ymm!

  4. Genevieve

    It is true you don’t want one of THOSE fruitcakes – but there are better, and I mean, much better examples out there – some amazing fruitcakes with real dried fruit, lots of dark chocolate, organic nuts and soaked in much brandy. Now that is YUM. Try here for the best: As for the tart, I still have to attempt baking one….after I buy a proper tart pan of course!

  5. That’s a really interesting recipe, I’ve never even heard of it before. I had reservations about the texture until you revealed that the rice is pureed. I liked reading about it, but I’m not sure I would make it, especially after you weren’t that impressed. It looks stunning though and you can tick another religious recipe off the list…

  6. I celebrate all of those holidays that you don’t, and I’ve still never had fruitcake, or a swiss rice tart, and I had my first yule log this year, when I made it myself. The Easter ham, though, I’ve had my share of that.

  7. Ooo, I saw these pictures on your Flickr and was very curious if the rice goes into the tart. It does! That aside, I’m not a fan of rice pudding so not sure I’d go for this tart, even if it isn’t really quite like rice pudding. :)

  8. Ben

    You’re hilarious.

    And wow, it LOOKS amazing. Loving the raspberry idea. Why not tweak tradition a little? Evolution is a wonderful thing.

  9. Beautiful tart! I made a similar one this past weekend from a recipe in Jamie’s Italy, as I too was inspired by the NY Times article. The consistency of the filling was definitely more like rice pudding: The rice is cooked in whole milk, and as the filling cools, it absorbs the milk. It was very tasty and creamy, and I enjoyed the texture of the rice very much–in this recipe, it isn’t pureed. I’ve posted about it on my blog if you want to check it out for next year!

  10. Gloria

    This sort of resembles a traditional Italian easter dish – made with ricotta and rice, and sometimes also studded with lemon peel, and more resembles a cheesecake than a tart. It’s extremely yummy.

    Also, I have a recipe for fruitcake that is incredible. It uses actual dried fruit, rather than those insipid nasty little radioactive bits of candied fruit in the normal fruitcake. It’s dense, fruity, nutty, and just a little boozy. Yum!

  11. This cake looks more promising that you make it sound,I have to say.

    But if you really want to try one of those fruit cakes, I have what seems to be the absolutely perfect recipe for “Christmas Cake.” I got it out of an old Irish cookbook. (email me if you want the recipe) This is a particularly British concoction which has all the good things about fruit cake in it and none of the bad. (i.e. lots of brandy, candied peel, shredded apple, ground nuts, and NO disgustingly dyed green candied cherries that will tint the surrounding cake a hideous shade) It weighs about 10 pounds when done, and it gets covered in a layer of marzipan before adding a layer of royal icing. It does keep for at least a month after you’ve cut it (and a good month before that to age, if you like). It is serious cake. You offer it to house guests all around the holiday season, along with a cup of Earl Grey tea. mmmm….

  12. Emily

    If you want a delicious fruitcake recipe, look for one described as “light.” The first fruitcake I ever tasted and loved was made by my friend’s British mother and was closer to a white cake, but with that lovely fruitiness. Although I might like a genuine British fruitcake because they’re also made with real candied fruits instead of those horrid toxic green nightmares. Not to mention that her family makes their fruitcake in September, and keeps feeding it with brandy until they cut it in December… mmmm…

  13. deb

    Kaye — I have a long, documented history of terrible tart shells, actually, but there were a few things working in this one’s favor. One, it is not traditional, in that it has baking powder in it, and it puffs and looks a bit more present than the firmer ones. The other is that because it didn’t need to be parbaked, it didn’t lose any volume. That said, practice makes… not perfect, but less disasters. Or so I hope!

    MommyTime — Marzipan? Sold! I’ll shoot you an email later.

  14. lynn

    A swiss friend made a traditional dessert for me once and I found it rather bland and unexcting. This tart kinda sounds the same. I would definitely recommend you experiment with the raspberries.

    Oh… and go for the yule log with marzipan – super yum!

  15. sharon

    oh how i abhorred the fruitcake i had over xmas. and it was one created with loving care by a group of wonderful french swiss women who are amazing cooks. but it’s just yucky.

  16. I’m still mad at Mom for persuading my grandparents to order everyone fruitcakes from Gethsemane Farms at Christmas instead of the cheese. I loved the cheese (stinky feet cheese, Mom called it) and couldn’t abide the cake.

    Well, the grandparent are gone now, so I guess I can get over that particular mad. But really. Fruitcake.

  17. Antonia has a fruitcake recipe that you might want to try:

    She mentions a “big” pan; I used a 10-inch springform and the batter fit fine. However, even though the English/American temperature conversions she posts are accurate, the baking time she gives left me with a fruitcake strongly resembling Han Solo in carbonite. The batter was amazingly fragrant, though, so it might be worth monkeying with the baking time; I suspect the cake would be wonderful.

  18. Mireille

    I love your blog. I do not celebrate Hannahkah, and I still haven’t tried latkes. I want to…As for fruitcake, my parents, being British, love it. Especially when it is covered with marzipan paste. Bonne chance!

  19. Kate

    Two words: (1) Arborio; (2) rice.

    I’ve had this “tart” and it should be somewhere between marzipan and super creamy rice pudding with a slightly crunchy carmelly skin on top.

    The recipe does look too bland especially with long grain rice. Uck.

  20. Kate

    oops! Almost forgot to mention that there is usually a nice jammy layer between the crust and the rice. Apricot and rum or something like that.

  21. pam

    fruitcake: omit the creepy jujubee fruit and use dried montmorency cherries, beautiful dates, golden raisins, dried apricots, etc…and lots of locally grown walnuts. that’ll make you beg for this much maligned treat every christmas!

  22. Juliet

    That tart looks fascinating. Like it is deceptively lemon flavored. Anyway, again, beautiful photos. And your tart crust looks quite lovely!
    RE: Yule Log. It’s been a while since I made mine, but it was so. much. fun. I adapted recipes from CI, Nick Malgieri, Martha Stewart and Rose Levy Bernbaum. It turned out great and tasted fantastic. Instead of marzipan mushrooms, I made Meringue Mushrooms. They were so cute! (I hate the word cute, but there’s nothing else appropriate to describe them.) Anyway, it would be great to see how your yule log truns out, if you decide to make one this December. I would like to say it’s a tradition, but I like to change things up each year.

  23. deb

    I’m so glad everyone is so excited about my secular culinary interests! Don’t worry, I’ll be making kreplach soon to balance it out.

    The funniest thing about yule logs though, is that the first time I saw one, I was like, “Oh, the *Bleep* Cake” because we’ve been making a roll cake in my family for years–for Passover, no less, because it has no flour.

  24. becca

    If it’s a fruitcake you are looking for, I reccomend Black Cake from Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking (it might be in the sequel – more home cooking, but both are worth a read). It is not for someone who wants a cake in a hurry. The fruit has to be marinated for 3-6 months before you start baking. But the fruitcake haters I convinced to try it wanted seconds, and I had no leftovers.

  25. Kim

    Gorgeous tart, what a shame it didn’t taste fantastic because it sure looks like it would. I make killer Rugelach for a nice Christian girl; much to my Jewish friends’ amazement! Julia Child has a recipe for a Fruitcake that needs to be made ahead 6 wks before eating. It is worth both the effort and the wait. As always lovely photos………What’s kreplach?

  26. Annie

    Thank you, Deb, for your marvelous site! I’m with you onthe celebratory foods of other cultures. As a Mexican-German-Irish girl living in the South, from the Midwest via Boston, and married to a real, off-the boat Irishman, naturally my all-time favorite spring holiday pastry is Greek Easter bread (tsourekakia pashalina). It’s a rich braided sweet yeast bread, like Challah, but subtley flavored with mahlepi (ground cherry stones). And crowned with hard-boiled eggs (in shell) dyed blood red.

  27. In my Italian-American family we making something called Ricotta Rice Pie at Easter. It is not exactly a pie as it is baked in a tube pan! It is delicious—uses only the most basic ingredients. Everyone who eats it falls in love with it! I am sure it would beat the Swiss Easter Rice Tart!

    If you would like the the recipe I would be happy to share.

  28. Emily

    i love obsessions with other religion’s foods! I have recently developed one for challah! and i am yearning to try chocolate babka, though i must admit i have to wait a while before i indulge for that!

  29. Gorgeous! Pastry Studio also posted a gateau de Riz recipe in their blog and I told them the same thing. My family makes a similar tart and it’s to die for. Golden brown top, puff pastry tartlet… delicious!

  30. Hmm… I am immediately turned off by any mention of rice in sweet dishes (rice pudding, Indian rice desserts, etc.). Now I feel like my rice prejudice has been justified by the blandness! Everyone always tells me I am unreaosnable, but no more!

    Raspberries and fruit sauce make ANYTHING delicious, though :)

  31. I made something like this a few years back using a sweet, sticky rice. I think it was almost too sticky and eventually became very mushy.
    I’ll have to try it again with the long grain and hopefully I’ll have the same great results like you did! Keeping my fingers crossed….

  32. Very interesting dish, I’ve never heard of anything like this before. Is the final texture anything like mochi? I’ve only recently discovered mochi but it is a great treat! The Whole Foods near me sells a ready to bake chocolate walnut mochi by the brand Grainaissance that is made with brown rice. It’s really delicious!

  33. Ophelia

    Hello Deb…..Just wanted to say that thanks to you I have now added 2 pasta dishes to my repertoire……I’d been meaning to make a good putanesca spaghetti for a long time and found it here on your blog. Delish! equally good was the eggplant rigatoni I made this weekend….Yummy!! The italian wannabe that I am thanks you! Oh and btw, this catholic girl’s never heard of an Easter rice tart before….

  34. My family is Italian and we make an easter specialty cheesecake… We pronounce it ‘Pizza Guadagaut’ but call it ‘Italian Easter Cheesecake’ so most people understand. Have you heard of this recipe before? It’s really wonderful!

  35. As someone has already pointed out, there are many variations on this one. I say follow your instinct and proceed as you see fit, with whole rice grains cooked in milk (I would do it this way and I’m Swiss) and maybe even some cream stirred into the cooled filling – just to fully embrace that indulgent Easter feeling. :-) And go for the rasperries by all means, it sounds great! I don’t believe in this you can’t add this or it won’t be traditional. I’m like you and love to try those traditional dishes from other cultures and religions, too. I’ve had an eye on that babka…

  36. Your recipe became our traditional easter pie! I am using my own crust: 300g flower, 200g Butter and 100g sugar. It’s just wonderful! Thanks so much for this recipe. I can’t wait for easter!

  37. Lara

    I just wanted to say that here in Switzerland we add sultanas or chopped chocolate (for a more unconventional version). None of the recipes I know cook the rice in water. The version I personally prefer is actually made with semolina, but as someone else pointed out, use Arborio if using rice.

  38. Kat

    I’ve had the impossibly delicious rice pudding pie that you speak of; it’s called “rijstevlaai” and it’s a traditional Limburger dish served around Easter. I discovered it when I worked as a nanny in the Netherlands for a family who owned a brasserie and deli/bakery. Unfortunately they never relinquished the recipe, insisting that it was far to complicated for a lay person like me. I remember the baker saying that it was a matter of getting the temperature and timing exactly right (and something else about humidity). It wasn’t made often because it usually turned out too runny or too stiff to serve but when it was, it sold out immediately. The key ingredient I believe is “rijstpap” which is a traditional rice pudding slow cooked with full fat milk and a cinnamon stick.

  39. Aleta

    So I made this tart today for a supper club I belong to – the theme was Switzerland. Firstly – this dish is very labour intensive! It was very long to make and made so many dirty dishes!!! I wish that some of the comments above were by people who have actually made this recipe. I found it made too much filling – I had at least 3/4 cup left over. As I tried to fill my shell, some of the filling spilled over on the floor (more to clean up!!!!) and over the edge of the tart. Tart is in the oven now – hopefully it will have been worth all the effort and clean up!!!

  40. Joy

    I’ve been wanting to make this since Deb first posted it five years ago, and I finally got to try it this Easter. I used leftover cooked rice, and the mixture in the saucepan never thickened much. But once the eggs were added, the mixture thickened quickly. Also, I used almond flour instead of processing my own. Deb’s addition of almond extract really helps make the custard part more favorable. I had a good amount of filling leftover, so I made four smaller tarts – a nice surprise. Overall, I’m with Deb on this. The custard part is delicious and creamy. Pure comfort food. But the tart shell seemed bland to me, and brought the filling down. Perhaps a crust made with some almond flour or extract added would be better? Or a sweeter tart shell recipe? Still, I am glad that I finally got around to making this – it’s worth perfecting.

  41. Stefanie

    Yesterday, I (from Berne, Switzerland), made an Easter Tart with rice flour, milk, cream, toasted ground hazelnuts, eggs, sugar and a dash cinnamon in a pie shell. I never heard of a recipe with long grain rice in water cooked. It is either rice flour, round corn rice cooked in milk or semolina cooked in milk.

  42. Lily C

    I have been aching to make this tart since Easter, but never got around to it until now.

    I made some changes, as suggested by you and the comments above. I changed the crust to your “great unshrinkable sweet tart shell” recipe (parbaked). I used arborio rice instead of long grain, and I added a very thin layer of homemade rhubarb jam (no raspberry). And, since I didn’t have regular milk on hand, I used a mix of buttermilk and half and half.

    Like others, I also had too much filling. I’ll simply reheat into little tartlets.

    The result was something wonderfully creamy. It was something akin to almond-spiced rice pudding with a note of sweet rhubarb.

    I would imagine tart fruit sauce on top would be delectable.

  43. Tessa

    I’m not sure that this is a very traditional recipe. If you want more of a “rice pudding in a pie” kind of tart, then you should try making rijsttaart (literally rice pie), it’s a very common and traditional Belgian dessert. You make it with short-grain rice and cook it in milk, so you basically make rice pudding then put it in a pie crust. It’s really tasty!

  44. Rebecca

    I am Swiss and whilst this is not a super important tradition, we definitely do make (and eat them). Recipes vary but I’ve always cooked the rice (use round/risotto rice that soaks up the liquid) in milk and left it whole – so it does have a distinct feel of “rice pudding in a tart”.
    I’ve actually made my first one since moving away (currently living in Danmark) this Easter and it was delicious. I based it on this recipe ( from a traditional Swiss cook book – it’s not sophisticated and doesn’t even have home made pastry, but it’s a good starting point

  45. Jan C

    I used to live in Antwerp, Belgium. Our Sunday routine was to RUN to the local bakery and hope they had not sold out of rice tarts. I think I gained 20 lbs on those things! I consider myself to have a fairly sophisticated palate so I’m thinking that maybe this just isn’t a great recipe or you don’t know good when it comes knocking. I can’t imagine that there is a huge variation in Northern European rice tart recipes…

  46. beep

    Please please please do fruitcake!!!! I love it, though everybody else incomprehensibly doesn’t. What’s not to like about a bunch of sweet dried fruit, nuts, rich spices, and booze? Nothing.

  47. I got so excited because I was hoping this would be similar to the rijsttaarts I had in Antwerp: hand-sized, eggy, creamy, rice pudding pies that were browned on top. Maybe I’ll try this with short-grain rice? (Once I get the hand-pie sized tart molds)

  48. Miriam Mc Nally

    I’ve never heard of this before either, but I think it could be lovely with 2 changes
    1. Use a few drops of lemon essence (or lemon essential oil) to make it really, really tart and lemony.
    2. Completely cover it with raspberries when cooked, and dust with icing sugar.

  49. Louisa

    I live in Switzerland and can confirm that all the bakeries I have been in the last few months have had these on offer. They do individual tartlets, perfect for a mid afternoon snack. I have never had one with jam in, but many have a few raisins or a hint of vanilla rather than almond essence. I love them, they’re part of spring to me

    1. Louisa

      I forgot to add that most traditional Swiss recipes have hundreds of variations, every area/valley/village having their on version and certain theirs is the best. So to qualify my comment, they don’t have jam in Basel :)

  50. Katrin Röthlisberger

    As a swiss, I was curious about your recipe of “swiss rice tart”. I would suggest not to take long-grain rice but instead Camalino rice. (The one you need to make milk rice) This way you don’t have to pulse the rice, but you get a nice, creamy puree. More often than with rice, you see this easter tarte in Switzerland, prepared with semolina. It’s worth a try.
    Happy easter to you an your family from Switzerland. Katrin

  51. Patt

    Deb, if you HAVE to do a fruitcake, may I suggest a Jamaican Black Cake? It starts with fruit soaked in a bottle of red wine and a bottle of rum. It may not last as long as a Twinkie, but it’s pretty darned close.

  52. Jane Doe

    I realize this is a very old post. BUT I just have to point out that in Tuscany, there actually is a very tasty recipe for a rice pudding pie (smaller pies, mostly) – shortbread crust, creamy rice pudding, hint if nutmeg… It is also eaten for breakfast. If, somehow, in the last almost 10 yrs you haven’t come across this and would like to give it a try (it is really very, very good – convinced yet?!) – I can send you a recipe from a trusted Italian cookbook I own.

    1. Jane Doe

      PS: This is NOT an Easter pie I am talking about. Just your regular, everyday breakfast rice pudding tart… So, no excuses needed to make it.

  53. Claudia

    This was so fun to make for Easter this year!
    The pastry crust is a keeper (made the day before; fridge over night. Room temp for 10 -15 minutes before rolling out). Very short, crispy and neutral flavored. Great for any tart. Popped right out of the pan perfectly–I loved it that no par-baking is required!
    The filling tasted like yummy comfort food–milky, creamy, not too sweet. Rice pudding-like. I had a little extra filling I put in a ramekin and added a tiny bit of cinnamon. That was also good. Cardamom could be nice, too. Or maybe more lemon zest.