Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, add the rice and 4 cups of cold water. Soak the rice for 1/2 hour.
In a small bowl, add the cumin seeds
, fennel seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns
, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Turn the mixture out onto a baking sheet and put it in the center of the oven to lightly toast the spices
and awaken the flavors, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the spices to cool.
Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the butter and the onion. Season with salt and cook until the onions
are translucent but not brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the spices. Drain
the rice but reserve the soaking water. Stir in the rice and cook until you hear the rice crackling, about 2 minutes. Gently stir in the reserved soaking water. Season with a generous portion of salt and bring the liquid to a simmer
over medium heat.
Cook the rice over medium-low heat, uncovered and undisturbed, for about 8 minutes. Take a fork (so as not to damage the rice) and flake a few grains off to taste for doneness. It may need to be cooked another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to "rest" (as you would a roast beef
) for 10 minutes before "forking" it gently into a serving bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of butter, if desired, and serve.