Rinse the rice and soak it in water for half an hour. Then drain the water and keep aside.
Meanwhile just heat the milk. (entirely optional) (1)
Heat a deep-heavy-bottomed vessel. Add a tsp of ghee and once it is hot, add the nuts and roast. Add the well-drained rice in the pan. Give it a quick stir. (2)
Now add the milk, bay leaves and cardamom pods.
Simmer and let the milk boil. Keep stirring frequently to prevent it from burning in the bottom.
Once the rice gets cooked, add sugar. Keep simmering until the milk reduces to almost one-thirds and becomes very thick.
It takes almost 45 minutes if you keep the flame real low.
I always add slightly heated milk rather than cold one while making kheer / Payasam. This always ensures that the milk does not curdle when we add in the hot pan.
Many of the recipes (the bengali blogs) have mixed rice and ghee, after the rice has been drained. They mention that it helps in keeping the rice grains separate and prevent it from becoming mushy and sticky. The above method also produces the same result.
The amount of sugar gives a medium sweet dish. You can increase it as per your preference.