Thursday, May 27, 2010

Real tapioca pudding

You know how sometimes you see something and the whole world shifts a little bit? I have two words for you - real. tapioca.

small tapioca pearls
{real tapioca pearls}

Right now some of you are probably shuddering and others are cheering. That's how it goes with tapioca. I'm firmly in the cheering camp. Growing up, we could only get minute tapioca in the red cardboard box. It was the first dessert I could cook on my own. I loved it so much I told my little sister it was fish egg pudding just so I wouldn't have to share it. (It totally worked - she still doesn't eat tapioca)

I haven't made tapioca in years, but wandering the baking aisle at Whole Foods a while ago I noticed small tapioca pearls and made an impulse purchase. They are small, distinct pearls. You have to soak them before you can make pudding with them, but the wait is well worth it. They create a beautiful, creamy pudding and the pearls have a perfect, lightly chewy texture.

tapioca pudding
{real tapioca pudding}

I use the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill bag, and it's excellent but I've found that the 1/2 cup of sugar they call for is overkill for me. I tried 1/3 cup instead, but it was just a smidge short of where I wanted to be. I've settled in between somewhere, with a slightly heaped 1/3 cup. This makes the pudding sweet, but not so sweet that you don't get a chance to savor the texture, which is the real star.

All tapioca recipes call for chilling the pudding, but I find I prefer it fresh off the stove. Once it chills it will set up fairly firm, so if you want beautiful individual serving portions I would recommend spooning it into your serving dishes while it's hot.

Tapioca Pudding (modified from Bob's Red Mill package - serves 4 easily)

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups milk*
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs**
1/3 cup sugar, heaped a bit
1/2 tsp vanilla

:: Soak the tapioca in the water for at least 30 minutes in a medium saucepan.

:: Add milk, salt and eggs and cook over medium heat, stirring until you reach a boil. The pudding will start to thicken up relatively quickly at this point - the recipe tells you to simmer for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, but in my experience the pudding is plenty thick enough within a minute or two of reaching a boil. Remember that it thickens up even more as it cools.

:: Cool slightly, stir in vanilla. Serve, warm or cold. 
* Recipe calls for 2% milk, but I use 1% because that's what we have in the house. I'm sure you could use whole milk with stunningly creamy results. Non-fat will work too, but don't expect the flavor to be exactly the same. 

** Recipe tells you to separate the eggs, cook the yolks with the tapioca and milk and beat the whites into soft peaks before folding them back into the pudding at the very end of the cooking time. Personally, I find that to be a lot of fuss for a simple pudding and I'm happy without the extra work.

25 comments:

  1. I'm going to make a point to try it, I've actually never had it. But I totally trust your taste buds.

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  2. This looks really good...how can one say no to those cute little tapioca pearls!?

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  3. have you had boba (pearl tea)? if you haven't, i'm sure you would, cause there's a bunch of tapioca pearls at the bottom that you can suck up & chew on. i love boba!

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  4. Cheering camp. I just love the stuff.

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  5. i LOVE tapioca/boba/pearls! thanks for sharing!

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  6. I'm in for anything that starts with the word, 'real.' I haven't had tapioca in years, so this will be a fun trip down memory lane. Thanks for posting!

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  7. yum. i love tapioca pearls in bubble tea. so looking forward to trying your recipe!

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  8. My dad loved tapioca, but we only seemed to make it when someone in the house was ill (and I have no idea why that was.) I haven't had it in years, but if I do make it, I'm going to go this route and not the instant stuff. Thanks for the idea & recipe!

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  9. i can't say i've ever truly had tapioca pudding, but i certainly would give this a try.

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  10. I'm with you about the "fresh off the stove!" Warm pudding is definitely a comfort food.

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  11. huh! i always thought the tapioca pearls in the baking aisle were for boba, which...makes no sense, now that i think about it. looks like a lovely three-day-weekend dessert - thanks for the inspiration!

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  12. i'm with you in the cheering camp! i loved tapioca so much when i was nine i named my cat after it. we nicknamed her tappy.

    i'm heading to whole foods to pick some of this up!!

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  13. Aww, this makes me think of one of my college roommates, who made tapioca pudding for all of us! Can't say I was the biggest fan of the actual pudding, though... :)

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  14. Def in the cheering camp. Like Stephanie it seemed to be a staple in our household when we were sick, but occasionally my dad will get some of the pre-made stuff at Whole Foods and if he doesn't eat the whole thing before getting home, us sissies grab spoons and wold it down standing over the kitchen counter.

    LOVE that you made tapioca. Totally unexpected and wonderful recipe post.

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  15. I am a lifelong tapioca pudding lover! This recipe is so easy, I think that I could motivate myself to make a batch. I've seen the pearls in local markets for a while but never bothered to find out how much effort it would take to make my own pudding. Yummy!

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  16. Haha. My sister told me tapioca was fish eggs when I was young...so it's never really looked delicious to me. But I should really try it :)

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  17. I've had a bag of Bob's Red Mill tapioca in my pantry FOREVER! I love love love it, but never have the patience. I really should get on that! Looks delicious!

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  18. Tapioca, light of my life, I sing to thee.

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  19. I LOVE tapioca. I always buy the Kozy Shack tubs when I need a treat. Never thought to make it myself. YUM!

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  20. i can't WAIT to try this. it isn't too hard???

    dude. i have perfected the cookies. (your fave chocolate chip ones) i have finally gotten to the point where baking isn't a major event to write home about, but just something you do.

    anyways, my brother in law (quite the foodie/chef himself) proclaimed that they were the best cookies he has ever had. success!

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  21. mmmm, i am definitely in the cheering section when it comes to tapioca!

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  22. i'm from brazil and tapioca pudding is very a very popular recipe around here, but we call it "mungunzá". i'm really surprised that a recipe that is so typical of the brazilian culture, amazon in particular, is known worldwide.
    i guess it's inevitable, after all, it's delicious!

    sorry for my bad esglish and congrats for the great blog!

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  23. remember that night at johnny mac's when you made rainbow tapioca pudding and everyone convinced me to eat some? i think you may have even confessed to the fish eggs fib. the pudding was tasty, but all i could think of was fish eggs and i ended up throwing up. the sad thing is, i really like tapioca pudding... i just can't eat it, its texture makes me feel nauseated. darn you! (actually, i don't think it's really your fault. boba makes me want to retch, too. i just can't understand why people like boba drinks so much. i understand that tapioca pudding is delicious, even if the texture puts me off somewhat... but boba drinks? their popularity baffles me.)

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  24. p.s. i love you and miss you. i'll see you when you get back from greece!

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  25. Great recipe but you didn't tell us when to add the sugar although I'm pretty sure I can figure that part out:)

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