Small to large: Raw pearls, soaked tapioca, tapioca pudding/Photo by David Dickey

Small to large: Raw tapioca pearls, soaked tapioca, tapioca pudding/Photo by David Dickey

My mother never made tapioca pudding. I never ordered it in restaurants (if any restaurants even offered it) or bought it from Kozy Shack. Some recipe somewhere must have called for tapioca pearls, though, because I had a half-opened bag in the pantry the night I inexplicably got a craving for a bowl. Maybe I just finally got enough exposure to bubble tea that the texture of tapioca began to seem alluring rather than odd.

The night after eating the sweet, comforting, surprisingly light treat, I made another batch. I’ve gone through another bag or two of tapioca pearls since then. And I’ve decided not to toss the half-opened bags of hazelnut flour, ground flaxseed, almond meal, and more on the pantry shelves. I have a feeling they could come in handy for something good again.

For my tapioca pudding, I tinker with the recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill bag. I double or even triple that recipe, to start with, because it’s hard for my mixer to whip the two egg whites called for in its single batch, and because I like having leftovers. I use whole milk instead of 2%, and simmer the tapioca with vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks. It usually keeps its lift and texture for about 48 hours.

Tapioca Pudding

2/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cinnamon sticks

 1. Separate eggs

Sunny separated yolks

Sunny separated yolks

2. Soak tapioca in water in a pot for 30 minutes. The pearls will quickly swell up.

Soaked tapioca pearls

Soaked tapioca pearls

3. Slit vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add the seeds and the scraped bean to the pot (alternately, just add a teaspoon of vanilla extract).

Scraping vanilla bean

Scraping vanilla bean

 

4. Add milk, salt, lightly beaten egg yolks, and cinnamon sticks to tapioca and stir over medium heat until boiling. Simmer uncovered over very low heat for 10-15 minutes.

 

Seattle Spice Company cinnamon sticks

Seattle Spice Company cinnamon sticks

 

5. Beat egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks form (the original recipe calls for soft peaks, but I like them better a little farther along).

Whipping egg whites

Whipping egg whites

 

6. Fold 1-1/2 cups of the hot tapioca into the egg whites, then gently fold mixture back into saucepan. Stir over low heat for about 3 minutes. Cool.

– Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

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