Plain – Fancy – Schmancy ~ The Joys of Tapioca Pudding

Plain – Fancy – Schmancy ~ The Joys of Tapioca Pudding

I get no kick from Brulee...
Hasty and Pease never seem to please...
But I get a kick out of you....

I’m talkin’ Tapioca.   
Yes.. that’s right. Those little frog eggy pearl things back in the far reaches of your pantry. It’s rice pudding on steroids, risotto run rampant. It is the single-most satisfying easy pudding you can make. It can be dressed up to make parfaits sing, dressed down and kept in the fridge for a quick, satisfying (GLUTEN FREE) snack, or slapped into a tux, given a new do and become the base in any dessert you’d use a pastry cream.

We never got tapioca a ton when we were kids. Done properly, those pearls need to be hydrated overnight (or a full day – depending on size) before you can do anything quickly with them. And that meant pre-planning. But with four screaming kids, errands, house, and corporal punishment being doled out. Planning for family meal desserts rarely took the form of  “… early the day before…”. so, tapioca only surfaced on weekends – when we’d all been very good… and that didn’t happen a lot.

It wasn’t until I moved out of the house and discovered “instant tapioca” that I started keeping it around in the fridge. Although, truth be told, instant tapioca is no substitute for the real thing. The pearls are far too small to give you that silken feel on the tongue. It comes out more as a vehicle for thickening and makes a rather grainy pudding, but in a pinch… it’ll do.

When I have the time, I use real tapioca… and small pearl specifically.
(I bought a box of large pearl tapioca once and after 2 days of hydrating and cooking I couldn’t choke them down. They were like eating some repulsive black reptilian eggs floating in slime).
I later learned that they were exclusively used in Bubble Tea Preparation… and never eaten as a pudding.

But this is about the good tapioca.
When you get right down to it, tapioca is just a thickener. Made from the cassava plant, the starch is processed and formed into balls. Once the balls are hydrated and cooked with eggs, sugar and milk; the starches thicken the custard and the remaining balls fatten and turn into springy gelatin wonders that stay suspended in the custard.
I’m doing tapioca three ways today.

Tapioca – Basic Preparation
Serves 6
2/3 Cup Tapioca Pearls
2 Cups Water
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
3 Cups Milk (Works just as well with Lactose -Free Milk or Almond Milk)
1 – 3 Cup Bowl
Large Sauce Pan

  • In the bowl, add the tapioca and water and set in the fridge overnight (About 8 hours)
  • (*Note:  pre-soaking the pearls for a full 24 hours will reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes)
  • The next day, drain the water
  • With the sauce pan on medium heat, add all the ingredients and whisk to combine
  • Continue to stir for 15 to 20 minutes – or until the custard thickens and the pearls are translucent
  • Allow to cool
  • Tapioca can be served warm or cold.

Tapioca Parfait
Serves 6
I Recipe Tapioca (see above)
1 Pint Fresh Berries (Raspberries or Blackberries)
2 Cups Sliced Peaches
1 Cup Heavy Cream (for Lactose Free Options, Add 1 Cup Tofutti Soy Based Sour Cream)
1 Ounce Brandy
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
6 Parfait Dishes
1 Medium Mixing Bowl

  • In the bowl, fold together the brandy, tapioca and cream
  • Begin layering in the serving dishes – berries, custard, peaches, custard
  • Top each parfait with a mint sprig and a teaspoon of brown sugar

Custard Tarts
Serves 6
I Recipe Tapioca (see above)
2 Pints Fresh Berries (Raspberries or Blackberries)
1 Cup Heavy Cream (for Lactose Free Options, Add 1 Cup Tofutti Soy Based Sour Cream)3 Cups Sliced Peaches

1 Ounce Kirsch
1/4 Cup Apricot Preserves

2 Packages Puff Pastry
1 Baking Sheet
1 Medium Mixing Bowl

  • Cut the puff pastry into 6 squares
  • Lightly cut 1/2″ around the edges of each pastry square to create an edge to the pastry
  • Bake the pastry shells at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, remove and cool on a rack
  • Place the preserves and kirsch in a micro proof bowl and heat on high for 1 minute
  • Mix the custard and cream – set aside
  • On each shell, press down on the center section where you created the edge, and flatten the center of the shells
  • Fill each center with custard
  • Place the berries and peaches on top of the custard 1/2 of the top with each
  • Carefully spoon the thinned apricot preserves over the fresh fruit
  • Place in the fridge and chill for at least an hour before serving.
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