birthdays | cinnamon | cooking | desserts | gluten-free | pudding | recipe | vanilla

Today’s lesson: tapioca.

July 1, 2009

tAfter what seemed like 5 years (but in actuality was almost 2 full months) of constant rain here in New York, the weather finally changed into the typical summer weather: hot and humid. Therefore, it became too hot to bake anything complicated. However my mom’s birthday is Saturday, and I told her to pick something (or a few somethings) that she wanted me to bake/make for her. She picked three things, taking the heat into consideration: the panna cotta with balsamic strawberries that I made last year,ย  a flourless chocolate cake (she hasn’t picked which one yet though) and… homemade tapioca pudding.

Okay so, I never made tapioca before. I don’t even like tapioca pudding, and also I wasn’t even quite sure what exactly ‘tapioca’ was. The other two desserts I have made, and they’re easy. And I figured tapioca pudding must be simple, because homemade pudding is one of the easiest things ever to make. But I read about how it takes an hour to cook on the stove, and needs constant stirring because of the danger of scorching the milk and I was dreading it a bit.

Then I made it.

And not only did it NOT take an hour, it was so easy I could’ve done it blindfolded.

Tapioca is:

… a flavorless, colorless, odorless starch extracted from the root of the plant species Manihot esculenta. This species, native to Brazil, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, bitter-cassava, manioc, “mandioca”, “aipim”, “macaxeira”, “manioca”, “boba”, “yuca” (not to be confused with yucca), “Sagudana” (literally, Sagu drops)–with local variation of “Sabudana”–and “kappa”. Tapioca is a staple food in some regions and is used worldwide as a thickening agent, principally in foods. Tapioca is gluten free, and nearly protein free. The commercial form of tapioca most familiar to many people is pearl tapioca.

The name tapioca is a word derived from tipi’รณka, the name for this starch in Tupi[1] This Tupi word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. However, as the word moved out of South America it came to refer to similar preparations made with other esculents.’Tapioca’ in Britain often refers to a rice pudding thickened with arrowroot, while in Asia the sap of the sago palm is often part of its preparation.

Pearl tapioca is similar to pearl sago, which is used in essentially the same ways. Consequently, tapioca may be called sago, and vice versa.

Basically, they’re hard little white balls that soften in water. Pretty cool to see, especially when they turn translucent during cooking. Not really cool enough for me to taste it though. I think tapioca pudding will be something I’ll make for others, but not eat.

The pudding turned out amazing, I’m told. And it was amazingly easy (as most puddings are). So here’s part one of my mom’s birthday treats: tapioca pudding. The recipe tells you it takes 40-60 minutes to thicken, and I didn’t find that to be the case. For some substitutions, check out my asterisks (*).

TAPIOCA PUDDING

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup tapioca pearls (I used large, you can use whatever you like I suppose)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Soak tapioca in 2 cups of water overnight in refrigerator in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler.
  2. Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl until mixed. Drain water from tapioca. Add milk, sugar, salt and beaten eggs. Mix well.
  3. Cook on medium heat until thickened (like I mentioned above, the recipe says this will take 40-60 min, but it didn’t take me nearly that long), stirring constantly to avoid scorching the milk. When its ready, mixture should be thick and pearls should be translucent.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve warm or chilled, garnish with whipped cream, fruit or whatever you like.

*For a fat-free and cholesterol-free preparation, substitute skim milk for whole and 3 egg whites for the 2 eggs. For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk can also be used.

You can top this with literally almost anything. I used ground cinnamon and let people put their own whipped cream on it, but strawberries or berries, coconut or other spices could be used as well. I used parfait glasses and custard cups, but you could make it in one large bowl and serve from that as well.

The moral of today’s lesson: don’t be afraid to try new things in the kitchen. They’re rarely as difficult or time consuming as they seem. And don’t buy a mix when something is this easy!

Oh and by the way… after a brief respite, the never-ending NY rain is returning this week, aaaaand I changed my haircolor (again)- dark brown in the back, light blonde in the front:

And if you want that sweet Cupcake Rehab shirt, you can get one here. Awesome haircolor and my face not included.

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  1. I think I’m with you on the tapioca pudding feeling. I’m sure it’s lovely but I’m not into it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Bubble tea is pretty tasty though!

    And bravo on the new color. I love mixing colors like that. It looks great on you.

  2. Could I use lactose free milk instead of regular milk?? Will it come out the same??
    Thanks!

  3. Haha Amanda! Great minds think alike. But hey, it wasn’t for me, and momma dukes enjoyed it so thats all that matters!

    Carina, I don’t really see why not. The tapioca itself is a thickening agent, so I can’t imagine the lack of lactose (haha) would do any harm. If you try it, please let me know and I’ll edit the recipe accordingly.

  4. Good to see something from Brazil!!!
    We call this pearl by SAGU here and there is a way we make it (specially in the South reagion here thats a lot more colder) with red wine – thats awsome!!! I will try to get a good recipe and send you.
    Byeeee

  5. Found you through iluvcuppycakes on twitter FF…love your header! And it looks like your tapioca was worth the risk! Will check back to see what other risks you take!
    Kristin

  6. Update: I was at an Asian mart with a friend over the weekend and I picked up some Tapioca Pearls. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bubble tea post coming soon!

  7. Hi!

    I see you used large pearl tapioca. I’ve been trying to find someplace in NYC that sells large-pearl, but most only sell small-pearl or instant. Do you know where I could find large-pearl? Where did you get yours?

    (I see that I could buy it online, but I want to use it for a recipe this weekend and don’t think it’ll ship here in time…)

    Thanks! Any help would be most appreciated.
    L

  8. Hi Lauren!

    I got mine in Stop & Shop, a regular ol’ supermarket. I don’t think there are any in Manhattan, but there is one in Long Island City. I hope that helps!

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