Tapioca pudding is the kind of dessert that gets forgotten about until it's sitting right in front of you, and then, all at once, you're smitten with it all over again. I recently fell back in love when, prompted by my recent obsession with using fine-ground pearls as a thickener for pie juices, I purchased several bags.
It was at the spice store that I discovered why people might shy away from making tapioca at home. With few standards for pearl size and lots of arbitrary labeling, it can be hard to pin down exactly what size pearls you are buying.
One taste of homemade tapioca pudding is all it takes to remind you why it's so very worth the risk of purchasing the wrong size. You'll love the creamy texture and simple vanilla flavor that's unadulterated by the cornstarch used in so many other pudding recipes. And, of course, there's the delightful little squish of the tapioca, like so many bubbles of happiness. A little extra soaking time can help mitigate against ratio issues if the tapioca pearls are too large for the recipe, and even if you slightly over-shoot the desired size, adding a little extra milk or cream right before serving can help ease a pudding that's too stiff.
When making tapioca pudding, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Always soak the pearls ahead of time, for at least 12 hours, to help them soften and partially hydrate.
- Although many recipes do not call for it, tempering the eggs with the hot liquid is the best method to ensure that the pudding will be smooth and silky.
- Be sure to press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding while chilling to avoid having the pudding dry out and/or having a skin form on top.
Click through the slideshow to see how easy it can be. Then, find yourself some tapioca pearls (not the instant kind), and try it yourself.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.