When I was a little girl, I hated milk. H.A.T.E.D. it! As milk is a pretty big staple in a young child’s everyday diet, this was a problem. Back then, there weren’t many options for kids like me. My mother couldn’t run out to the store to pick up soy, rice or almond milk as a substitute, though I probably wouldn’t have liked those any better. Apparently, my pediatrician told her to just feed me lots of pudding and ice cream to get calcium in me. Can you imagine prescribing high fat, sugar-laden desserts to boost calcium intake? I was one lucky kid! But, I’m reasonably sure that today’s modern baby docs would not approve.
One of the things that my mom used to make for me a lot was tapioca pudding. I L.O.V.E.D. tapioca pudding! I used to call it “bubble pudding”, because the tapioca pearls reminded me of tiny bubbles. Perhaps, this is where the seed for my obsessive adoration for creamy foods was planted. Mom would serve it in little cups lined with vanilla wafers. The pudding would soak into the wafers and make them all soft and mushy. Good stuff!
Tapioca is basically a root starch derived from the cassava plant. It’s commonly used as a thickening agent in both sweet and savory foods. I’ve used it in place of flour or cornstarch to thicken up fruit pies. Tapioca comes in a few different forms, such as powders, flakes and large or small pearls. It doesn’t have any flavor of its own to speak of, so it takes on the personality of whatever you add it to. And, you might have noticed that I also happen to think that tapioca pearls are very photogenic.
I like to enjoy my tapioca pudding with fresh whipped cream swirled in. Here, I’ve paired it with some of the Slow Roasted Strawberries I made last week. You can add whatever you like to it. Sometimes, I stir chocolate chips or raisins into the pudding while still warm. I’ll bet a drizzle of dulce de leche would be wonderful too!
Fortunately, I eventually overcame my aversion to milk, and actually enjoy a cold glass under the right circumstances. But, it sure ain’t the same as a bowl of rich and creamy tapioca pudding!
adapted from the Reese Small Pearl Tapioca package
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a small bowl, soak tapioca pearls in 2 cups of cool water for several hours or overnight. Drain water.
Combine tapioca, milk, cream and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t get scorched.
Beat sugar, eggs and egg yolk together until thick and light yellow. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 cup of the hot tapioca mixture to the sugar/egg mixture. Pour into the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to a pudding consistency, about 15-20 minutes. The tapioca beads will have swelled up and become translucent. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Pour into small ramekins or individual serving bowls. The pudding may be served hot or chilled.