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My fruit pie recipe's instant tapioca did not dissolve

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I made a pie that called for 2.5 tbsp of instant tapioca, as a thickener I believe.

Following the directions exactly, the tapioca never did dissolve.

Any suggestions for next time?

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  1. Corn starch. You've always got it on hand anyway, & so long as you boil it (you are boiling, yes?) it always works.

    8 Replies
    1. re: butter and whiskey

      Sounds logical; thanks!

      Why would a recipe call for instant tapioca as a thickener rather than corn starch, since corn starch is so reliable?

      1. re: sweet100s

        Tapioca is cleaner, both in look and flavor, than corn starch. At least that's my sense. I'd love to use arrowroot, after comparing many thickeners, but I haven't found it around lately. But my favorite of all is instant tapioca...and I even use it in beef stew sometimes.

        Bloom the tapioca in some of the juice that you take from the pie filling until the pearl loses its structure, and then combine it with the rest.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          I just bought 4oz of arrowroot this weekend from Penzey's for about $3.
          http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

          1. re: azhotdish

            The trouble with arrowroot is that if it comes to a boil it looses its ability to thicken. I am guessing Sweet 100s did not allow the tapioca to stand with the fruit long enough.

            1. re: Candy

              Candy, the total amount of time I let the tapioca soak in the fruit-sugar-etc misture, was... probably at least 12 hours. 1 hour on the counter, including an extra vigorous stir of just the liquid with a lot of the tapioca, heated slightly. Then it became too late to stay up and wait longer, so I put it in the fridge till the next morning.

              1. re: sweet100s

                Oh gosh sweet100s you went through such torture! That should never be.

                When I get a chance I am going to post some pictures of pies I made with minute tapioca... I probably don't have a lot of photos but I should be able to dig some up....

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  Nahhh, It was worth it for the end result. Really delicious.

                  The topping was lattice pie crust interspersed with an sliveredalmond-cinnamon-oatmeal-butter-brownsugar streusel.

                  Everything browned up beautifully. I swiped a piece of the streusel right after coming out of the oven. Intensely-flavored ToastedAlmondCinnamonSugared Bliss.

          2. re: maria lorraine

            re: 'bloom the tapioca in some of the juice"

            What I did after it didn't dissolve in an hour, was strain off most / all of the juice into a glass measuring cup, heat it in the microwave, and stir it lots. That didn't even seem to break it down. The package definitely said, "Instant"..

      2. Grind it up in a coffee grinder( clean) before mixing it with the other ingredients. I love using instant tapioca in pies. Its a much cleaner flavor than cornstarch. Try this, you wont be dissapointed. When I didnt grind, it takes over an hour for the tapioca to disolve.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Calipoutine

          Grinding it up is a very good tip. I forgot to mention it.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Thanks Calipoutine and maria lorraine! I definitely will try that next time.

        2. I make fruit pies all the time using minute tapioca. Apple, cherry, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb, you name it.

          Last weekend I made a two crust fresh raspberry pie using tapioca. Never, ever a problem.

          I think there are two things worth noting though.

          First, your fruit, sugar and tapioca need to sit about 10- 15 minutes before you put it into a pie shell. That helps the sugar and the tapioca break down a little. Now, if your fruit is not overly juicy, like raspberries, I squeeze a little juice on them (roughly two teaspoons). In this case a little bit of fresh lemon juice (I do this for blueberries also).

          It is not necessary that the tapioca break down at this point. All you want the tapioca to do is soften a little. I also want the sugar to start dissolving. It helps a lot if the fruit is room temperature and not cold from the fridge.

          When cooking the pie, it is important to bake it at a hot temperature, around 425 degrees. You want the filling to get hot and bubbly. This will take care of the second part of the tapioca thickening process.

          7 Replies
          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            >> First, your fruit, sugar and tapioca need to sit about 10- 15 minutes before you put it into a pie shell.

            Mine sat ~ 1 hour before looking at it again, and it still was not dissolved.

            What I did then was what I described above:

            "What I did after it didn't dissolve in an hour, was strain off most / all of the juice into a glass measuring cup, heat it in the microwave, and stir it lots. That didn't even seem to break it down. The package definitely said, "Instant".."

            (The Cherries were plenty juicy.)

            I couldn't detect any bad taste because it had not dissolved. It just looked kinda funny.

            1. re: sweet100s

              The tapioca will not look dissolved after 10-15 minutes. It only dissolves after it has been cooked at a high temperature in the pies.

              You may have had some rogue tapioca. I can't come up with an explanation. I have never had to grind my tapioca...but whatever works....

              Just make sure it says "minute tapioca" on the box.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                Ok. Now I'm confused. I thought "instant tapioca" was different from "minute tapioca." Maybe a ground tapioca? So are they different or the same?

                There are all these forms of tapioca: instant tapioca, minute tapioca (which I think might be associated with one brand), tapioca flour and granulated tapioca.

                All of which are of course different from pearl tapioca.

                So what is instant tapioca? The same as minute? And what makes instant tapioca instant?

                1. re: karykat

                  OMG!

                  I just realized that I have been referring to minute tapioca ,assuming it is the same as instant tapioca!

                  This may very well be the problem! Minute tapioca is super reliable. For some reason I thought "minute," "instant" and "quick cooking" were all the same... I truly do not know the differences. Pluse I only use the minute tapioca...

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    Here is a link to minute tapioca:
                    http://www.kraftfoods.com/minutetapioca/

                    Unfortunately when I clicked on the FAQ about the difference between minute and other tapiocas, Kraft doesn't have its page up!

                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                      I think I probably confused everything.

                      I did a search and found this definition of "instant tapioca" on Cook's Thesaurus:

                      "instant tapioca = quick-cooking tapioca = quick tapioca = granulated tapioca = tapioca granules = instant pearl tapioca Notes: These small, starchy granules are used to make tapioca pudding and to thicken pie fillings. The grains don't dissolve completely when cooked, so puddings and pies thickened with them end up studded with tiny gelatinous balls. If you don't mind the balls, you can also use instant tapioca to thicken soups, gravies, and stews. If the balls are a problem, just pulverize the instant tapioca in a coffee grinder or blender, or buy tapioca starch, which is already finely ground. Instant tapioca tolerates prolonged cooking and freezing, and gives the fillings an attractive glossy sheen. To use it in a pie filling, mix it with the other ingredients, then let it sit for at least five minutes so that the tapioca can absorb some of the liquid. Don't confuse instant tapioca with regular tapioca, which has larger beads, or with the even larger tapioca pearls sold in Asian markets. Minute® tapioca is a well-known brand. Substitutes: regular tapioca (Use twice as much. Puddings made with this will have larger gelatinous balls in it.) OR tapioca starch (This is also used to thicken pie fillings.) OR tapioca pearls (Pulverize these first with a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor) OR cornstarch (Use half as much. Cornstarch breaks down if it's mixed with acidic ingredients, cooked for a long time, or frozen and thawed.) OR arrowroot (more expensive) OR flour (Use a little more.)"

                      So it sounds like "minute tapioca" is the Kraft brand of "instant tapioca." I saw another manufacturer describe what is probably the same thing as "granulated tapioca."

                      So -- sorry for throwing a curve ball into this discussion. At least I know what this stuff is now, though.

                      1. re: karykat

                        This didn't throw a curve ball, but it does help explain why there may be differences in outcomes! Good job karykat.

            2. I just saw a recipe (somewhere) where they recommend grinding the tapioca in the food processor so it'll dissolve easier.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jeanmarieok

                That was probably in Cook's Illustrated and I said the same thing upthread.

                1. re: Calipoutine

                  I really do think there must be some subtle difference between 'Minute' and 'Instant' Tapioca...I have never used anything but Minute T. and in blueberry, peach, strawberry-rhubarb pies, it has never let me down. I certainly NEVER ground it (now, doesn't that just sound like something Cook's Illustrated would make you do?) and I never had to do any more "blooming" than the 10-15 called for.

                  I am not that keen on cherries, so I have never made a cherry pie: do you think this might be the problem? do you think that somehow Cherries are like tomatoe juice (acidic to a degree that they change cooking times?)

              2. Wow, thanks KaryKat, Trish, for all the extra info!

                Next time I'll try the "minute" type if I can find it, and give it an extra pulse or 2 in my magic bullet.

                LJS, I'm not sure if the cherries are a factor. This is the first pie I've made including the dough from scratch in a very long time.

                The tapioca not dissolving did not make it less delicious. It was just visually noticeable in the end result.

                1. I have a twist to throw into the mix. Does there come a point when Minute tapioca is too old to use? I'm planning a berry pie later today and I'm guessing my tapioca is at least five years old. It's bug free, but will it still work, or should I run to the store?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: redthong

                    I suppose I should really advise you to seek the opinion of the manufacturer, but that is SOOO lame and we know they would tell you to buy a new one every month!

                    I had a box that was probably 8 years old by the time I used it up and I still used it, one tablespoonful at a time, successfully, to thicken my once-a-year blueberry pie. My family is all still living and the berries were just right.

                    PS That was back in the days before my daughter was diagnosed with gluten allergies. I realized at that point that tapioca could make a good substitue and now use it frequently.

                  2. I know I'm roughly 4 1/2 years late to this discussion, but I found it of interest because a couple bountiful summers ago, I had the same experience with my fruit pies. Ultimately, I gave up on tapioca and began to use arrowroot, but I did have a couple pies ruined because the filling "broke" due to overheating.
                    I had some pie filing with tapioca (peach & apricot, in case you're interested) that I made last summer & froze. When I thawed it out recently to use in a pie, it still had the tapioca balls intact. After baking, however, they dissolved and the pie turned out perfectly. So, the moral of my story is, tapioca seems to work just fine... as long as you freeze the filling before baking it! Convenient in some ways, not so much in others!

                    1. Yes, grind it up in the food processor and make tapioca flour. Or buy tapioca flour from kingarthurflour.com.

                      What a drag!