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Mar 16, 2010 11:34 AM

Cooking Tapioca

I made the tapioca recipe from The Last Course and liked it pretty well. But I thought it could have been much better if I had cooked it better. I never cooked tapioca before. It seems simple enough. Put some milk, sugar, and tapioca in a pot and cook it. But if I put the heat high enough to cook it, it stuck to the bottom of the pot. And if I turned it down, it didn't seem to be cooking. So here's the question. Does anybody have an alternate method? Cooking in a pressure cooker? A rice cooker? A water bath in the oven? Anything? Thanks.

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  1. Alton Brown cooks his tapioca pudding --
    in a slow cooker ( Crockpot) on high for 2 hours. (After the tapioca has soaked overnight.
    )It worked well for me too! One note--his recipe calls for zested lemon, I prefer just vanilla and sweet sweet sugar. But the texture of the tapioca is just fine, no burning/browning/sticking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: blue room

      yayadave thanks for starting this thread - I had the same issue with tapioca not cooking through and thought it was just me.

      blueroom thanks for the link to Alton Brown's recipe - another reason for me to finally get a slow cooker.

    2. Because Tapioca is simply a starch, the portion of any mixture that includes tapioca that is nearest the heat source will cook more rapidly (and solidify on the pan surface) unless it is stirred constantly. Not intermittently; constantly. If you want a little different texture you can include an egg in the mix - but that's another issue.
      Tapioca can be cooked in a double boiler and that method is a bit more forgiving that direct heat. But it still has to be monitored religiously. It might also cook well in a water bath in the oven. But that'd require a lot of oven open/close cycles to stir it so I'd opt out of that method. I have read information on various forums where some cooks have had success cooking it in a rice cooker, but even there, although they claim they don't have to stir constantly, they still have to stir at various points in the cooking and heaven forbid they should neglect to remember when to stir.
      Tapioca cooks best, IMO, in a pan with a very heavy solid bottom. That helps maintain an even distribution of heat without hot spots.
      Incidentally, if you haven't tried it, grate some fresh nutmeg on top of the dish of tapioca just prior to serving. Takes it to a whole new level.

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        A little ripe banana sliced into warm tapioca and the aforementioned grated fresh nutmeg is great for creating comfort and joy when the weather's crappy.
        A heavy-bottom pot and constant stirring is the way to tapioca success, as todao noted.

      2. I have not had tapioca in years, but I used to make it all the time when I was younger. My favorite was with egg whites folded in for a very fluffy pudding. Yum!!!!

        4 Replies
        1. re: boyzoma

          My Mom's tapioca was one of my favorite things, and I remember she cooked it in a double boiler with separated egg whites, whipped and folded in.

          1. re: coll

            Yup. Whip the whites stiff and fold in - so good and lite! My favorite was when it was still slightly warm. Now that I think about it, I may have to make some soon!

            1. re: boyzoma

              I hate it when you can see little bits of egg yolk in the tapioca. Can you avoid that?
              Also, do you fold the egg whites in when the tapioca is still warm or hot, so that it essentially cooks and is not raw whites?

              1. re: karykat

                Sure; it's' avoidable. Thoroughly combine (I like to use an immersion blender) the egg yolk and milk before starting the cooking. I do sometimes fold stiffly beaten egg whites into the finished tapioca while it's still warm and allow it to cool at room temp. before storing it in the fridge. I use pasteurized eggs to eliminate the raw egg hazard potential of those that are not pasteurized.

        2. I have always loved tapioca. My aunt would make it. I tried once and it just didn't work out so I never tried it again until about 4 weeks ago. I nearly licked the computer screen. I followed the instructions exactly as written and was overjoyed with the finished product.
          Here's the recipe. I used my dutch oven and I didn't have a problem stirring until the right consistency was reached. I hope you try it.

          Vanilla Lemon Tapioca Pudding
          adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
          yield: approximately 8 servings
          scant 1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (not instant)
          2 1/2 cups whole milk
          2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
          scant 1/2 cup sugar
          1/4 teaspoon salt
          1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
          zest of one small lemon
          1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream

          Soak tapioca in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes, then drain (do not rinse) and set aside.
          In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks, sugar and salt. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using the tip of a small knife, scrape seeds from the middle of the bean into the pot. Whisk vanilla bean seeds into the mixture then add the bean pod halves. (If you are using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, it will be stirred in after the pudding has cooked.) Add tapioca then bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring slowly but constantly with a wooden spoon. The pudding will start to thicken immediately – this is fine. Turn heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring slowly and constantly, for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the tapioca is completely translucent – the time will vary depending on the size of your tapioca.
          Remove pudding from heat and stir in lemon zest (and vanilla extract if using instead of vanilla bean). Cover and let cool to lukewarm. In a separate bowl, beat cream (make sure it’s cold) with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks. Stir cooled tapioca, and then gently fold in the whipped cream until thoroughly combined. Scrape pudding into a serving bowl (or individual bowls) and serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap (pressing the wrap onto the surface of the pudding will prevent a skin from forming) and chill until ready to serve.
          Recipe notes: When I say to use “scant” half cups of tapioca and sugar that means slightly less than full. As stated in the recipe, vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean – I’ve tried it both ways, and both are delicious. Make sure the lemon zest is finely grated so the texture isn’t too noticeable in the pudding – a microplane grater works great for this. The lemon zest may also be left out completely for a more traditional tapioca.
          Although this version of tapioca pudding feels very grown-up with the vanilla bean and lemon zest, it will please kids and adults alike.

          Use "Bob's Red Mill" small tapioca which I purchased from a health food store. It is also available from Amazon

          1. This post makes me want to buy tapioca tomorrow. Anyway, I have the same problem as you. I just tried to stir it regularly.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I just ran across a recipe for a maple syrup tapioca from a book on WWII recipes. Maybe because sugar was rationed. (But how easy was it to get the maple syrup.)

              I may try some of these tips with the maple syrup.

              1. re: karykat

                Wow. Really? What a world where maple syrup is easy to find and sugar is not -- if that was the case.

                If it turns out alrright, please post your recipe here. Thanks.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I could see that happening in New England. A Victory Forest, so to speak. Maple syrup is always a good sub for sugar in my book.

                  1. re: coll

                    Just want to say, I forgot to my tapioca today

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I guess molasses, corn syrup and honey were also used as substitutes for maple syrup. It must have been a regional thing with the maple syrup, in areas where there were enough trees.

                    Will post the recipe if it does turn out.