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.
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.
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.
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.
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