We have a second fridge in the basement, which is convenient for shopping overflow, preparing for parties, and storing the ice cream maker bowl should the whim strikes. The truth is though, we’re not really in the habit of incorporating the refrigerator's contents into our daily routine. This leads to situations like this week when we had three jugs of milk, three dozen eggs, and three six packs of beer (the latter wasn’t really a problem).
I wanted to start pecking away at that milk supply and chose a quick treat for the kids, who were shipwrecked in the house with the latest COVID school closure. We always seem to have tapioca, and the remaining five ingredients are standards in most kitchens. It’s hard to deny the quaint simplicity of the dish. Frankly, I don’t know if I’d ever made it before, though I had its popular cousin, rice pudding. I had other projects lined up and the negligible time commitment - 15 minutes of hands-on time and enjoyed just 45 minutes from start - held sway. Also, tapioca, with its unique soft pellet texture, holds an intrigue for me. The spheres are cool. They are derived from the cassava root—its starch extracted and turned to BB-like granules.
The undeniable truth is that tapioca pudding holds high in the ranks of the great comfort foods. Textured sumptuously and flavored richly with vanilla (I indulged with vanilla paste I had recently bought from The Chopping Block), it is simplicity incarnate and taps into a deep, childhood zone in my brain. Our batch was scraped clean within hours. Next time I’ll make a double batch.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
2 cups water
1 cup small pearl tapioca
5 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1. Soak the tapioca in the water in a medium-sized pot for 30 minutes.
2. Add the milk, salt and sugar and turn on the heat to medium. Bring it to a low simmer and stir regularly for about five minutes. Be careful: a thick, starchy substance like this has the tendency to toast on the bottom, which is a short step toward burning.
3. Give the eggs a quick whisking, then temper them: slowly mix a few cups of the hot liquid into the eggs to gently raise their temperature before putting the egg mixture back into the big pot. Stir it all over a low heat for a couple of minutes and turn off the heat. That should sufficiently cook your eggs and give a velvety texture to your pudding. Stir in the vanilla.
This pudding is great warm or cold. Accompaniments are limitless, but consider fresh berries and other fruit, crumbled cookies, chopped walnuts, etc.
Want to learn how to make chocolate pudding from scratch instead of a box? We'll cover that as well as our famous Chocolate-Toffee Cookies in a new virtual Chocolate Desserts class coming up on Saturday, February 12 at 2pm CST. It's the perfect treat for your Valentine's Day sweetheart!