When I was little, my father would make me tapioca for dessert. He would serve it to me, and tell me, “Here you go, fish eyes for dessert!” Funnily enough, it never dissuaded me from devouring that pudding. I love the texture of tapioca; the little pearls surrounded by creamy vanilla pudding. To me, tapioca pudding beats plain pudding and rice pudding by a mile.
My father used to make me instant tapioca, the kind that comes in a red box. It really isn’t instant; it takes 20 minutes on the stove to cook it. What is meant by instant is that the tapioca pearls have been broken up small enough so that they do not require pre-soaking. Very large pearls may require hours long soaking before they are useable. Small pearl requires 30 minutes before you can use them to cook; the textural improvement of the dish is well worth the extra step and wait time.
Further improving on my childhood tapioca, I use whole milk and light cream rather than skim milk or low fat milk. Is it a decadent dish? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I would much rather have 1/2 cup serving of a truly delicious dessert than a cup serving of a mediocre one.
I also highly recommend using vanilla beans. The little black flecks look so appealing, and the flavor is world’s away from any extract. I also like to make vanilla sugar from the pods after they have been used. I buy my vanilla beans in bulk from amazon; the price is much better than the grocery store. If vanilla beans are not an option, I recommend vanilla bean paste; you will still get those lovely black seed flecks, and most grocery stores carry it now.
I would like to encourage you to eat this warm. I am a warm pudding advocate; I eat rice pudding warm, vanilla pudding warm, chocolate pudding warm…. every pudding, I prefer warm. Perhaps this is because I am extremely impatient and want to eat my dessert the moment it is ready, but I also think the comfort factor is dialed to 11 when you eat a pudding warm rather than cold. I love eating a bowl of warm tapioca pudding by the fire, getting warmed from the inside and out; it brings me right back to my childhood. I hope you enjoy it!
1 cup water
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
In a medium saucepan, add your tapioca, water and milk. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the tapioca to absorb the liquid.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 vanilla beans, split
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a bowl beat the two eggs together well, until the white are incorporated with the yolks. Set aside.
Add the milk, cream, salt and vanilla beans, split with the seeds scraped out and added alongside, to the soaked tapioca. Turn the heat to medium high. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn the heat back to low. Add the sugar gradually, and cook until the tapioca pearls have plumped up, turned translucent, and the mixture has thickened. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes.
With tongs, remove the vanilla bean pods. Discard, or rinse and set aside to make vanilla sugar (add the bean pods to granulated sugar in an airtight container. After a few days, you have sugar infused with vanilla flavor).
Pour a little bit of the tapioca mixture to your beaten eggs. Mix together well. This will temper the eggs so they will not scramble when you add them to the hot tapioca mixture. Add the tempered eggs to the saucepan, and whisk together. Continue stirring the mixture over low heat, until you get a thick pudding. Remove from the heat. Let it cool for 15 minutes.
Serve this warm, or pour in into a sealable container and press plastic wrap onto the tapioca mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Enjoy!