This recipe may be time consuming, but if you utilize some different cooking techniques, it ends up being quite easy to prepare. After soaking the tapioca pearls overnight, you don't necessarily have to use them the next day. I did this a couple days ahead, then drained the pearls well and kept them in a well sealed container in the fridge, so they were good to go when I was ready to make the pudding. Since I didn't have a proper double boiler, I dusted off the crock pot and made use of it for the first time in I don't know how many years. Since the recipe required the tapioca to be covered and tended to quite frequently during its long cooking time, I didn't want to use my usual glass bowl on big pot technique. With a little one running around, I figured that would be begging for disaster.
I also had a ton of cherries I wanted to use up, and a compote made from them was a lovely addition. Any stone fruit in season would work here, especially ones with a firmer flesh such as plums. A little dark rum, lemon juice and some turbinado sugar were all the coaxing they needed to release their succulent juice which turned into a wonderful syrup. I ended up with a few tablespoons of syrup left, which I indulged in late at night (after the girl and husband were asleep, of course) by pouring it over some salted caramel ice cream. Kind of an unusual combination, but it ended up being pretty spectacular.
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (I used
Reese small pearl tapioca, as well as their recipe)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup turbinado or natural cane sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
juice of 1/2 a lemon, ~1 1/2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp dark rum
~1 lb dark cherries
Soak the tapioca in 2 cups room temperature water in a large bowl overnight, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Drain water and use immediately, or place in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Pull out your crock pot and turn the setting to high. Add the milk (and tapioca if it was in the fridge) and heat till no longer cold. Add tapioca (if using it at room temp), salt and 1/2 of the scraped out vanilla bean seeds, as well as the pod. Stir well, cover and cook for about 1 hour, to 75 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure that the mixture doesn't come to a simmer, and just remains hot.
Meanwhile, pit the cherries and place them into a medium pot. Add the other 1/2 of the vanilla bean seeds with the pod, rum, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. Turn the heat to medium low and stir well. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and stir occasionally for 1 hour. Place the cherries into a heat resistant glass bowl and set aside. Quickly clean out the pot and place it back on the stove for the tapioca.
Separate the eggs, and place the yolks in a small bowl with 1/2 cup of sugar. Whisk well until it turns a pale yellow. This takes some time, since there isn't much liquid to get the sugar incorporated quickly, but be patient - it does happen. Empty the hot tapioca mixture into the medium pot on the stove set on medium low heat. Temper the yolks with a couple ladles of the hot tapioca mixture. Pour the tempered yolks back into the tapioca mixture and raise heat to medium. Stir constantly till the mixture thickens considerably, about 10 - 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff - I'm talking meringue stiff. Gently fold them into the tapioca. Initially I was a little put off by the resulting texture from this, but trust me, its divine. The size of the tapioca pearls in contrast to the egg white feels amazing.
You can serve this immediately, or wait for it to cool down a bit and pop it in the fridge till it's nice and cold. Ladle the creamy pudding into a bowl with a couple spoonfuls of the cherry compote and enjoy a truly old fashioned dessert.
Recipe adapted from Reese brand's small pearl tapioca (it's on the back of the bag!)