More than just okie dokey, I think I have found the most superb recipe for tapioca pudding. Up until I found this, I didn't much care for tapioca pudding. In fact, I would say I had quite a disdain for it due to a run in with a bad batch from "Swiss Miss" where the bits didn't get cooked right and were grainy and crunchy. I thought it was vanilla at first, boy what a let down.
Fast forward/Rewind to a couple years ago. My family and I are on a small summer trip which takes us through the (misnomer alert) Pennsylvania Dutch country. Before I was born, they had been to, and enjoyed stopping at the Shartlesburg Hotel. However, by the time we got there with me alive, we discovered that it had closed a couple summers earlier. No worries though, we were informed that something similar was just down the road, Haag's Hotel. Oookay.
Well, it was alright. The best thing I remember was their roast chicken and gravy. It HAD to be from scratch, and if it wasn't, color me impressed with whatever company it came from. But anyway, this is where Mom gets me to try some of their tapioca pudding. I remember thinking that it had potential likability..if it were just made better. I got the feeling that it was Not from scratch, and no wonder, the stuff takes at least an hour for one batch not counting over night soaking of the pearls.
After that, I decided we needed to know what really good tapioca was like and using my family as willing guinea piggies, I set forth on the quest. It has been two years in the making and I had all but given up because of the shoddy results of many recipes instructions. It just so happend that I was browsing my favorite section (desserts) on a new food blog I found not long ago - ("Simply Recipes" see the link to it on my sidebar. ) and there happend to be a recipe with a way of making it that I had not attempted yet. It is, I would say extremely easy, at least in a comparative manner. Others may not require you to stand there and stir nearly as much, but considering you actually get an outstanding product at the end that you "MMM" and "Ohh" about, it's worth it.
Before I describe any alterations I have made, know that it is for a double batch of the pearls because there is no way we'd have any left over for the next day if I didn't. And, I only have access to pearls that require an over night soak. I do not reduce the milk for cooking as suggested by the recipe when soaking pearls over night. I felt it made it too stiff.
The only changes that I have made are to increase the salt by maybe 1/8 to 1/4tsp more. I don't know, it just felt like it needed a touch more, so it's up to you if you want to try it.
I double or even triple the amount of vanilla I use. I would love to try a vanilla bean in it, perhaps steeping it in the milk a little bit before putting in the pearls. (After removing the paste from within the bean first of course).
I have been making this with 4 cups milk (from 2% up to whole) and 2 cups Half n' Half. I imagine using just whole milk would be fine but I was being decadent.
I have made this with small pearl as called for and large pearl. The only differences would be a longer soak time in water for large pearl and also longer cooking time. I recommend taking a really slow creep up to the first boiling stage so that the pearls get a chance to get semi-translucent first and then boiling slowly for probably 10 minutes instead of 5. During this time you can never leave the pot and I recommend using a heat proof scraper of some sort, stirring almost constantly, (but gently) to keep anything from sticking to the bottom/sides. I can go for either size pearls texturally speaking, but the small pearl is less time consuming and there feels like there is more of them in the mixture to go around which is nice too. Large pearls are like chewing on nice little gummy bears kind of. All personal preference of course.
The Fam has decided that they prefer the pudding more custardy and would probably be happy if I didn't whip the egg whites before adding. I like it a touch lighter though, but not As light as the egg whites make it. So, I don't bother to fold them in too gently when adding. It keeps it light but puddingy all at the same time. It'll settle even more by the next day. IF you have any left. Oh yeah, and I do add a touch of cream of tartar for the egg white stability, but I guess I should try leaving that out since I'm so rough on them anyway. We'll see how that goes.
If you have a spare half hour to an hour and really love good tapioca, I seriously recommend giving this recipe a try. If you don't have that spare time....you're missing out. :(