Oct 9, 2009

Tapioca with Tayberries

Here's a recipe with inspiration from all over. With this week's announcement of the loss of Gourmet magazine, I thought it was time to try out a clipping I'd pulled from July's Gourmet and share it with you. Their recipe combines small tapioca pearl pudding and a fresh strawberry and fennel purée. I loved the idea of tart berries with sweet tapioca. But I decided to use large pearl tapioca instead.

Inspiration #2: I brought home a jar of June Taylor's amazing tayberry conserve after the conserve class I took from her while in San Francisco. I wanted to try it in a dessert and tapioca seemed like the perfect balance for the zing of the tayberries. In case you're wondering what a tayberry is – it's a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry with the deep red raspberry color. You can order it here.

Inspiration #3: I ran across this post on Vanilla Garlic discussing the different kinds of vanilla beans from Beanilla. Even though I'm a longtime vanilla lover and have several kinds in my baking cabinet, I had no idea there were this many sources and varieties of vanilla. I got so excited by Garrett's post that I ordered some of each to experiment with. This is my first recipe using one and I picked the Tonga bean to try first. Tonga is in the South Pacific and these highly aromatic beans are organic and apparently rather rare. When I opened the beaker they came in, I was blown away by their size and smell. These beans aren't like the dried up little things you see in the grocery store. They are at least 8 inches long and have a tremendous amount of seeds to scrape inside. They are luscious.

Inspiration #4: Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks post on her father's tapioca recipe. It is simple and straightforward and so good – the best I've tried, in fact. Her recipe uses small tapioca pearls though. I wanted to try the big, fat ones, so I infused them longer (overnight) in milk with the vanilla bean.

The result is a tapioca pudding with big vanilla flavor perfectly enhanced by the incredible color and ultimate berriness of June Taylor's tayberry conserve. One note, I tried layering the tapioca over the berry layer while the tapioca was still warm from the pan. It sunk into the berries making a mess. So I cooled the pudding first in the fridge and then layered it on top for cleaner, but still wabi sabi, layering. The ratio of how much conserve to how much pudding you use is entirely up to you. It does make a flavorful and rich dessert, though, so small portions are fine. Tapioca is filling. I made four servings and still had almost half a jar of conserve and some tapioca left. (I'm excited to see what else I can do with it.)

Tapioca pudding with tayberry conserve

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup large pearl tapioca
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
one (8 ounce) jar of June Taylor tayberry conserve

Combine 1 cup of milk and the tapioca pearls into a container. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise in half and then scrape your knife down it's length to scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds into the container with the pearls and stir together to distribute the seeds. Add the scraped vanilla beans as well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Whisk together the eggs yolks, salt, sugar and 2 cups of milk. Put the infused tapioca pearls, milk and vanilla beans into a thick-bottomed pot. Add in the egg mixture and whisk to combine.

On medium-low heat, very slowly bring the mixture up to just under a boil, while stirring continously. Lower heat to a low simmer and continue cooking and stirring for approximately 20 minutes, until the pearls are translucent and the pudding has thickened.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temp or refrigerate for later assembly.

Layer approximately 3-4 tablespoons of tayberry conserve into the bottom of each serving glass. With a clean spoon, layer tapioca on top of the conserve. You can use the handle end of a teaspoon to poke down into the tapioca to release air bubbles that get trapped in the pudding. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves approximately 4-6, depending on serving size.

Adapted from Gourmet (July 2009) and 101 Cookbooks.

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