Archive for December, 2011


Attempt at Tapioca

Sandia Mountains, Christmas Eve 2011

Oh dear, a bit of fiasco –
called it “Laurel&Hardy-esque” just now to a friend.
But hoping to cause a bit of cheer,
by sharing these crazy steps I took
to make dessert for Xmas dinner.

I have loved the tubs of tapioca at Trader Joe’s – not as hard to digest as ice cream, but very creamy-satisfying. And in my fridge last week I found a bag of bulk tapioca – large-size balls. I thus decided to make tapioca for our dessert and serve it with some fresh berries, since our wee grand-nieces love those.

I began by asking on facebook if anyone knew how to make it from scratch, and did not get a single answer. My friend Michelle said she always followed the directions on the box. Being in bulk, I had no box. Found a blog post that got me ready. I decided to triple the recipe.

As I began to cook the custard and tasted a ball, I had a realization: it was couscous, not tapioca. I decided to go ahead and make it with the couscous, and just tell everyone, be honest. Not pretend it was tapioca, or pretend I didn’t know. Yes, I had bought large couscous in bulk, not tapioca!

Well, the 20 minute period went by with no thickening happening in the big vat of couscous, milk and eggyolk. I tasted it again – chewy – like stale cheerios – and thought, “this will not taste good.” So I fished out all the cous cous, turned off the stove and headed out to the store to buy tapioca. But, being Christmas Day, not a single grocery store was open (I drove to 3). I did stop at Walgreen’s, bustling as it was, and bought a can of whipping cream.

Back home, only 2 hours left to finish (had begun 2 hours before), got my stools set up in front of the stove (am recovering from minor knee surgery and can’t be long on my feet) and started stirring the vat again. Turned up the heat. Still wasn’t thickening. Got out the cookbook my sis had given me for my birthday years ago, Moosewood Desserts, and in the custard section found ‘Couscous Date Pudding’ page 215 — ah ha! But I had tasted it, and knew I didn’t want that flavor or texture …

Why was the custard not thickening after coming to a boil again? I went to the cookbook’s custard section and looked at the ratios of milk to egg – more egg in the custards, and my recipe had more milk. I realized I needed a grain to add. Got out the iron pot to cook some rice. It slid off the counter and I caught it with my newly-mended knee on the way down, out of reflex. Oh what a pain. Rice on the floor to sweep up, too.

Back to the cookbook, found on page 216 ‘Indian Pudding’ that had mostly milk and, cornmeal! It was baked, and had many spices added, but my custard wouldn’t need baking after 2 hours on the stove. Spied the small sack of white fine ground cornmeal, so in it went, along with cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Wow did it thicken quickly then. Luckily no lumps formed. Ladled into the pretty cups and glasses, 3 raspberries atop each, relief at last. It did not scald and get wasted, I had a dessert to bring.

Stan Laurel, I know I am related to you.

from Wikipedia, Laurel & Hardy in ‘Way Out West’ (1937)


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