Which isn’t quite the same as tapioca pudding.
This recipe calls for Minute tapioca, which is a brand of instant pearl tapioca. We talked a little about the process for making tapioca pearls in the post for small pearl dessert from Columbiaville, Michigan. What makes instant tapioca different is that the pearls are ground, partially cooked, and then re-dried again, so the resulting product cooks faster.
That said, if you’re one of the people who doesn’t like the little pearls in the finished product, you can beat them into powder in a spice or coffee grinder. You could also, hypothetically, use tapioca starch, but the results won’t be quite the same or as consistent.
… see, here’s the thing.
Because the instant tapioca is cooked, ground, and re-dried, it dissolves a bit more consistently when it’s powdered than the starch does. (By the way, tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing. The rise of the gluten-free fad has led to changes in how the product is used, and accordingly, changes in the nomenclature.) That’s why some old recipes–particularly those using round berries, like the cherry dessert sauce recipe from Columbiaville–call for small pearl tapioca. But if you want a pearl-free dining experience, favor grinding the instant over substituting with starch.
Here’s a version from the June 3, 1875 edition of the Warren Republican from Williamsport, Indiana:
Tapioca Cream. — Three tablespoonfuls of tapioca, one quart of milk, yolks of three eggs, one cup of sugar, salt, one whole egg, vanilla. Scald the milk; add the tapioca when the milk is very hot. Let it boil gently for half an hour; add salt; beat the eggs thoroughly; thin them with about a quarter teacup of cold milk. Add sugar, and beat it well. Then pour into the boiling milk the tapioca. Flavor when cold, and put on ice.
Randomly, whatscookingamerica.net has a really strange statement on its site about tapioca: “According to the MINUTE® Tapioca Company, tapioca pudding originated in 1894 by Susan Stavers, a Boston housewife…”
First off, the site doesn’t say that. It says that Stavers’ kitchen is where Minute Rice started. Second, there are lots of mentions from much earlier–check out the recipe in 1847’s The Lady’s Receipt Book, for one.
From the box of C.N. sold in De Soto, Kansas.
1 qt. milk
1/2 c. minute tapioca
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
- Scald milk in double boiler.
- Add tapioca, sugar, and salt.
- Cook until tapioca is clear, stirring constantly.
- Pour small amount of the mixture over the slightly beaten egg yolk, stirring vigorously.
- Return to the double boiler. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken like custard.
- Remove from fire and add vanilla.
- Fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.
- Serve cold.