The other day I was watching an episode of The Chef’s Table (an amazing Netflix documentary) that focused on Brazilian chef Alex Atala. In it, he discussed the many products that come from the indigenous cassava plant, including tapioca. Instantly, I craved tapioca pudding. I’d been to the Farmers Market that morning and had a bunch of rhubarb on hand…thus this dessert was born.
For the Coconut Tapioca Pudding
1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk (you can use light, but it won’t taste as rich and lovely. It is essential you do not get sweetened, however).
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar (1/4 of which goes in the pudding at the start and the other quarter of which is reserved for the egg whites)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
First, place the tapioca pearls in a bowl and soak in the 2 cups water for 30-40 minutes. Drain the tapioca pearls and transfer them to a medium saucepan. Add the coconut milk and regular milk and soak another 15 minutes.
Whisk in the egg yolk (reserving the white for later), 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt.
Put the saucepan over medium heat and gradually bring the mixture to a low simmer, stirring often. Once a simmer is reached, reduced the heat to very low (you don’t want this boiling) and cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Test the pearls at this point and see if they have the texture you desire (chewy but not too chewy). You can cook the mixture longer if you feel the pearls are still too firm. If the mixture gets too thick, you can add more milk as you cook. Remember, though, the addition of the egg whites (next) will lighten the consistency some.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to the whites and beat further until the peaks are firm.
Take a small amount of the tapioca mixture and fold it gently into the egg whites, incorporating fully. Then add the egg white mixture fully to the tapioca pudding in your pot, fold gently to mix. Taste. If the pudding is not sweet enough for your tastes, add a little more sugar now. Cook over low, gentle, heat for an additional 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract.
You can (and should!) have a bit of the pudding right now, while it is hot. It’s quite different from the cooled pudding and very yummy! Ladle the pudding into 4 serving dishes and cool in the fridge to set the pudding while you make the rhubarb curd.
For the Rhubarb Curd (btw, you could substitute the rhubarb in this curd with any other fruit you like, such as mango or strawberry)
4-5 stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 2″ sections
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs water
1/4 cup sugar
4 tbs unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
First, cook the rhubarb in a saucepan with the water and lemon juice, simmering until the rhubarb has broken down into a pulp, about 15 minutes. Put the cooked mixture through a strainer set over a bowl and strain out approximately 1/4 cup of rhubarb juice. Reserve the remaining pulp and liquid for another use (Rhubarb Fruit Leather, for example).
Now whisk the 1/4 cup rhubarb juice with the sugar, eggs, and salt in a saucepan. If the color of the curd is very pale, you can add a few drops of red food coloring to darken it. Or not! As you prefer. Place the mixture over medium heat and cook at a very low simmer, stirring and whisking constantly as the mixture thickens. When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it is done. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, incorporating fully. Transfer to a dish and cover with saran wrap so a skin won’t form. Cool in the fridge.
To serve, add a dollop of rhubarb curd to each dish of cooled pudding and gobble it up!