Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Zen of Tapioca

Beat the eggs well, and strain them so there aren't any cooked chalaza in the custard. Bring it to a boil over *medium low* heat -- this cannot be rushed! Unless, of course, you like little brown bits of dairy. Stir constantly, with a silicone spat or plastic whisk. But don't add a bunch of air, this will ruin the texture. Be patient and gentle. Don't turn up the heat and stir madly. Patience. (Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a particularly patient person...I consider the making of tapioca to be a lesson for me.) Reduce the heat the moment it starts to bubble -- or risk wearing big splops of custard on you and your cook top. This is where a gas range is helpful. Simmer over the lowest heat you can get, and even if your recipe says stir occasionally, take the time and patience to keep it moving. Otherwise the tapioca may clump (is that the reason you took a disliking to tapioca when you were a kid?). This is going to take about ten minutes. Now, wait. The first cooling is so you can add the vanilla and not have it all vaporize. Now, after you stir in the vanilla, you can steal a spoonful. But it's still really hot, so don't burn your tongue. After that, the waiting. Put it into small containers so it will cool faster. The faster it cools, the sooner you can savor that custardy-chewy texture. Put a little in the freezer; it makes great frozen custard. But be careful, you may eat it all before it gets to that frozen nirvana! I know, lots of people call it "fish eyes and glue." But not me!

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