Tapioca Custard

I’ve been experimenting with dessert recipes, mostly to find some I like! Dessert seems like a lovely thing, but I’m just not a fan of sweet food (even fruit!). But I love the idea of dessert. So this past winter I put myself on a mission to find low-sugar recipes that didn’t have sugar substitute (too sweet!). I began to feel disenchanted with the complete lack of low-sugar recipes that were also tasty. I often came across ones that were deemed “healthy” and they were… but they were not something I’d want to eat, ha (I promise I’ll never share a cookie recipe that calls for oatmeal and mashed banana only… blech).

I decided to start with custards. I made a Blue Hubbard Squash Custard a little while back (shared on our Instagram page) and it came out great. I’ve gotten to the point with cooking that I don’t use recipes, so for that custard I just threw a bunch of ingredients together that I knew would make a custard (cream, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla) and added blue hubbard squash I had baked the night before (last squash from our garden last year), threw in some pumpkin pie-type spices, salt, melted butter, and voila! Blue Hubbard Squash Custard. The only problem? I didn’t measure anything so unless I want to try to recreate it (maybe this autumn I will?) I don’t have a recipe to share. There was certainly a lesson in that because it was really yummy and only mildly sweet, just the way I like it.

I took that lesson forward when I began experimenting with Tapioca Custard. I had a package of large tapioca pearls in my kitchen cabinet that I had been wanting to use and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. First, I knew I’d be using the typical custard ingredients– cream, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla– but I wanted to use less sugar and for it to resemble tapioca pudding, but richer (I find that fat tends to balance out the need for more sugar– no surprise there!). The following recipe is mildly sweet. If you like sweet custard or pudding, you can do one of two things– either add more sugar (I suggest starting with 1-cup of sugar instead of only 2/3-cup), or add a teaspoon of honey to your bowl of custard once it’s done cooling in the fridge. I tried it today with honey– it was much sweeter but the honey and fresh orange zest were truly magical together. That inspired me to add a little cinnamon to the next bite– SO good! Feel free to experiment with this recipe according to your taste– it’s so versatile.

Makes 8 Servings.

1 cup large tapioca pearls (soak in 5 cups cold water overnight… they’ll expand quite a bit! Drain off the excess water)

2 cups heavy cream

3 cups whole milk

2/3 cup unbleached organic sugar or raw sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)

Fresh orange zest from 1 orange

In a medium-size enameled cast iron dutch oven with a heavy lid, place soaked tapioca pearls, heavy cream, and whole milk. Cook covered on medium low (4 out of 10) until the tapioca pearls begin to soften and the mixture becomes more creamy (about an hour). Stir about every 5 minutes or so, being sure to scrape the bottom.

While that’s cooking, mix together the egg yolks and sugar. Once the tapioca mixture is done, slowly add about 2 cups of the tapioca mixture to the yolk and sugar to temper the yolk, then add that mixture to the dutch oven. Stir well then cook on low, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Mix in the orange zest. Mix in vanilla extract (if using).

Place the tapioca custard in a glass or porcelain dish and cover. Let it rest on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours, then place in the refrigerator until fully cooled. Serve alone or with honey (or any other flavor you’d like to experiment with!).

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