Tapioca Fruit Salad
Ok. I know. Not the prettiest photo I’ve ever taken. Turns out tapioca is kind of hard to photograph, especially when you don’t cook it 100% correctly. So you might be asking, “Nick, why the heck are you posting something that looks not-so-great and wasn’t even cooked correctly?”
My only answer is that darn it this was tasty. And that trumped the other issues I had with the dish.
I’ve had this bag of tapioca in my pantry for months now and on the back of the bag there’s a recipe in very tiny print for a tapioca fruit salad. I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile and just needed a reason. A few weeks ago, Bets and I went to a wine festival and I thought this would be perfect for a dessert during our picnic at the festival.
Obviously, it’s important to get really ripe fruit for this. Makes all the difference in the world. Also, the original recipe called for some pesky amount of fruit. I think I almost quadrupled the amount of fruit it called for because I wanted more fruit than tapioca.
1) Depending on the tapioca you purchase, your cooking instructions might vary, so cook the tapioca according to the instructions on your packaging.
2) Most likely, this will include beating your egg whites and sugar together until they form stiff peaks. You can either do this with a stand mixer or your hands and a whisk. It’s hard work by hand.
3) Once your tapioca is simmering and thick (again, consult your packaging for times), take it off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Then fold 1 Cup of cooked tapioca into your egg white mixture. Be gentle.
4) Then fold the tempered egg white mixture back into the main tapioca. If you don’t beat your egg whites long enough or let your tapioca cool (it should be warm to the touch but not hot), then your pudding won’t firm up enough.
5) Let your pudding cool for a few hours in the fridge.
6) Chop all your fruit up into bite-sized pieces.
7) Fold the fruit into the pudding and serve! Again, be gentle when you’re folding your fruit in. Tapioca is a delicate thing. Enjoy!
Making the Tapioca
I think tapioca falls into the camp of love it or hate it for most people. I happen to be in the love it camp, but I know some people who can’t stand the stuff. It’s understandable I guess. I think in most cases it’s a texture issue that people don’t like.
For this recipe, I thought that the soft, jelly texture of the tapioca actually worked well with the crunchy fruit texture.
I’ve made tapioca twice in my life. The first time was a disaster of beyond-postable proportions. This time was much better although still not perfect I’ll admit.
Depending on the type of tapioca you get, your cooking times and instructions will vary pretty largely so just be sure to check your packaging for instructions. It will look like an absurdly small amount of tapioca-to-liquid ratio, but have no fear that the little starch balls will do their thing and absorb it all.
So follow the instructions which will most likely include soaking the tapioca for a set amount of time in water and then slowly simmering it in milk and vanilla and egg yolks.
Also, you’ll have to whip together the egg whites and sugar. Mixing this in with the tapioca after it cooks gives the final pudding some volume and sweetness.
I thought I’d be all macho for this recipe and whip the egg whites by hand and let me warn you, while it is totally doable to do this, it’s a lot of work. You’re supposed to whip until the egg whites form soft peaks and I think I jumped the gun a little bit. These were my egg whites after probably 8 minutes of crazy whipping by hand.
In hindsight, they aren’t quite there yet. I should’ve kept whipping for another minute or so.
Tipsy did NOT like the egg-whipping process. She hated it so much in fact that she tried to hide inside the sofa.
Finishing the Tapioca
For some reason I was really impatient on the day I was making this. I didn’t beat my egg whites long enough and I also didn’t let my tapioca simmer enough. The recipe said 10-15 minutes but I think 20 minutes would’ve been better.
I thought it would firm up a lot after it cooled down, and it did to some degree, but I still should’ve let this simmer for a few more minutes.
It was just a bit runny.
It was interesting to taste the tapioca before blending in the egg whites because they were not sweet at all. In fact, it had almost a creamy/bitter flavor to it. Not exactly what I’d call tasty. Luckily, the egg whites (with the sugar) will give it just the right amount of sweetness.
To fold in the egg whites, make sure you let your tapioca cool a tiny bit. You want them hot, but not bubbling.
Next, fold in 1 Cup of cooked tapioca into your egg white mixture. Be gentle here people. Then slowly fold in your egg white mixture back into your tapioca mixture.
Pudding done! Before adding in your fruit, let your pudding cool to at least room temperature if not for a few hours in the fridge.
Prepping the Fruit
The tapioca takes some time to cook and cool so you can definitely prep all your fruit while you’re waiting for it to do one of those things. Feel free to experiment with the fruit based on what looks good at your market. I used a mix of grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and some champagne mangoes that looked especially delicious.
Of course, the mangoes are the most fun thing to cut because you get to do this to them! (For a full tutorial on the mango cutting, check out this post.)
Other than chopping up the mango, I halved my grapes, cut my strawberries into quarters and left my blueberries whole.
This was a pretty good little fruit salad just like this actually!
Once your pudding is done and your fruit is chopped, just stir them both together! Be gentle with stirring the pudding though. It has a lot of little air bubbles in it and they might break down if you over-stir it.
So as you can tell, it was a bit soupy, but it actually still tasted really good. To review… the things I think would fix the tapioca problem:
1) Make sure you don’t wuss out and actually beat your egg whites until they form soft peaks.
2) Make sure you cook your tapioca at least as long as the package says and maybe even a few minutes longer if it still looks runny.
Of course, there’s one thing that both of these problems has in common: Patience. I just didn’t really have it that day and my tapioca suffered a bit because of it!
Still though. Good fruit salad.