Your family may be familiar with tapioca pudding, but the uses of the starchy substance stretches past the pudding. Tapioca is traditionally used to thicken desserts and pies. If your kids have never tried bubble or boba tea, they are sure to enjoy the drink served up in translucent glasses and enjoyed through a straw, with tapioca as the "secret" ingredient. Many busy moms also use it to thicken broths, soups and stews, as it adds texture and shine without changing the flavor.
What is Tapioca?
Once cooked, tapioca creates a mass of tiny jelly like spheres. Tapioca can be purchased in the baking section of the grocery store and comes in several sizes, including an instant variety. These tiny pearls are made from the roots of the cassava plants and contain high levels of starch.
Make tapioca pudding by cooking tapioca pearls in milk or cream and adding eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add pearls to pies and desserts as a thickener or stir into jellies and jams for an interesting twist. Tapioca thickens without changing flavor and adds a bit of texture.
Bubble tea made with sweet tea, milk and a healthy handful of cooked black pearl tapioca, makes an attractive drink sure to please the kid in all of us. Place the black pearls in boiling water for 25 minutes, then let them sit for 25 minutes before removing them from the water. Let them cool before adding them to the tea. Black pearls sink to the bottom adding visual appeal, while sipping from the straw offers the fun of watching these little gems swirl up the straw. Once your kids try bubble tea, they'll be begging for more.
Boiling is the most common way to cook tapioca pearls. Boil them in 8 parts water to 1 part tapioca pearls, stirring to prevent the tapioca pearls from sticking together. Soaking tapioca for an hour or two before cooking is preferred for old-fashioned tapioca, but is not necessary for instant varieties. Cover and simmer until pearls are soft and translucent. For instant tapioca, just add it to the liquid of your dish and cook the dish as you normally would. For example, stir it into your pie filling for added thickness and texture. Let it soak up some liquid for about five minutes, then pour your filling into your pie shell and bake. You can also add instant tapioca to your slow cooker to thicken the broth from your pot roast or stew.
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Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.
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