Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Baked Apple Tapioca Pudding: A Light and Refreshing Dairy Free Approach to this Classic Pudding

Baked Apple Tapioca Pudding

The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

Tapioca Pudding
Cut six or eight apples into small pieces one full tea cup of tapioca, two table spoons full of white sugar, a little salt, juice of a lemon, a little rind grated sufficient boiling water to cover the apples after putting them into a large baking pan—Bake one hour in a moderate oven—Suzette

About Tapioca
Tapioca is a product of the cassava root (also called manioc, mandioca, aipim, and yucca) which is a woody shrub native to Brazil but has spread throughout South America and the Caribbean Islands even before Europeans first arrived in the Americas. By the 17th century, cassava had already been introduced to regions as far away as Asia and Africa. As a matter of fact, the world's largest producer of cassava today is in Africa in Nigeria.

There are two types of cassava, bitter and sweet. All cassava contains a poisonous substance called hydrocyanic acid; bitter cassava has more of this than sweet cassava. To be able to eat cassava safely, it needs to be carefully processed into flour in a way that leeches the poison out of it. Cassava has a very high starch content which makes it perfect for use as a thickener known as either arrowroot or tapioca. Tapioca is made by treating the cassava flour into flakes, seeds or pearls.

Here is a mid-18th c. illustration of the primitive method of processing cassava/manioc into arrowroot starch:

Source: Charles Gillespie, ed., A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industries, 485 Plates Selected from L'Encyclopedie' of Denis Diderot, 1751-1772 (New York, 1959)

By the middle of  the 19th century, tapioca was mass produced in factories and therefore much more widely available in Britain and America than ever before. Many of the tapioca recipes at that time were apple tapioca puddings, just like the one Mrs. Morris wrote down in her journal book. Other recipes for tapioca include plain puddings, peach puddings, soups, jellies, creams, and drinks for the sick and convalescent (such as the Sago, which is another type of starch from a sago palm, and Tapioca Milk recipes below).  Here are some examples of the variety of 19th century American recipes for tapioca:

1846-Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Beecher (New York)
1884 - Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book by Mary Lincoln (Boston)
1886 - The Woman Suffrage Cook Book by Hattie A. Burr (Boston)
1893 - Favorite Dishes by Carrie Shuman (Chicago)

In Latin America tapioca is made into a variety of dishes such cakes, ice creams, puddings, and many other dishes. One tapioca dish that is really interesting is sagu which is made by cooking pearl tapioca in red wine. Additionally, Asians use tapioca to make colorful jellies and bubble tea, the latter of which is now popular in the West, as well.

Here is a bubble tea with milk (notice the bubbles/tapioca pearls at the bottom):

Add caption: Wikimedia Commons

About the Recipe

This recipe really intrigued me because the tapioca puddings I have always known are always made with milk. This one is made with boiling water instead. This is great for anyone with lactose intolerance because it makes it dairy free. I honestly did not think it would work but was surprised to find that it not only works but is really tasty, light, and refreshing.

Tapioca Pudding: Modern Recipe Adaptation

Day 1: Soak the Tapioca

  • 1/2 Cup Small Pearl Tapioca (not instant)
  • 2 Cups Water
Place the tapioca and water in a plastic covered storage container and soak overnight (at least 12 hours) in the refrigerator.

Day 2: Making the Pudding

  • 6 Apples, Peeled and Cut into Bite-Size Chunks
  • 1 Cup Soaked Tapioca
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Grated Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 1/2 Cups Boiling Water
  1. Heat the oven to 350ยบ F..
  2. Greases a large (10" x 15") baking pan and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the apples, soaked tapioca, sugar, lemon, zest, and salt.  Then, add the boiling water and mix again.
  4. Pour into the the prepared casserole dish.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the center of the pudding doesn't shake when jiggled.
  6. Allow the pudding to cool completely. As it cools it will thicken up.
  7. Serve with sweet biscuits such as lady fingers, jumbals, or any other sugar cookie and top with whipped cream.

  • Davidson, Alan. The Penguin Companion to Food (New York, 2002)
  • Gillespie, Charles, ed., A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades and Industries, 485 Plates Selected from L'Encyclopedie' of Denis Diderot, 1751-1772 (New York, 1959)
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Smith, Andrew. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2013)

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