It always mystifies me how recipes evolve. It’s like falling into a rabbit hole and not wanting to come out. Of course, with a blog named Culinary Distractions, that is not a big reveal.
If you happen to read the previous post, you’ll know this one is inevitable. The major reason for the dulce de leche preparation was to have a supply available to test this idea. Before that, it all started because I had too much buttermilk.
Old-fashioned tapioca made with toasty sweet dulce de leche seemed a perfect match with the creamy tartness of buttermilk. But I was wary of buttermilk in tapioca pudding. The pudding must simmer in order to cook the pearls and thicken it, and the heat could cause the buttermilk to separate in the process.
When I realized I could use less buttermilk and simply add it once the pudding had thickened, the idea finally came together. Tapioca is fine without the addition of egg, but even a little makes a difference, even one yolk. Cooking the egg yolk too long is also problematic, but incorporating the yolk once the tapioca thickens would add just enough egginess to do the job and lend a thick creamy mouth feel. After that, the buttermilk could be heated to blend flavors, but not boiled.
Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Tapioca
Old fashioned tapioca gives pearly thick results blended with the sweet-tart combination of dulce de leche and buttermilk.
1/3 cup pearl tapioca
2 ½ cups milk
1/2 cup dulce de leche, depending on preferred sweetness
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Soak the tapioca in 1 cup milk for 1 hour.
- In a heavy medium pot over medium-high heat, combine the tapioca mixture, dulce de leche, the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, and salt. Whisk to incorporate the dulce de leche and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until mixture thickens, pearls swell and become translucent, 10 to 12 minutes; whisk frequently to keep the bottom from sticking and scorching.
- Temper the egg yolk by mixing a bit of the hot mixture into it and adding it back into the pot. Continue whisking, about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk and cook until it returns to a simmer, approximately 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Cover the surface with plastic wrap and let cool. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. It will thicken substantially as it cools. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Serves 6
As a pudding, sprinkle with fresh grated nutmeg. Thin it and use it as a warm sauce over fresh fruit or cake.