Penchant for Pumpkin

There is little doubt that fall is underway in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  As much as I have held out hope for more warm weather, temperatures this morning dropped to 45 degrees and there is talk that it will get close to freezing overnight.

On the bright side, fall weather gives me ample reason to get a jump on pumpkin season.  Earlier, I dashed to the store to stock up on cans of pumpkin pulp, should the mood strike.  And of course, it did.

I was not happy with my latest tapioca pudding made in the multicooker. As much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, the tapioca had turned unpleasantly gooey.  When you prefer a light creamy tapioca, this is not going to happen when it boils unmercifully under pressure.  Excessive heat breaks down the tapioca and turns it rubbery.

Thus, goaded on by my penchant for pumpkin, I was further compelled to launch into a deeper Tapioca Inquiry.  Armed with pumpkin and an abundance of small tapioca pearls, I was enthusiastically prepared to get to the bottom of this.

I revisited basic tapioca preparation and began by soaking it for 30 minutes to soften. This cuts overall cooking time, too. With that in mind, it doesn’t take long to prepare old-fashioned tapioca on the stove.  The main point is to not let it boil—but allow it to thicken and let the pearls swell.

A couple of eggs helps here.  Early on, the yolks are combined with milk to form a custard base and thicken with the tapioca. The pumpkin pulp and spices are added, and finally, the two egg whites are whipped until thick and folded into the pumpkin tapioca to further lighten it.  The pumpkin tapioca happens in less than a half hour.

It is good warm, cool, or chilled.  Sweet.

Pumpkin-Spiced Tapioca

Ingredients
⅓ cup small pearl tapioca (not quick tapioca)
¾ cup water
2 eggs, room temperature, divided
2¼ cups 2% milk, room temperature, divided
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin pulp
1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp ginger,  ¼ tsp each salt, nutmeg, and allspice
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In advance: soak pearl tapioca in ¾ cup water in 2½ quart pan or larger for 30 minutes to soften.
  2. In a 1 cup measure beat the egg yolks, whisk in the brown sugar until thick and dissolved, then whisk in ¼ cup milk.
  3. Place the pot over medium heat. With a spatula stir egg mixture into the soaking tapioca, then add 2 cups milk.
  4. Bring it to a simmer stirring to keep from sticking on bottom. Once steamy with bubbles beginning to form, reduce heat to low and cook gently for 5 minutes until it thickens and pearls swell.
  5. Combine the pumpkin, spices, salt and stir into the pot. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally with spatula. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl beat the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar until thick and peaks form.
  6. Gently stir ½ cup of hot tapioca into the whipped whites to temper, then fold whites into the tapioca. Cook over low heat, folding and stirring with spatula to thoroughly combine the tapioca until it is hot and steamy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Serve warm or cool.  Cover and chill in refrigerator 3 hours and up to 3 days.  Serves 4 -6

An Old-fashioned Steamed Pumpkin Pudding, a la microwave

baby-sugar-pumpkin-1This is a story of an old-fashioned steamed pumpkin pudding with crystallized ginger. In this version, the same dense classic once steamed or baked for an hour or longer, is popped in the microwave and baked until done, or about five minutes.

That’s right, thanks to modern technology, it takes longer to tell the tale than to bake it.

In other words, you take one mini sugar pumpkin and bake it until its meat is tender.  Don’t be alarmed if you discover the pulp is stringy and more similar to a spaghetti squash.

It will puree just fine in the food processor with a little sweetened condensed milk and molasses for character. In the old days heavy cream and perhaps brown sugar were added, in this case I opt to keep it simple.  Add your eggs, a little cake flour for structure, your typical pumpkin spices and lots of ginger—both powdered and crystallized.

If you’d rather, swap the candied ginger for ½ cup raisins, dates, or chopped nuts for a bit of texture and contrast; we aren’t looking for baby food here.  Back in the day, they might have used bread crumbs, suet, or anything else available to keep it together and fill in the gaps.

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding with Crystallized Ginger
Steamed Pumpkin Pudding with Crystallized Ginger

The result: a pudding denser than your typical pie filling; one that cuts beautifully.  You may be tempted to over bake it; do check it at 4 minutes.  If the center is set, it is done and will continue to cook as it stands a few minutes.

Serve it warm with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.

Old-fashioned Steamed Pumpkin Pudding, a la microwave

Source:  inspired by Microwave Gourmet, Barbara Kafka

Ingredients
2 cups pumpkin pulp
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 eggs
1/3 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon ginger, powdered
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped

  1. Directions 
    Prepare the pumpkin.  Cut it in half, remove seeds, and place in microwaveable dish. Add water to bottom of dish to cover, seal with plastic wrap and bake for about 7 minutes or until pulp is tender.  Remove any seed fibers from top and scoop out the pulp, you will need 2 cups.  Set aside.
  2. In food processor puree the pumpkin with sweetened condensed milk until silky.  Add the molasses and vanilla.
  3. Melt the butter in microwaveable 1-quart soufflé dish or equivalent.  Spread it over the interior and pour any residue into the pumpkin mixture.  Add the eggs and process.
  4. Sift the flour and spices and add to pumpkin with salt and process to combine.  Add the ginger and process briefly.
  5. Pour into soufflé dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 minutes.  Press the center, if it is firmly set, remove from oven.  If not, microwave an additional minute at a time until center is set.  Carefully remove wrap and cover with a plate for 10-15 minutes.  Unmold, or slice and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.  Serves 6.

Rabbit Hole Rewards

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.tapoica cooking

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.

tapioca spoonSo here it is, I’m out of the rabbit hole, back in the sunlight enjoying the rewards of a lovely discovery.taapioca partial glass

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

  1. Soak the tapioca in 1 cup milk for 1 hour.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.