I have made this recipe six times in the past two weeks, tweaking it slightly each time. In addition to the taste, I like it for two reasons; no need to stand over the stove stirring to prevent burning and I didn’t want to whip the egg whites and then fold in.
The original Alton Brown version includes lemon zest. I love lemon but it was just too different for my idea of the perfect tapioca pudding flavor so I substituted vanilla.
I have made it using both small and large pearls. I prefer the large pearls but if you don’t like them, try the small pearls with a texture similar to rice pudding.
I also increased the sugar but reduce it if you prefer. In one batch, I used two egg yolks to see how it effected the thickness of the pudding but think one egg yolk is fine.
I found the small pearl version was slightly thicker than the large pearl. The pudding thickens when cooled. After making one batch using the large pearls, I planned on reducing the amount of milk the next time until I checked the pudding the following morning and found it to be perfectly thickened.
3 1/2 ounces large pearl tapioca, by weight (approximately 2/3 cup, see note below)
2 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar (reduce to 1/3 cup if desired)
1 tsp vanilla
Place tapioca in a medium mixing bowl along with the water, cover, and let stand overnight.
Drain water from tapioca. Place the tapioca into a slow cooker along with the milk, heavy cream, and salt. Cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar and vanilla. Temper small amounts of the tapioca into the egg mixture until you have added at least 1 cup.
Add this back into the remaining tapioca in the slow cooker. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.
Transfer the pudding to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
Served with whipped cream, if desired
IMPORTANT NOTE: The pudding consistency is really a matter of preference. My first few batches were not as thick as I wanted and I considered whether to decrease the milk, add an additional egg or cook longer. Then I thought to weigh the pearls and to my surprise the large pearls filled more than the 1/2 cup I had been using by a significant amount. It was almost 3/4 of a cup. I recommend weighing the pearls.