Monday, January 14, 2008

This Ain't No Store Bought Pudding

The most surprising thing about old cookbooks is not the recipes that would be out of place in most homes in 2008 e.g., veal jelly or tomato aspic, but that familiar sounding recipes might not taste familiar. Today we have an example of just that: tapioca pudding that probably isn't quite what you grew up with.

But if you are willing to set aside your expectations and appreciate this for what it is, I think you'll like it. The pudding is golden and has a distinct egg flavor. It is less creamy than what I am used to and gets quite firm when cool, so much so that it could be sliced and served with fruit. The pudding has a nice spicy flavor from the cinnamon and nutmeg.

The recipe comes from Just How: A Key to the Cook-books, 1906, by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney, a Christmas gift from my husband. Whitney sets out to explain how you cook, not just give you recipes and wish you the best on how to make them. She says if you have the "constitutional aptitude" you can learn from "any old woman" and she says: "I propose to be that old woman, and to let you see, over my shoulder, how I do a few things." Throughout the book there are rules on cooking temperatures, mixing orders and other basic skills. Rule 2 is, "Look to fire and oven before getting ready to bake. The fire should be clear and solid at the bottom, and through the middle, with a replenishment of fuel already kindling at the top..." Oh my. Thank you for my gas stove.

On to the tapioca. Because Whitney doesn't believe in lists of ingredients she provides them in a very roundabout way, which I will simplify below, but the joy of these cook books is to read the original so here is some of it:

"Soak a cupful of tapioca, well washed in a pint of milk. Prepare it early in the forenoon, and let it remain as long as time will allow...have ready a cup of sugar, half a cup of solid butter, a teaspoonful of cinnamon mixed with half a teaspoonful of mace or nutmeg; or instead of spice, the grated rind of a lemon...put all into a tin inner boiler set in hot water. Boil, stirring well and often..."

The description takes a full page. And there are no pictures. And no oven temperatures.

Tapioca Pudding
Adapted from Just How: A Key to the Cookbooks, 1906. I used soymilk in place of regular, half the amount of sugar (because the soymilk has added sugar) and half the amount of butter. Pearl tapioca from an ethnic grocery store tends to be cheaper than the kind I find in the regular grocery store.

2 pints milk, divided
1 cup tapioca
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace
4 eggs, separated

Soak the tapioca in 1 pint milk for 6 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish. Add the other pint of milk to the tapioca. In a double boiler, stirring often bring to a boil until the tapioca is swelled and takes up most of the pot. Remove from heat and add the butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Separate the eggs. Stir the yolks into the tapioca mixture. Beat the egg whites until fluffy, and mix gently into the tapioca mixture. Pour into casserole dish. Bake about 45 minutes until light brown on the top.


Rural Vegan said...

That sounds like an interesting old cookbook to read! I'm afraid I wouldn't have the patience you do to cook from it though, I like clear lists and step-by-step instructions. Goof for you trying all these wacky recipes out!

Sophie said...

Hi :),

We would like to feature your tapioca pudding on our blog and possibly our digital-recipe reader, too.

Please email if interested. Thanks :)

You can read more here: