A sweet and simple dessert from cookbook author Joe Yonan. "There's really nothing quite like tapioca pudding to take me back to childhood, when I would eat those plastic cups of the store-bought variety. Of course, homemade is so much better, and it's really not difficult to make. It just requires a little patience and some stirring. I like to make a few cups at a time, eat one (or, okay, two or three). Then, before things get really out of control, I portion the rest into 1/2-cup ramekins and store them in the freezer. To take it over the top, I sprinkle just a touch of one of my favorite aromatic spices, cardamom, on top, along with some sugar, and torch the top to get that crackly brûléed effect."
3 cups milk, preferably low-fat
1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 egg yolks, whisked to combine
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Step 1: Pour 1 cup of the milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the tapioca and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Pour the remaining 2 cups of milk into a mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, sprinkle the espresso powder over, let it sit for a minute or two, and then stir to dissolve.
Step 3: Whisk the espresso-milk mixture into the tapioca mixture, along with the egg yolks, salt, and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Over medium heat, slowly bring the mixture just barely to a boil, stirring constantly; it will take 10-15 minutes. Reduce the heat until the mixture is barely simmering, and continue cooking the tapioca, stirring occasionally, until the beads swell up and become almost translucent and the custard thickens, another 15-20 minutes.
Step 4: Remove from the heat and let it cool. Spoon the pudding into 6 individual 1/2-cup ramekins and wrap each in plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. It will keep it the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Step 5: When you are ready to eat, unwrap one of the ramekins of pudding (thaw it first if frozen), and sprinkle the top with 1 tsp of the remaining sugar and a pinch of cardamom. Use a small culinary blowtorch to caramelize the sugar on top, keeping the torch moving so you deeply brown but don't blacken the sugar, then eat.
Reprinted with permission from Joe Yonan's Serve Yourself (2011 Ten Speed Press).