01 July 2012

Tapioca with Lemon Zest and Rosewater ... and a Raspberry in Every Bite!

Last evening, SB and I invited friends in for dinner and drinks - a celebration of summer and the beginnings of the garden haul. There were fresh greens for a gorgeous salad, fresh green beans for steaming, an Italian pulled pork ragu over creamy, cheesey baked polenta, and this lighter-than-air tapioca with beautiful fresh raspberries to top things off.

When I came upon this recipe in Heidi Swanson's cookbook, I knew immediately that it would be a special dessert. The flavours are so light and the consistency of the tapioca is so smooth and velvety ... the addition of the rosewater lends an exotic aroma and a hint of herby, floral flavour that mingles with that lemon zest. My goodness, it was delicious. To boot, I opted to serve the dessert just warm with chilled berries dropped atop. There were extras for adding when the initial few were scooped up with a spoonful of the warm tapioca. Yum ... like sweet caviar on a spoon!

This is an easy dessert to have when you're busy making a larger meal project ... you can make it ahead of time and leave it in the pan (covered after it has cooled a bit.). You just do a quick re-heat when you want to serve it. It can also be served cold, but I think it loses its velvety softness and 'goes to curd' when it's chilled. It's all a matter of preference  ... give me warm velvet anyday!

Tapioca with Lemon Zest and Rosewater
a slightly adapted Heidi Swanson recipe


2 ½  c. milk
½ c. light cream
⅓ c. small pearl tapioca
2 large egg yolks
¼ tsp. fine grain salt
⅓ c. clover honey
zest of 1 small lemon
¼ to ¾ tsp. rosewater

½ pint fresh raspberries for topping the tapioca

4 to 6 pretty ramekins, cocktail glasses or other small serving dishes

Making the Dessert:

  1. Place the tapioca in the bottom of a heavy saucepan and add 1 cup of the cold milk. Set the pan aside to allow the tapioca to soak for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks into the remaining milk and cream. Add this to the tapioca. Stir in the honey and the salt and place the pan over medium heat.
  3. Bring gently to a boil, stirring frequently, especially when the mixture begins to really heat up.
  4. When the tapioca boils, lower the heat and gently simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the tapioca is a shiny pearlescent bead in a clear shiny shell, taste. It should have a bit of substance, but it should not be a hard bead.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat, when it tastes right to you. Stir in the lemon zest and the rosewater.
  7. Let the tapioca cool slightly and thicken up a bit more as it cools. Spoon into pretty dishes and serve warm, topped with perfect fresh raspberries.

A word about the rosewater ... it's strong, so start with the lower measurement and bring it up to your flavour preference. Also realize that the rosewater scent and flavour strengthen if you choose to chill it and have it sitting for any length of time. Measure accordingly. It's all about the hint of flavour and scent ... the sensory titillation ... kind of like what you want to tell your friends or the old lady in the mall who wear too heavy a dose of perfume ... know what I mean?

Yum! Enjoy this easy indulgence. It's wonderful. I'm so glad there was a small amount that was leftover from last night's dessert. I had it for a late breakfast ... I know. I'm bad.


  1. I haven't had tapioca in years. My mother use to make it occasionally when we were younger. She served ours ice cold from the fridge. The raspberries in every bite drew me in. Desserts for breakfast happen a lot at our house too!

  2. I love tapioca! I make it a few times a year, mostly when we're in Maine! My mom used to make it all the time! I love the addition of the clover honey, lemon zest and rosewater! I also like adding raspberries!

    I think it's a good breakfast food, you've got some dairy and some fruit . . . Oh, the rest of the meal sounded fantastic too!!!

    Have a great day and keep cool!

  3. I have that same bottle of rose water! Those Shakers were adventurous with there herbs and flavors. (I worked as a guide for the Canterbury Shaker Village for a couple of years before I moved to Kansas.) I love tapioca pudding, but haven't made it in years. I eat it warm and cold--warm because I can't wait until it chills before I have a bit, and cold for the rest. Thanks for the inspiration. I'll have to make a batch and try some different flavors.

    1. My goodness! We were neighbors! I lived right next door to Concord in Hopkinton for years, before moving to the Monadnock region! And oh, by the way, what a cool job it must have been working at Canterbury Shaker Village!

  4. tapioca is a popular dessert in asia (: it's funny comparing the version you make with the ones I grew up with, which is usually served with coconut milk and raw palm sugar syrup! I always have a bag of tapioca just for that dessert, never even thought of trying it some other way, this is a great new idea for me!

    1. Shu Han! Please make your version and blog it ... I bought an awfully large bag of tapioca and this is the first recipe I've used with it! I, too, am looking for inspiration!

  5. I've never had tapioca, but would sure like to give this a try!

  6. Tapioca is one of those things from childhood that came in a can. I am sure that this version from your kitchen is a hundred times more delightful.

  7. this sounds divine. I have not had tapioca for years. What a lovely combination of flavours!


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