Monday, November 19, 2012

Tapioca filled Pumpkin

Tapioca filled Pumpkin with Lid Jauntily Askew and serving spoon
Points for Presentation: 10 out of 10

Recipe adapted from Sunset magazine, c. 1980

I’m a great fan of puddings, custards, and anything pumpkin-flavored, so I was ecstatic to find a recipe for a tapioca-filled pumpkin in a Sunset magazine, given to me by a lady whose house I cleaned when I first came to Santa Cruz. I loved the way the B&W photo looked, with a sophisticated lady’s hand scooping out tapioca along with pumpkin. When I finally tried the recipe, in 1995, it tasted exactly the way I’d imagined it. And then somehow the recipe disappeared. In 2001, I had a craving for it, and a weekend when my husband, who looks askance at both tapioca and pumpkin, was away. No recipe, no problem (and no internet for hints). How hard could tapioca and pumpkin be? One small forgotten detail, however, threatened to deflate the project. Or more correctly, to inflate it.

Bowl of Tapioca, Pumpkin, and Whipped Cream
Serving with Whipped Cream
Instead of precooking pumpkin and tapioca before combining them, I simply added the raw tapioca ingredients to the pumpkin and put it in the oven to bake. The first time I checked it, tapioca was erupting in multiple flows onto the baking sheet (fortunately I’d also forgotten to use a baking dish filled with water). When I checked it again the lid had floated off the pumpkin as the tapioca continued to burst forth from its depths. And yet, the pumpkin still wasn’t tender. When it finally finished baking, there was more tapioca outside the pumpkin than inside, but it still tasted supreme.

Pumpkin Hanging out while Tapioca Soaks before Cooking
Pumpkin Can Wait if Ready Before Tapioca
“J.P. from Palo Alto” originally wrote this recipe for a 5 lb. pumpkin of the carving variety. Back in the 1970s, that was the only kind of pumpkin consumers could get. Fortunately, the more petite sugar pie pumpkins are now widely available, and are the best choice for culinary uses. I’ve adapted the recipe to a 3.5 lb. pumpkin. Since no two pumpkins are identical, you might want to determine how much tapioca you’ll need by filling the cleaned pumpkin with water, 1 cup at a time, until full. Just blot the inside or scrape it with a spoon to remove the water afterwards. My pumpkin required a little over 3 cups of tapioca, which meant that I needed about half of J.P.’s original tapioca recipe, or approximately the quantity in the recipe on the tapioca box.

The Fun But Scary Part (Tapioca is HOT!)
You can use any tapioca recipe that you like. If you prefer long cooking tapioca, check out the recipe from Bob’s Red Mill. I started with the recipe on the tapioca box, then, following J.P.’s lead, reduced the amount of milk and increased the amount of egg to make a firmer pudding. Then I added an extra egg to make the pudding even more custard-like. I also increased the sugar slightly (from 1/3 to ½ cup), to add more contrast to the savory, earthy flavor of the pumpkin. My sugar of choice was, as usual, evaporated cane juice. I also added extra vanilla. Feel free to use your imagination in re-creating the tapioca, as long as you remember to cook it before it goes into the pumpkin!

Individual Bowl of Tapioca and Pumpkin
Perfect for Pudding and Pumpkin Lovers
Tapioca-filled Pumpkin
serves 4 - 6

1 (3-4 lb.) sugar pie pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
½ cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. quick-cook tapioca
2¼ cups 2% fat milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Whipped cream or ice cream, optional garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut about a 3-inch lid for your pumpkin, like you would for a jack-o-lantern. Lift off top and cut off the inside surface to make it flat. Remove seeds and strings from pumpkin, scraping inside as clean as possible with a spoon. (Save your seeds for roasting.) You might want to measure the amount of tapioca your pumpkin will require now (see instructions above); if so, blot or scrape inside dry afterwards.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cinnamon into pumpkin. Turn pumpkin around and tap it to distribute cinnamon evenly. Put lid on pumpkin.

Place pumpkin into a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish to a depth of ½ - ¾ inch. Bake at 350 degrees F. until pumpkin is somewhat tender and will “give” a little when poked, about 40 minutes.

Start making the tapioca when pumpkin has been baking for about 25 minutes. Whisk eggs in medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar, salt, and tapioca. Add milk and whisk. Set aside for 5 – 10 minutes to soften tapioca.

Heat tapioca mixture on medium high, stirring constantly until comes to a full boil. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

When pumpkin is somewhat tender, remove from oven and set aside.

Fill pumpkin with tapioca. Sprinkle top of tapioca with 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Place lid on pumpkin and return it to oven. Bake another 30 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft and pudding is set.

Remove pumpkin from oven. Lift pumpkin out of the water and onto serving plate using two sturdy pancake turners. Let rest and cool about 20 minutes before serving.

Sunset magazine suggests that if you make this recipe before your party, wrapping up the pumpkin in a thick towel will keep it warm for about 4 hours.

To serve, remove lid and scoop out both tapioca and pumpkin into small bowls. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Pumpkin Filled with Tapioca and Topped with Cinnamon
Before Final Baking: What a Pumpkin!

No comments:

Post a Comment