¾ cup small tapioca pearls, not instant or minute tapioca. *see Notes below
1 cup water
4 ½ cups whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split down center and seeds removed and set aside with pod, **see Notes below
3 whole eggs, beaten in a medium bowl
In a medium non-stick sauce pan, bring water to a boil, remove from heat and stir in tapioca granules. Let sit untouched and uncovered for 30 minutes while you measure out your remaining ingredients.
After 30 minutes, stir the granules with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula to break up any that stick together. Do not drain any residual water.
Add milk and salt over medium heat and bring to a point where it starts to steam and bubble but do not boil.
Whisk in sugar, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla bean pod and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will thicken as it cooks and be thick similar to pancake batter but not quite at its finished thickness yet.
For now, turn off burner.
Slowly add spoonfuls of the hot tapioca to the beaten eggs whisking vigorously as you add. This is to temper the eggs so they do not scramble when added to the pudding.
After adding about two cups of the hot pudding to the eggs, whisk the now tempered eggs back into the pudding and return to medium heat.
Cook for five more minutes stirring continually then remove from heat and discard the vanilla pod.
If you are using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add that in at this time.
Serve warm or cooled.
To store, place plastic wrap tightly over surface of pudding so that a skin does not form over the top.
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*There are several brands of small pearl tapioca some suggesting soaking for 30 minutes with others suggesting soaking overnight. I found that soaking in hot water for 30 minutes worked for all brands. (Instant or ‘minute’ tapioca doesn’t require any pre-softening.)
**I use a vanilla bean in this recipe but a good quality vanilla extract can be used instead. If you use extract, stir in 1 ½ teaspoons at the end after the finished tapioca comes off the heat.