Break out the bubbly, the bubble tea bubbly, I mean. This is my first post in I don't know how long - the early days of July? It's been so hatefully hot and humid that I have rarely been in the kitchen. Neither eating nor cooking have much appeal to me. I know. You will tell me to just suck it up. Well, I have. I sucked several up, actually, from a sweating-cold glass as tall as a skyscraper. Giant tapioca pearls taste like nothing, but chew like nothing else. If you like gummy bears, you will find this refreshing Asian concoction of stunningly sweet, fruity milk tea addictive. And even if you can't ferret out the funky wide straws which make you look like you've just survived the golden ticket tour of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, a long-handled spoon works just fine for excavating every last sticky black marble. Who said bottom feeding is beneath one's dignity?
Peach Oolong Almond Milk Bubble Tea - My own recipe
Makes 2 large glasses, approximately 16 ounces each.
1/2 cup large dried black tapioca pearls*
Water to cook tapioca pearls
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup very strongly brewed Formosa Oolong tea, chilled
1 cup peach nectar, chilled
1 cup unsweetened almond milk, chilled (You can also use condensed, sweetened milk; if so, you will not need additional sugar.)
Additional castor sugar or sugar syrup to taste
2 cups ice cubes
In a medium-to-large saucepan, heat to boiling enough water to deeply cover tapioca pearls. (As big as they are, they will expand to 2-3 times their original size. Consult the cooking directions on your specific package, which vary by brand. I used one labeled "Ready in 5 Minutes," but it took 3o minutes. Some brands may take longer. As a general rule, the longer it is cooked, the softer the centers will be. Overcooking, however, will turn it into gelatinous mush. These directions are for the brand I used.)
Pour tapioca into boiling water. They will drop to the bottom of saucepan. Stir briefly to prevent sticking. Cover saucepan and boil for exactly 5 minutes. During this time, prepare the sugar syrup by combining sugar and water is a small saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar is fully dissolved (also 5 minutes). Remove from heat and reserve, keeping it warm.
Return to the tapioca. Turn the heat off and peak inside the saucepan. Tapioca should be floating on the surface. If not, stir gently to dislodge it from the bottom and sides of saucepan. Cover the saucepan again and let the pearls continue to cook in the stored heat of the water for 25 minutes. Do not turn the heat back on. The additional 25 minutes are necessary whether they are floating or need to be lifted.
In meantime, pour all other ingredients and ice into blender or cocktail shaker. Before you agitate, return to the tapoica pearls, draining them in a large mesh strainer. Pour them into the saucepan that holds the warm sugar syrup, insuring they are fully covered with it. If using a blender, its highest speed will grind the ice until fine, smooth, and loose granules form. Divide tapioca into two tall glasses, adding some sugar syrup with each spoonful. Pour the blended mixture on top of tapioca in each glass. Though they will settle in time, the bubbles on top of the drink create a fanciful mantle of foam to suspend the thick straw in. If the foam is too thin, return just the liquid contents to blender, adding another 1/3 cup almond milk before whipping the mixture on the highest setting. Again pour into glasses. Taste for additional sugar. Though bubble tea is traditionally very sweet, you can incrementally add just enough sugar to suit you, either by stirring in small amounts of caster sugar or the sugar syrup that held the tapioca. I find that a generous amount of sugar intensified all the subtle and unique flavors of peach, oolong, and almond milk. Leftovers may be saved in the refrigerator. Since the pearls become hard when cold, they can be scooped into a small saucepan of hot water to restore their softness and elasticity.* Dried black tapioca pearls are available online or in Chinese and Thai grocers, and can occasionally be found in other Asian retailers. Cassava root, from which this is made, is naturally white. Bubble tea tapioca is often colored for novelty.
Since tapioca is made from cassava, a highly versatile vegetable that much of the world relies on for their daily diet, this is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #242. I have the pleasure of hosting this week and expect to have the round-up online on Monday, July 19. There is still time for those who are interested in joining. Full details can be found over at Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, the home of Haalo, mistress of WHB. Thanks to Haalo for the offering me another stint as host, and thanks to all who have already sent me your great recipes.