What does Paris taste like to you?
To me, it’s coffee eclairs. Fat pastry fingers, bloated with caffeinated custard. They’re my danger zone. They’re one of those things (for the sake of my jeans), that I pretend don’t exist. Except when we’re in Paris. Then all bets are off.
An eclair was the first things I ate on Rue Mouffetard when The Hungry One and I fled to Paris for our honeymoon. The days were grey and the sky was spitting sleet. The kindly instruction from my mother, after I distractedly ate old bbq chicken five days before the wedding and got scrawny, was to ‘got to Paris and fatten up’.
And so I did. For ten days coffee eclairs, steak frites, chocolate croissants and cheeses that lolled across my plate like a boozed teenager in the back of a cab were what made up my meals.
But mostly, I ate eclairs.
It was only half way through my first portion of this tapioca that I realised why I liked it so much. It was because the gentle custard texture and muted coffee flavour aped the filling of my beloved choux buns.
It may look like a frumpy mass of nursery pudding, best eaten in your pajamas when you’ve got PMS- but if you add some textural contrast of hazelnut praline and some shards of chocolate it transforms itself into a sleek dessert.
And it’s a doddle to make, so long as you don’t step away from it for too long. For just as eclairs love to hug to your thighs, this tapioca likes to cling to the bottom of a pan while it cooks.
This weekend we’re heading back to Paris. I’ve got a plum assignment writing up a night in the Plaza Athenee. And The Hungry One is back on his ‘quest for the best’- and has a booking at Le Chateaubriand (9th best in the world this year, apparently).
Somehow my 30th birthday has morphed from a day into a festival of extended excess. I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult to come back to earth on Monday.
Luckily I’ll have some of this tapioca still sitting in the fridge-that way the magic of Paris can linger with us for a little longer; if only on my thighs.
Mocha tapioca with hazelnut praline
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you, or your guests are)
1 heavy bottom pot. 1 whisk. 1 spatula
2 and a half cups milk
2 shots of espresso
1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar
3 tablespoons of drinking chocolate mix
Optional 2 tablespoons of hazelnut praline
Here’s how we roll
1. Pour 3/4 of the milk into a medium-sized, thick-bottomed pot. Add the tapioca and soak for 60 minutes.
2. Whisk the egg yolks together.
3. Add to the soaking tapioca and milk to the whisked egg yolks, cooled espresso, cocoa, sugar, and the rest of the milk.
4. Put the pan on a medium heat. Bring it slowly to a boil and keep stirring.
5. Reduce the heat and let the mixture return to a simmer – keep stirring until the tapioca has swelled to twice its size and the outside has become opaque. This should take around 20 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. This tapioca is best warm, but is also great cold, topped with shards of chocolate and hazelnut praline.