Tonka beans grow in the flowering Cumaru tree in Guyane. The beans are about an inch-long, and look like a woody raisin, with a lacquered, wrinkled exterior, and softer brown centre. This exotic ingredient is associated with French haute cuisine but home cooks can use in pastry. Tonka’s most distinctive feature though is their enormous potency: heady vanilla flavors with oily clove aromas and perfumed magnolia, sandalwood notes.
Tonka beans in Pastry, a wonderful pairing delicacies…
Grate tonka beans with a microplane, as you would with nutmeg, to create an intensely-flavored powder. The tonka bean powder can be used like any other dry spice such as mixed with icing sugar to make macarons, madeleines, chocolate lava cake, crème brûlée, etc. You can also grate Tonka beans in milk, cream and custards and infuse it. Tonka is a natural pairing with chocolate and sits beautifully alongside sweet fruits like apricots, apple, pears, etc.
Tight your apron and make Chocolate truffles with Tonka bean powder for Christmas or an apple Tatin tart or an apricots tart later in the season!
YOU MUST KNOW… The Tonka bean smell comes from the coumarin. As there’s an all-out ban on any ingredients containing coumarin in America, there is lots of misinformation circulating about the beans’ toxicity. The reality is that it would take the equivalent of 30 whole beans for the coumarin levels to become dangerous — and as the shavings of a single bean stretch to round 25-50 servings, cooks shouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. Tonka beans aren’t yet a mainstream ingredient, so online spice specialists are the best place to track them down. Use sparingly, and store the Tonka beans in a tightly-sealed container, as you would with any other spice.