Tonka beans bring complex vanilla, coconut, sour cherry, clove and liquorice flavours to dishes.Tonka beans are flat, dark, wrinkled seeds from giant Cumaru trees in South America. Soft when harvested, tonka beans slowly dry out over months of storage. The almond-shaped seeds or beans become firm and easy to grate, like a nutmeg.
Try grating a quarter of a bean over scallops or use in savoury soufflés. Tonka beans also bring complex aromas to sweets such as panna cottas and ice creams. Even infuse the beans into spirits and try mixing a tonka bean cocktail.
Tonka beans are used widely in French cuisine, and are popular with top patissiers for elaborate desserts. They are commonly paired with creams and custards. The bitter, aromatic tonka bean has been banned in various countries, including until recently the United States, with chefs smuggling it into the country to perfume their dishes. Tonka beans contain coumarin, which can be toxic if consumed in high quantities. But when treated with respect and used in moderation in normal cooking, tonka beans are a stunning ingredient that elevate your dishes from humble to haute cuisine.
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