tonka bean ice cream: living on the edge

tonka bean ice cream

I had never heard of a tonka bean until Peter Templehoff (The Greenhouse)gave us few at the Taste of Cape Town.   

this is what the dangerous little suckers look like

It’s a seed from the large tropical tonka tree and it’s quite difficult to describe the taste and smell.  It’s pretty unique, reminiscent of vanilla but with a herby smokiness to it. Apparently it contains coumarin and thus is banned in the US. 

Tonka beans are said to ‘lighten one’s mood and be emotionally balancing’. It felt obvious to me that I should make a plain ice cream base from which there full character could shine through. 

I ground up the 5 tonka beans in a pestle and mortar and added this to a cup of milk.  I heated the milk to just below boiling point then turned off the heat and left to cool, allowing the beans to fully infuse with the milk.

I strained the bits out the milk and made a cream base from my Ben & Jerry’s ice cream book 

  • 2 eggs (free range)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cream, heavy or whipping 

Beat the eggs until fluffy for about 2 minutes.  

Slowly add the sugar bit by bit and carry on whisking for a further minute or so until the sugar is incorporated.

Add the milk and cream and stir to combine.

Run the mix through an ice cream maker until ready according to the manufacturer’s instruction. 

I served this ice cream with my pears poached in syrupy, spicy red wine and it was a winning and delicious combo.

 Had I read all the warnings before, I may have been a bit more hesitant, or scared.  Anyway it’s too late now and the FDA is most probably concerned around consumption in large doses. The main thing is that I have survived to tell the tale and had a food first and rare eating experience. Definitely worth the risks.

very creamy and soft

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8 Responses to tonka bean ice cream: living on the edge

  1. Lori May 10, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Glad you made it! It really is the weirdest flavour! What is it that it is supposed to do to you?

  2. Marisa May 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Never had tonka bean before – thanks for the lovely intro. Where did you manage to track it down though? (Ice-cream looks fantastic by the way…)

  3. drizzleanddip May 14, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Marisa, its a lovely little ice cream recipe if you have a machine

  4. Chanel May 14, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    When I tasted tonka beans for the first time it was in a creme brulee and it was divine, I can only imagine they would be just as delicious in an ice cream like yours.

  5. drizzleanddip May 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Hi Chanel, yes the first time I had it was also in a creme brulee, the plain cream base is a nice neutral platform from which to fully appreciate the unique flavour. Given all the health warnings and my love for vanilla, I probably wont make again 🙂

  6. Sean August 17, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Hi Sam, I had my own tonka bean epiphany this weekend, then saw you’d arrived at the came revelation earlier this year. I link back to your site on Spectacularly Delicious: http://bit.ly/cQDgHP

  7. drizzleanddip August 17, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Sean, thanks will check you out. 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. My food highlights for 2011 | Drizzle and Dip - December 29, 2011

    […] I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to eat in so many wonderful restaurants during the past year and its difficult to pull out what I loved the most.  There were also so many restaurants that I didn’t get to eat in, so I am looking forward to a few new adventures in 2012.  On the top of the list will be the Greenhouse.  I have been wanting to eat there since meeting Peter Templehoff at Taste of Cape Town two years ago and eating his salmon sous vide propelled me straight into heaven.  I was impressed that he took the time to chat to us and gave me a few tonka beans (which at the time I had never heard of) which I then turned into tonka bean ice cream. […]

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