Something about the fact that tonka beans are banned by the USFDA makes this ice-cream seem dirty, sexy and illicit. Which makes me love it even more.
I have been re-appraising my feelings about Paris since this post. I was there again recently, the weather was perfect, and strolling round with Erasure playing on my iPod, I fell quite in love with the city. I may have been helped along by the amazing fig tart that I had at Jocteur, a place I found tucked away in a place I rarely venture, but will be revisiting, but even so. Consider my opinions momentarily changed!
(Stop laughing at my Erasure confession. They are highly underrated.)
One of the things I do really like to do whilst in Paris is to hit up (I have become an American) G. Detou for vanilla beans. In Cardiff, if I try really hard I can just about find a bottle of Madagascan vanilla extract, though it may cost half of my salary; at G. Detou, I can get little glass tubes of vanilla beans and choose if I want them to be from Madagascar or Tahiti. What can I say? I like to have a choice.
Anyway, just recently, I noticed that in addition to selling vanilla, the shop also stocks 'fèves tonka', and that I had no idea what they were.
Now, reader, if we were ever to go speed dating (which is unlikely in the extreme, but go with me on this), and we each had to reveal what our weaknesses were, my confession would be that I am unable to walk away from 'new' foods, especially herbs and spices. Sometimes this works to my advantage and I end up with something I like (say it with me now: 'harissa'); other times, I am left, months later, with a bag of unused rubbish (one word: 'matcha' - it doesn't work in cupcakes, and are we really all about to start practicing tea ceremony at home? Exactly).
The tonka beans may fall into the first category, though there is the potential for them to end up in the second as well. It depends if I am able to get over my current distaste for crème brulée or not, since I think tonka is definitely a flavour to be used in creamy desserts.
In case you too are like me, and have no idea what a tonka bean is, our good friend Mr. Wiki will talk you through it. All I would add is that while I agree with the likening of their aroma to vanilla and almond, I can't detect any cinnamon flavour at all. In fact, the fragrance reminds me of the preserved cherry blossom leaves used to wrap sakura mochi more than anything else.
I made this ice-cream to serve with some melting chocolate fondants, for which you will get the recipe shortly, but in all honesty, you could serve it alone. I mean that in both contexts. Some things are too good to share.
Tonka Bean Ice-Cream
You will need:
5 egg yolks
600ml single cream
125g caster sugar
1 tonka bean, grated
- Heat the cream and grated tonka bean together over a medium heat. Stir every now and again, and do not let the cream boil. When it's nice and steamy, turn the heat off and clamp a lid on. Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes.
- In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. You don't need to incorporate air, just make sure that the two are well mixed.
- Pour the hot cream onto the yolks, stirring constantly to prevent any scrambling. You could strain the cream first, but I like the tonka bean flecks.
- Rinse and dry the pan used to heat the cream, then pour the custard back into it and heat gently, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy. Aim for the texture of thick cream, and never allow it to boil.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool. Then freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.