The Tonka Bean


The tonka bean ( is to my knowledge not used in Canadian cooking very often. I was pretty excited when I first got to work with it as it was something I had not previously been exposed to before. The last restaurant I worked in was the first and so far the only time I have had any exposure to it.

I love being experiencing new ingredients as it always reminds me how many interesting and intriguing ways you can be inventive with your creations.


It has a fabulous smell similar to woodruff and vanilla, with hints of amaretto. It is fairly popular. ( )


The tonka bean is originally from South America ( ) and grows on a flowering tree.

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It is a small black wrinkled bean in the legume family. It has a smooth interior very similar to that of nutmeg.


I believe it is less popular in North America, mostly because it is is illegal in the US. Its actually funny that it is illegal in the first place, the bean contains high amounts of coumarin which is a naturally occurring chemical found in high levels in the tonka bean and can be toxic to the liver in high amounts.


However the amount needed to cause toxicity would be the equivalent to 80 beans. That’s an amount that would never be consumed. Cinnamon, lavender, and licorice also contains levels of coumarin. Nutmeg is also toxic in similar high amounts and is evidently legal. However it is not illegal in Canada which is great for us because it is very tasty.

I have had the chance to work with it in my last workplace where they made Lady Fingers flavoured with tonka.

There are many uses for this bean including mixed drinks (, perfumes, and desserts (, this dessert for tonka panna cotta with pear compote looks great!

This recipe for tonka flavoured icecream sounds amazing!


Tonka Bean Icecream with Scotch Caramel Swirl

For the Icecream

1 quart half and half (or 2 cups each milk and heavy cream)

1 cup sugar

2 small or 1 very large tonka bean

6 egg yolks

For the Caramel

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

1/4 cup scotch

1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

For the Ice Cream Base: Combine half and half with sugar in medium saucepan. Grate tonka bean into liquid with microplane. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to be sure sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Place yolks in medium mixing bowl. Whisking constantly, pour half-and-half mixture into bowl with yolks, then scrape mixture into saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with spatula and scraping bottom often to prevent curdling. Once thick enough to coat spatula, remove from heat and strain immediately through fine mesh strainer. Chill over ice, then place in a lidded container and allow to rest overnight in the refrigerator.

  • 2.

For the Caramel: Place sugar, water, and salt in medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Allow to come to a boil, then watch carefully until sugar begins to caramelize. Gently swirl to promote even caramelization. Once caramel reaches a dark honey color, remove from heat. Allow to darken slightly more off the heat to almost the color of maple syrup. Slowly and away from yourself, drizzle in scotch and cream. It will bubble and sputter and your caramel will seize so be careful. Place over low heat, whisking gently every few minutes, until seized caramel is fully melted. Set aside and allow to cool. Chill thoroughly before churning ice cream.

  • 3.

When you’re ready to churn, pour chilled base into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is ready, pack a thin layer into the bottom of a heavy duty plastic or metal container, then drizzle with caramel. Repeat until all ice cream and caramel has been layered into container. Freeze at least 1 hour until firm.


The recipe can be found here (

Baking with tonka is certainly a treat. They can be purchased from a Calgary based company here (


Happy Baking.


Thanks for reading,




The Beginnings

Growing up I really loved food. I was my mom’s assistant in the kitchen. She would get me to measure the flour, make sure it was level and count very closely.  After much insistence I received an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. I loved this thing.  You mix your little packet of cake mix with water or milk, put it in the 3 inch cake pan and bake it in the little light bulb heated oven for 7-10 minutes until it was baked. Then I would decorate the little cake with frosting from a container and sprinkles. The cake would then be shared by myself and my little sister who was too young to use the Easy Bake Oven and not happy about it.

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Eventually I upgraded to being allowed to use the oven by myself which was a big deal and I started baking recipes I found in my Mom’s Company’s Coming books.


Banana bread, cookies, muffins, and cakes. There was a number of mishaps for certain but gradually I got a bit better as time went on. I went through this phase of love for cinnamon. I found this recipe for yeast less cinnamon buns  that I started to make. When I first started making these cinnamon buns I would get frustrated because the dough was sticky and sometimes the filling would boil over. Then on one occasion I had scaled up all the ingredients and then proceeded to mix up the butters for the filling and the dough. The dough had extra butter in it and became much smoother and easier to work with. With a little less butter in the filling and a little less sugar, it wouldn’t boil out as easily. Then I started putting them in a muffin tin to bake them so the filling wouldn’t flow out completely.

Cinnamon Buns 

Flour                    2 cups

Butter                   1/3 cup

Sugar                    2 Tbsp

Salt                       1 tsp

Milk                      1 cup

Butter                  1/4 cup

Brown Sugar      3/4 cup

Cinnamon          1.5 tsp


Dry blend the sugar, salt, and flour. Cut in the butter. Add milk and stir until combined. To make filling cream the sugar and butter and cinnamon until spreadable. Roll out dough. Spread with filling. Roll up. Cut into 12 rolls and put in muffin tins. Bake at 375F.

My interests only grew from there. I started volunteering at this used bookstore/cafe called Sam’s Place. I saw my first ever fresh baked bread. I was able to help with some of the specials and because of a very delicious coffee cake called Blueberry Boy Bait


I started following the Smitten Kitchen blog and I have been nurturing my interest in food, baking and pastry. It stopped being something I would muddle around with in the kitchen and became what I actually wanted to do for a living.


Eventually I applied for Culinary Arts and really just got hooked on baking and pastry after taking a patisserie class.

The next step will be to bake and cook in Europe.

Thanks for reading,


Trip to Dubai

        This year I had an opportunity to go to Dubai for a culinary competition. Having this type of opportunity really opens the doors for what amazing tasty creations are out there. The beauty of Dubai, as our tour guide said, is that Dubai tries to bring the all the very best to its city. Creations from all over the world can be found in Dubai, particularly the Dubai mall which seemed to house many very neat and very sweet creations.

View of the Dubai Mall

     While in Dubai we were mainly focused on our competition, however we did get a few days downtime to go and explore. During this time I was able to visit the Pierre Herme  macaron shop. I had never heard of this place before going or of Pierre Herme himself.

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He is a well known pastry chef, known specifically for his macarons and his unusual flavour combinations.

In the Dubai mall they have a small kiosk on the first floor. There macarons were 12 Dirham each which worked out to being roughly $6 Canadian. I bought two. One was milk chocolate and passion fruit the other was salted caramel.

They were delicious!!!

Also while in Dubai I was told you cannot not go to Pappa Roti  . They are famous for there buns and coffee. They make this fabulous sweet rich bun that has something a coffee flavoured craqueline on top. The Pappa Roti buns are served best when warm out of the oven. They are served a what looks like a small peel and served with your choice of coffee.


I watched a video on how to make these buns. They are a sweet dough mixed very intensively. Each bun before it is rounded is filled with a cube of butter. After they are proofed they have a thin coffee flavoured batter piped on top of the buns in a tight spiral.images.jpg

What I really like seeing was the baker’s making them. They had this little kiosk shop in the middle of the mall and they were equipped with a deck oven and work space for baker’s to be constantly making these buns. They are unbelievably busy. Every seat was filled and the line up was huge. Apparently these buns are famous all over the middle east, India and originating in Malaysia. They are nick named the “Father of all the Buns.”


In my final wanderings of the Dubai Mall I wandered into a candy shop. It is called Candylicious. It is this international candy shop that that carries many of the worlds leading candy brands.


There whole mission statement is to make people happy. They give out free candy, the store is very colorful, and very bright music is playing in the store. What was really neat in this store was the 3D candy printer. It would print out any design or word you wanted in gummy candy. It cost like the equivalent of $80 Canadian. This video shows the whole process and making of the 3D gummy candies.

This concludes my adventures in sweets! Hopefully there will be many more to come. Thanks for reading!

Until next time!