This past summer a friend of mine visited the small Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and brought me back a tiny little plastic bag containing Tonka Beans. Until that moment I had never in my life heard about Tonka Beans and was immediately curious about what they were all about. These little dark brown shrivelled beans have a heady sweet vanilla aroma with a hint of spiciness as well. They’re meant to be grated and used like nutmeg and are quite often added to dishes such as custards, ice creams and cakes (as well as some savoury dishes). And from what I’ve read they boast having impressive herbal and even mythical properties. My kind of ingredient. I’m officially a fan.
Apparently I’ve been living under a rock because the Tonka Bean has almost become a celebrity in the culinary world these past years. Read here for a fascinating article of the bean and the fact it’s technically illegal in the States (thanks to the high amount of coumarin found in the beans). And drool over all sorts of delicious Tonka Bean recipes on Pinterest here.
Being the curious baker that I am I was busy grating these little beans in my kitchen within hours of receiving them. I decided to make some simple scones with dried cranberry and apricot. I thought Tonka paired with the dried fruit would help make it possible to really taste the beans without being overshadowed by other big flavours. And in the end they were perfect. There is definitely a very familiar vanilla flavour that the beans give the scones but with a deeper more delicate flavour underneath that I haven’t managed to pinpoint yet.
I love that there are still wonderful new ingredients out there waiting to be discovered. And I love that I have friends who bring me back these ingredients from their jaunts around the world.
Read on for recipe:
Scones with Dried Cranberry and Apricot
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp grated tonka beans
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 stick ( 85g) butter
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C). Line baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, tonka bean, salt).
3. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until it resembles course crumbs.
4. Toss in the dried fruit.
5. In small bowl combing the egg with the cream and add to flour mixture. Stir just to combine. Transfer to floured work surface and knead a few times until the dough stays together (do not overwork!).
6. Pat the dough into a 6 inch wide circle and cut into 8 wedges. ( I made one batch like this and the other batch I cut into smaller squares)
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown (less time for the smaller scones).
(recipe adapted from here)
As usual I made a double batch of the recipe and gifted a few of these sweet little bags to friends and neighbours. In the end making a double batch is no more work but has the potential to brighten a few people’s day. Give it a try!