Smokey, spicy, warm, bitter; enter the tonka bean, a cheaper and yet more complex vanilla-style bean. There are so many aromas inside these small, shrivelled beans that you have to smell it to believe it. The intrigue of the bean goes further still as they have been illegal to sell in the USA since 1954 due to their chemical 1 2-benzopyrone (Coumarin) content, lethal in high doses. Risk of death aside, I was excited to come accross a tiny jar of them in Borough Market (thank you Spice Mountain) and start experimenting (with recipes, that is – check out this BBC article for the research conducted on the safe levels of tonka for human consumption)!
Delicate madeleines seem to me like an ideal place to start when doing some good old-fashioned flavour exploration. Simple, light and easy to make, flavour floats gently off these little dreamboats with each small bite.
I found the warm and nutty combination of tonka and browned butter to be a success – see for yourself. The dried lavender is optional, however the taste sits pretty well with the tonka, I think.
2 large eggs
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tonka bean (I roast mine for extra intensity of flavour).
Icing sugar, to glaze.
Dried lavender, to decorate.
- Place the butter in a small saucepan and put on a medium heat. Once melted, let continue to bubble. The butter will foam up after a while. Swirl the pan as this happens. You should be able to see the colour of the butter underneath – when it is dark amber in colour and gives off a nutty aroma, it is browned. Remove from heat.
- Using a nutmeg grinder or very fine grater, grate the tonka bean into the butter and leeave to infuse for around 20 minutes.
- Whisk together the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and has thickened (around 8 minutes).
- Measure out the flour and baking powder and gradually add this to the egg mix, folding it in gently.
- Slowly trickle in the butter, folding gently until combined. Cover the top of the mix with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- In the meantime, generously grease the madeleine tin and lightly dust with flour. Place this in the freezer 1 hour before baking. This helps create the defined ridges of the madeleine.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220ºc. When ready, spoon the mixture into the dips in the madeleine tray. There is no need to perfectly spread the mix, as it will even out itself in the oven.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes. Once baked, remove from the tray and let cool on a wire rack.
- Once cool, make a thin glaze with icing sugar and water and dip the ridged side of the madeleines into it. Leave to set. Eat the same day as baking.
Adapted from Patisserie Made Simple – Edd Kimber.