Tonka bean

Most people have never heard of Tonka beans. No, it’s not the bean prepared by the girl named Tonka. It’s not at all a legumes that in our areas is often used in dishes. Tonka beans are actually the seed of the tropical wood Dipteryx odorata and are growing in the central and southern parts of America. The tree can grow up to 30 meters. The bark is smooth and grey while the interior of the tree is red. The fruit is dark and wrinkled, while the inside is brown and has a distinctive scent that resembles vanilla, bitter almonds and even cinnamon. For this reason, it is best to use it in desserts such as cakes, cream, ice cream and chocolate. But the top chefs use it to refine a variety of stews, fish and shellfish also.
Given the very intense smell and taste it is used in very small quantities. Shavings of one bean are enough for 80 plates!

Use of Tonka bean did not reach large proportions in our nutrition and reason might be hidden in one of its ingredients. Tonka beans contain a coumarin component which, when consumed at extremely high doses, can cause bleeding and liver damage, as well as cardiac arrest. Therefore, in the United States, its use in nutrition has been banned by the Food and Drug Administration since 1950. However, the amounts used in the recipes are not close to these doses. One bean contains about 1% to 3% of coumarin. So, in order to consume quantities reported as harmful and poisonous should surpass at least 30 whole beans.

Tonka bean is one of the most popular ingredients for many famous fragrance houses. It mainly enriches the base or the heart of the perfume, because its scent on the skin is held for hours. It is also used in the tobacco industry for enriching flavours of certain types of cigarettes. In addition, it has aphrodisiac features, and some people include it even in the type of light drugs, of course, when consuming larger quantities.

Practitioners of various occult traditions believe that Tonka beans have magical properties and help strengthen the immune system, cure depression, disorientation and suicidal behaviours. Allegedly, it brings happiness and well-being, as well as the fulfilment of the wish. In that case, it is necessary to hold the beans in your hand as you pronounce your desire.

Whether it is true or not, we are convinced its fragrance and taste are special, intense and irresistible. The dessert was gone in an instant.

Text – Vesna Dzuverovich
Photo – Robert Blaskovich


Panna cotta


Panna cotta

2 sheets of gelatin
400 g heavy cream (4 cups)
50 g sugar (½ cups)
1/4 shavings Tonka bean

Coffee cream

200 g heavy cream (2 cups)
1 espresso
1 tablespoon instant coffee
35 g brown sugar (1/3 cups)


Panna cotta

Place the sheets of gelatin in plenty of cold water and let it soak for about 5 minutes. Place half of the whipped cream with shavings of Tonka bean and sugar in a pan. Mix slightly and bring to boil. Add gelatine sheets into the mixture and stir lightly until completely melted. Pour the mixture into a pot and allow to cool slightly before pouring into serving cups. Leave the Panna cotta in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving, or even better all night.

Coffee Cream

Make a syrup of the espresso, instant coffee and sugar. Put all ingredients in a pot and cook on low heat for several minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Leave the mixture in the fridge until its serving. When everything is cooled, whisk the cream in a light foam with about half of the coffee syrup. If you want a stronger coffee flavour, add more syrup and beat the cream until it is done. Serve Panna cotta with coffee cream and sprinkle some cocoa on the top. Decorate as desired.
This dessert can be served with small biscuits.