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tonka beans

Chocolate Wontons And Tonka Bean Ice Cream

Chocolate Wontons

If I were to wait for the proper weather to bake certain desserts, I’d never get to turn the oven on or fry some donuts and the ice cream machine would be churning year round. Take Halloween day, it was near 90F pretty much all day long and yet I wanted to bake some fun goodies for the neighbors. We spent the day in short sleeves, going about the neighborhood with the kids steaming in their costumes. More than one of them thought ill of their parents for dressing them up as a furry teddy bear or a heavy padded alligator. I know these feelings disappeared when I brought down these hot Chocolate Wontons and a batch of Tonka Bean Ice Cream that we had with glasses of apple cider…on ice.

Years ago we used to have a different chocolate special everyday at the restaurant and certain mornings proved difficult to come up with a bright idea at 5am when I was hand deep into kneading baguettes. I remember opening Chocolate Passion by Timothy Moriarty and Tish Boyle with the assurance that I’d have a winner and often recommended it to patrons asking me for a recipe. When I stumbled upon Maury Rubin’s Book Of Tarts, I think I baked just about every one of them they were so creative.

Sometimes it’s a technique or a subject that makes me delve in a cookbook. Sometimes it’s the story behind its coming to life, an anedocte, the writing. Sometimes it’s the author and her/his journey. In short, something that moves me beyond the recipes (I have quite a head full of those already) which is the case with Jaden’s first cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, from which I made the chocolate wontons. Having shared a plane, meals, drinks, and a panel with her, I can tell you that Jaden is good people and I am extremely proud of her. I knew her book would be one I could open at any page and cook something new, delicious and fresh. All four recipes I have made so far were a hit with us and our friends.

Chocolate Wontons and Tonka Bean Ice Cream

If you were to come to my house you’d think I spend all my spare change on cookbooks. If you looked a little closer, you would see a fine print on most reading "preview copy", "press release copy", etc… About twice a week, the mailman makes the hike up to the front door and drops a new box on the porch. He also leaves a couple of doggie treats for the pupps. They know it, they go crazy until I get to the door. What do I do? I open the box, I flip through the book and get the post-its out. "This one will be great for friend S." or "This is one for R." and so forth.

I am very appreciative of this situation, believe me and I am under no obligation to review or pimp them out on this site. I know that a friend would benefit from a crockpot recipe book more than I will since I don’t own such a beast, or my baking-challenged friend S. might enjoy a basic dessert cookbook more than I will. But there are books I hoard, read, cook and bake from, hoard again, read some more and cook from until the hinges get worn out. Jaden’s book will be one of them.

I must give Jaden kuddos for the dessert section though she said it was tough to write. Her approach to dessert is very much what we like throughout the week: fresh fruits, easy to prepare frozen treats and the occasional splurge like the chocolate wontons. The headnotes say they will make little girls squeals and little boys break out into a disco dance (I am paraphrasing) and the neighbors' kids did just that on Halloween when I handed them out! I think I even saw a couple of adults shake their bootie in delight too!

Fried Chocolate Wontons

These are so easy to make and if you get an extra set of hands to help out, you can make a double batch in a flash. Plan on that as they disappear very fast! There is no need for a deep fryer and if you keep the oil at a steady 350F you end up with perfectly crisp, never oily wontons which chocolate center oozes out as you bite into them. I had planned to serve them with her Asian Pear Frozen Yogurt but we devoured that one too fast so I went with my own tonka bean ice cream instead. The almond and vanilla flavor of the tonka paired really well with the chocolate once again. (see recipe notes)

Chocolate Wontons, from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, with permission of Jaden Hair

Makes 12

1 egg
1 tablespoon water
12 wonton wrappers
12 pieces of chocolates (I used about 4 chocolate chips per wonton)
high heat oil for frying (I used canola)
Powdered sugar for dusting

In a small bowl, make an egg wash by whisking together the egg and the water.
On a clean, dry surface, place a wrapper down with a point facing you. Place a piece of chocolate or chocolate chips near the top end of the wrapper. Brush a thin lauer of egg wash on the edges of the warpper. Fold the bottom corner up to create a triangle and press down at the edges to remove as much air from the middle as possible. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces. Keep the prepared wontons covered with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent them from drying.
In a wok or medium pot (I used a 9-inch cast iron pan), heat about 2 inches of oil to 350F and gently slide a few wontons into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan as the oil temperature would lower too much and you would end up with grease-soggy wontons.
Fry 1 to 1 1/3 minutes on each side until both sides are golden crisp.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar

Tonka Bean Ice Cream:

Notes: Yes, tonka beans are banned from import in the US by the FDA, yet they are used by many countries in food preparation and desserts in particular. Consumed in large quantities, they can be toxic as they contain an anticoagulant which many blood thinning medications are based on, courmarin. So, it’s banned, but its main agent is used in meds here and you can purchase tonka beans on ebay. UGH?!! Gotta love the FDA and large medical companies politics. Since I use 2-3 beans a year in recipes that feed no less than 8 people each time, I know we are ok but research and educate yourself before cooking with tonka beans if you are interested.

By the way, if you have vanilla extract from South America in your pantry and wonder why it smells like a vanilla bean got too close to an almond one night, that’s probably because tonka beans were used instead of real vanilla or diluted with it to make it cheaper to sell. Nothing wrong with that if you are aware of all the facts.

Tonka beans smell like a cross between vanilla and almond extracts and if you can’t find or do not wish to use tonka beans, substitute with each extract in the ice cream recipe and you will get close to the actual flavor.

6 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tonka bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/2 teaspoon almond extracts)

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk, cream to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. With a microplane, grate the tonka bean right over the milk and cream simmering (I add the little knob left for extra flavor). Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, strain and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
Once and the custard is cold, process according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions.

Tonka Bean White Chocolate And Apricot Cakes

Ever since that little magic bean popped up on French blogs, I have been intrigued to try it. I had heard about it, seen it even smelled it but sourcing tonka beans here in the US was somewhat difficult, even five years ago, at least in my town (not that we are the culinary black hole of the universe). Nowadays, it is a little easier to locate but when my mother asked me what I wanted her to bring (along with the chocolate bars, silicone molds and other baking items I asked) I jumped at the chance to finally get a big bag of tonka bean at a relatively cheap price.
As soon as I opened the bag, the scents of vanilla and almonds wafted through the air and a little note of clove tickled my nose. I am telling you…magic….

You can use to infuse liquids such as creams and milk for flans, creme brulees, sauces, etc…or you can directly grate it with a microplane (easier) and directly add it to your preparation. I kept the little knobs I could not get through the grater and put them in a jar of sugar for instant flavor. If you are really gunho about not having little specks of tonka bean, I guess you could process them fine in a coffee grinder but I like my tonka to show, much like the seeds of vanilla beans. That reminds me of a woman dining at the restaurant one night and sent her vanilla bean creme brulee back to the kitchen. I asked the waitress what was wrong with it and she replied rolling her eyes to the ceiling (at the customer) "She said there was dirt in it"….Argh!!! I guess she would not wait vanilla bean ice cream either, eh?!

We have planned to drive to Winston-Salem, NC this weekend and spend some relaxing time visiting the town, with my parents, and thanks to a local, Abby of Confabulations In The Kitchen, I think we have a pretty good list of great places to see. I wish I could meet her in person and give her a great big hug, because she has saved me hours with her guidelines and recommendations, especially local delicacies, restaurants and of course bakeries! I wanted to pack some home baked goodies for the drive and immediately thought about mini cakes with grated tonka beans. I remembered a post titled (translated from the French): "A cake to die for", where the tonka bean was paired with apricots and white chocolate….I am a not a chocolate snob and as long as it is good quality I will eat all kinds. I was once again spoiled by one of my clients when she brought me a few bars of Valrhona chocolate from a recent trip to France. Well, by now you must know my theory: if all the ingredients are getting together like that, that means I must join the party!!

The cakes are quick and easy to come together and you can make a loaf cake or a round cake, possibilities are endless, and you can’t barely taste the white chocolate if you are not a fan. I would not take it away from the recipe though as it adds a little fudge feeling to cake. However, the biggest problem is that by the time we get in the car tomorrow, en route to Winston-Salem, there won’t be any left….it is absolutely the best mini cakes I have ever had! They are out of this world warm and a little denser and flavor concentrated at room temp. What the heck! They are even to dye for straight out of the fridge at 2 in the morning!
OK, I hear you, you may not have tonka beans available where you are, but a good substitute is to combine 1/2 tsp. each good quality vanilla and pure almond essence.

Tonka Bean White Chocolate and Apricot Cakes, (original recipe here)

Makes 8

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup white chocolate, melted

3 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

2 tonka beans

15 dried apricots, cut in small dices

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and chocolate. Whisk well and add the flour. Finely grate the tonka bean and add to the batter. Add the dried apricots and mix until incorporated. Divide evenly between muffin tins coated with cooking spray and cook for 15 minutes (longer if using a larger pan, about 20-25 minutes).

P.S: no internet connection for the next 4 days, so have a great weekend ya’ll and see you back next week!

Note: One commenter made me realise that I should put this info up about tonka beans:

"The coumarin active component (and why it is not found in food products in the US) is chemically similar to the active ingredient found in a common blood thinner called warfarin or Coumadin. This medication is commonly used to "thin out" blood and prevent clot formation. Patients on this medication have to have regular blood test since too much, may pose them at risk for bleeding and too little–risk for clot formation. The dose varies so regular blood work is the only thing that we can use to adjust the dose. You can imagine that there are a lot of drug interactions when patients are on this medication. There are also food interactions."

So folks. just like everything in life (but love and chocolate) use in moderation!