How To: Infusing Tonka Beans in Oil
I happened across some last year, ordered a sample sized portion, and made an infusion I meant to share with you, but time somehow got away from me.
A Bit About Tonka BeansThese aromatic beans are also called tonkin beans and tonquin beans. They have a high content of coumarin, which gives them a sweet odor but bitter taste. Many describe the scent as having notes of vanilla, almond, and cherry.
Even though these beans have many culinary uses, their content of coumarin is the reason they are technically banned in the USA. High doses of coumarin is said to cause liver problems. (ref)
The beans have traditionally been used as a vanilla substitute as well as in perfumes and even in some tobacco products (think of the rich, warm, scent of some pipe tobaccos and you’re on track).
I find the scent fits the description pretty well: vanilla, almond and cherry do play into to the overall fragrance, but if you asked me to describe it, I would say tonka bean smells like 'a masculine version of vanilla'. It's heftier, deeper and, well, more manly somehow.
Preparing to InfuseAs I had a very small amount of the beans (the entire order is pictured at the top), I decided to use the lot. To release as much of the fragrance as possible, I prepared to crush the beans. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge as these babies are hard as rocks. The beans were placed in a food safe bag and 'whacked' with a rolling pin.
This took more time and muscle than I expected, but it was worth the effort as the intoxicating fragrance was indeed released. Pictured is the result of the whacking.
All the bits were placed in a small jar and jojoba was poured in to cover.
I employed the sun infusion method for this batch and checked the scent periodically. As this is my first time working with tonka beans, I let my nose be the guide and didn't strain until it 'smelled like it was done' (very scientific method). As it turned out, this was after about 6 weeks.
The strained beans were promptly added to an ongoing batch of vanilla-infused oil to give it a little extra boost. (highly recommended!)
The final infused oil has made its way into a couple of balms, a face serum and even a foundation lotion base.
Even though this was a very small batch, I find a little goes quite a long way with the infused oil. It has a lovely fragrance and works well with other infused oils as well as essential oils.
I will most def be ordering more of these.
Do TellHave you ever worked with tonka beans? Please share in a comment below.
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More InfoWikipedia on Tonka Beans
How to Cook with Tonka Beans (Great British Chefs)
Coumarin, the illegal chemical..., McGill, Office for Science and Society