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Parfait of Tonka Beans

(Restaurant Zum Bären, Balduinstein/Lahn)

For 8 people: 2 eggs, 100 g white couverture, 2 tonka beans (ground or grated in a mortar), 30 g milk, 20 g rum, 220 g whipped cream.

Whip the eggs, milk, rum and the ground tonka beans in a water bath until hot and the liquid begins to solidify, then place the pan in ice water and stir until cold. Stir in the couverture which has melted in the bain-marie and lastly fold in the stiffly whipped cream. Pour into a bowl or portion moulds and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Half an hour before serving the dessert, take it out and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Serve with seasonal fruit.


Tonka beans are only seemingly hard and smell like vanilla

.If Manfred and Renate Ott-Thiel had to make a living from what they earn selling tonka beans, Frankfurt's renowned Schnorr spice house would be a poor business. Nevertheless, the inconspicuous beans, for which elsewhere you have to visit the pharmacy, are available - and certainly contribute to the shop's beguiling symphony of smells.

The tonka bean is, in a sense, the puffer fish among spices. That's because Coumarouna adorata, the seed of a plant in the butterfly family originally native to northern South America, contains the controversial coumarin. It is contained in high doses in the arrow poison of the Indians, and there is currently also a debate about whether it is addictive, as it is also used to flavour certain tobaccos. On the other hand, coumarin is also contained in woodruff, and tonka beans are only marketed in a deactivated form. When fresh, they are soaked in rum for 24 hours, then dried and fermented, which greatly reduces their coumarin content. With spices, too, it depends on the dose; just as too much saffron can kill you, or too much nutmeg can make you sick, so tonka beans should be used sparingly. This is easy, for they truly have enough aroma. More details can be found in the splendid book "Wild nach Aromen" (Verlag Dumont).

The feather-light, only seemingly hard little beans can be pulverized effortlessly in a mortar or with a grater; twenty grams cost €2.95 at Schnorr and last a long time. They smell of vanilla, "inviting and downright hypnotic". "Odorata", fragrant, tonka beans are indeed.

Some customers also smell a buttery aroma. That is probably why the beans are still used by a number of older ladies as a spice for Christmas stollen; they have been part of the Schnorr assortment since time immemorial. So you don't have to visit a pharmacy in Frankfurt for tonka beans.

But you should to buy pharmacy bottles. Because in the inexpensive, different sized vessels made of brown glass with tightly closing screw cap made of bakelite spices are optimally protected against the effects of light and loss of aroma. The market leader likes to let his guests smell the tonka bean jar, but so far no one has been able to identify it. Just as the tonka bean parfait makes an impression every time, no one has actually ever eaten one. The way it is made in the beautiful, Michelin-starred restaurant "Zum Bären" in Balduinstein on the Lahn, you have less work with it than with vanilla parfait, but it tastes at least as good.


Spice and Tea House Schnorr

Manfred and Renate Ott-Thiel

Neue Kräme 28

60311 Frankfurt am Main

Phone 069-284717, Fax 283408

Internet: <link http: _blank>