Tonka Bean Ice Cream with Scotch Caramel Swirl Recipe

Tonka Bean Ice Cream with Scotch Caramel Swirl Recipe

[Photograph: Anna Markow]

This ice cream is something special. The flavor of tonka bean makes the ice cream taste surprisingly like my favorite storebought flavor, Cherry Garcia. And though the caramel contains no butter, the caramel swirl is decidedly buttery and savory from the smoky scotch.

Note: Tonka beans are illegal for use in food in the United States due to their high level of coumarin. If your health is in any way compromised, don't use them. If, however, you are in perfect health and want to try this awesome ice cream, you can find the beans for sale online. If you'd like to make this ice cream without the tonka beans, a half tablespoon each of vanilla and almond extracts can be substituted. I also suggest infusing some slightly over-toasted slivered almonds in addition to as little as half a teaspoon of almond extract, since the custard does have a toasted almond flavor. About a quarter cup of over-toasted almonds infused in the hot liquid for an hour, then pureed and strained should be sufficient.

About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.

  • Yield:makes 1 1/2 quarts
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:12 hours


  • For the Ice Cream
  • 1 quart half and half (or 2 cups each milk and heavy cream)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 small or 1 very large tonka bean
  • 6 egg yolks
  • For the Caramel
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup scotch
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half


  1. 1.

    For the Ice Cream Base: Combine half and half with sugar in medium saucepan. Grate tonka bean into liquid with microplane. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to be sure sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Place yolks in medium mixing bowl. Whisking constantly, pour half-and-half mixture into bowl with yolks, then scrape mixture into saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with spatula and scraping bottom often to prevent curdling. Once thick enough to coat spatula, remove from heat and strain immediately through fine mesh strainer. Chill over ice, then place in a lidded container and allow to rest overnight in the refrigerator.

  2. 2.

    For the Caramel: Place sugar, water, and salt in medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Allow to come to a boil, then watch carefully until sugar begins to caramelize. Gently swirl to promote even caramelization. Once caramel reaches a dark honey color, remove from heat. Allow to darken slightly more off the heat to almost the color of maple syrup. Slowly and away from yourself, drizzle in scotch and cream. It will bubble and sputter and your caramel will seize so be careful. Place over low heat, whisking gently every few minutes, until seized caramel is fully melted. Set aside and allow to cool. Chill thoroughly before churning ice cream.

  3. 3.

    When you're ready to churn, pour chilled base into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. When ice cream is ready, pack a thin layer into the bottom of a heavy duty plastic or metal container, then drizzle with caramel. Repeat until all ice cream and caramel has been layered into container. Freeze at least 1 hour until firm.