I’ve just had the most wonderful weekend.

Mimi and I decided to make the switch from Blogger to WordPress.  Now, in case you didn’t know, I am utterly computer illiterate.  My father still doesn’t understand – he’s an I.T. consultant.  I think it must skip a generation (like his red hair… well no complaints there).  I’ve slept in my computer chair over the weekend, read enough forum horror-stories to give you palpitations and I am now desperately in need of fresh air.   Just goes to show what a computer-illiterate pastry chef can achieve when she sets her mind to something… although in truth it was Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies that saw me through.

I have a certain American friend, M, to thank for introducing me to proper US of A brownies.  I was one of the lucky few to be a part of her highly sought-after brownie baking sessions while staying with her family in London.  M had, through patience and chocolatey perseverance, modified Katharine Hepburn’s recipe until her brownies had reached a heavenly perfection that would send everyone (celebrities included) into a state of gooey nirvana.  Just the ticket when .html coding and web directories are getting you down.

So there’s my pathetic excuse for why I am two days late for the first fortnight of The Cookbook Challenge.  The theme is stone fruits, and so I took a little inspiration from a recipe in Frozen Desserts by Migoya.  His recipe was for Vanilla and Strawberry Jam Ice Cream with Macerated Strawberry Gelée, so I’ve taken a little artistic license (okay, a lot) and have paired cherries with vanilla, almond and tonka bean.

I picked up these beautiful Bing cherries from the Frenchs Forest Organic Markets in Sydney.  They are fantastic this time of year; their ruby red juice wonderfully sweet and full-bodied.  Make sure that you store them with the stems left on – this will help them keep fresh for longer.

Tonka beans have an incredible flavour and are continuing to become more widely available (I bought mine from Herbie’s Spices in Sydney).  The bean is grown mostly in South America and is sometimes used as a more affordable vanilla-substitute.  I was introduced to them by a Sydney pastry chef, who had made tonka pots de crème.  Over the last five years many of the world-class restaurants have been playing around with this mysterious spice (El Bulli, Robuchon, Alinea… just to name a few).

The bean is said to have aphrodisiac properties (Valentine’s day fast approaching…) and has been used in both Chinese and South American traditional medicine.  Tonka beans have such a rich, complex flavour – a little like bitter almond with caramel, pepper, straw, tobacco, cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate undertones (okay, I’ve gone overboard – just try it for yourself).  What better compliment to stone fruit ?

bing cherry gelée, tonka bean ice cream, cherry compote, almond tuile

serves 5

bing cherry gelée

  • 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
  • 1L (4 cups) water
  • 150g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 12 gelatin sheets/ leaves
  • 250g Bing cherries, pitted

tonka bean ice cream

  • 1L (4 cups) milk
  • 1 tbsp finely grated or ground tonka bean (approx. 5 beans)
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 200 g (10) egg yolks
  • 110g (2/3 cup) sugar

almond lace tuile

  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 20g (1/6 cup) plain flour
  • 50g (1/2 cup) almond meal/ flour
  • 20g (1 1/2 tbsp) butter, melted but cool

bing cherry compote

  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 3tbsp water
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 400g Bing cherries, pitted

bing cherry gelée

  • Combine the vanilla pod with the water over high heat.  Once boiling, remove the vanilla pod.
  • Bloom the gelatin by putting it in a bowl of ice-cold water to soften (5-10 minutes).
  • Stir the gelatin into the vanilla water, take off the heat and pass through a fine mesh strainer.  Let cool to room temperature.
  • Line a deep 20x20cm pan with cling film (plastic wrap) and pour in 1/4 of the vanilla gelée, refrigerate.
  • Once set (this should take 4-6 hours), scatter the cherries on top of the gelée.  Then pour the remaining 3/4 of the vanilla gelée on top until the cherries are covered.  Leave gelée to set in the refrigerator overnight.

tonka bean ice cream

  • Place the milk and ground tonka bean in a saucepot along with half the sugar and bring to the boil.
  • Place the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until pale and fluffy.
  • When the milk is boiling, pour half of it over the yolks while constantly whisking.
  • Return the contents of the bowl to the saucepot over a low heat.  Stir constantly until the mixture reaches 76C or thickly coats the back of a spoon.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a container or bowl, and set this over an ice bath to help it cool quickly.
  • Process in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.  Alternatively you can hand-churn by placing the ice cream base in the freezer and then whisking every 2 hours to break up the ice crystals.

almond lace tuile

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix in the water and then the butter.
  • Refrigerate the batter, as it is easier to use when cold.
  • Preheat oven to 160C.
  • Spread a paper-thin layer of the batter on a non-stick rubber mat (Silpat) or buttered baking parchment.  Bake for 6 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately cut shapes out of the hot tuiles using a cookie-cutter.

bing cherry compote

  • Combine the sugar, water and vinegar in a medium sauce pot over medium heat.
  • Add the cherries and cook until the juices form a thick, syrupy consistency.  Let cool.

to serve

  • Heat a cookie cutter under hot water, wipe dry, then cut out shapes from the gelée.  Heat and wipe dry the cutter each time.
  • Place an almond tuile on a plate, and a large spoonful of compote on top.
  • Place a gelée cut-out next to this on the plate, and then scoop or quenelle some of the ice cream on top of the compote.


Chitchatchomp May 26, 2021 at 2:01 am

Oh my…..this looks absolutely beautiful.

wgfoodie May 26, 2021 at 4:31 am

This sounds so divine and is a beautiful interpretation of the theme – stone fruits!

Christina May 26, 2021 at 5:55 pm

We can’t get Tonka beans here in the US to cook with (it’s banned because something in it acts as an anti coagulant of the blood and they also mentioned something about liver damage) but I think I could try substituting some vanilla, almond, cinnamon and cloves to mimic it’s fragrance. It’s a lovely dish!

lisabbakes May 27, 2021 at 2:08 pm

beautiful dessert, nice job!

Camille May 27, 2021 at 10:49 pm

I actually don’t think I’ve ever had a tonka bean. But we get tons of cherries in our CSA share in the summer, so I’ll have to keep them in mind. Thanks!

Kayla May 28, 2021 at 7:04 am

Wow! This looks beautiful! I really would love a bite of your bing cherry gelee. And I learnt something new too! I didn’t know what tonka beans are until now. I’m sure everything must have tasted wonderful!

Mary – One Perfect Bite May 28, 2021 at 10:20 pm

This is a lot of work but your results speak for themselves. These look and sound wonderful. I am new to your blog and have spent some time browsing your earlier entries. I really like the food and recipes you feature here. I’ll definitely be back. Blessings…Mary

Howard May 29, 2021 at 12:41 am

This sounds and looks like an amazing and fresh dessert.
Congrats on the switch to WordPress too!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 29, 2021 at 5:58 am

Very elegant dessert! And I’m loving how abundant cherries are at the moment..

Anonymous May 29, 2021 at 1:18 pm

Thanks Bryce ! You’ll just have to seek out some Scandinavian culinary delights until your return… hope you’re having fun. xx

Peggy Labor May 29, 2021 at 4:47 pm

What an interesting composition of a dish! Love it! Everything just looks too gorgeous to eat!

Min {Honest Vanilla} May 30, 2021 at 12:11 am

Absolutely adore cherries! Can’t wait to shop some at the market this weekend to make the gelee 🙂

Anonymous May 30, 2021 at 3:28 am

Thanks Christina 🙂 Have the rules changed at all? I know there are quite a few top U.S. restaurants using tonka, they must have ‘special’ contacts… I think the tonka contain a trace amount of the ingredient used in a few of the drug companies’ products… no wonder the Chinese & South Americans used it for healing!

Anonymous May 30, 2021 at 6:12 am

katie… i think i am going to have to stop reading your blog – it all sounds and looks so mouthwateringly exotic! can’t wait ’til I get back to Aus for some quality fresh produce! x BW

anna May 30, 2021 at 6:50 am

Beautiful! I really love the way the vanilla bean specks look in the gelee, and the flavors! Exactly my taste (though I still haven’t had tonka beans, but from what I’ve heard they sound like a perfect match here).

Anonymous May 31, 2021 at 10:00 am

Thank you so much Mary, that means a lot (especially as we’re so new to this all)! Right back at you for your site, I’m glad we stumbled across each other. Your photography is beautiful.

inquiring chef June 1, 2021 at 4:03 pm

The “new” site looks wonderful! (as does the dessert!)

Stina June 1, 2021 at 7:05 pm


Simona June 1, 2021 at 11:35 pm

The next time I go to Italy, I will try to get some tonka beans. As Christina mentioned, we cannot get them in the US. Right now, I am pining for the compote. Last year, we had not cherries here and I miss them. You dessert plate looks magnificent.

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