Tonka Bean Bakery is one of Joburg’s best-kept secrets, but not for much longer. Once you experience the masterful creations from chef Shakil Khan, the hunger for the next fix will make you forget any other doughnut experience.
The word artisanal is thrown around with nonchalance these days, but Shakil is a true craftsman, measuring each ingredient by the gram and using traditional French methods to achieve mouthwatering results. Shakil’s love for pastry began as boy in his mother’s kitchen, where his passion was nurtured before joining culinary school. He did a stint at South Africa’s number one restaurant, The Test Kitchen, before moving to the San Francisco baking institute with Michel Saus. He returned to South Africa to realise his dream of owning a bakery and creating this marvelous doughnut.
Tonka Bean specialises in pastries using French techniques. Their current focus is on the crème-pâtissière-filled doughnut, real butter croissants, Danish sticky buns, lemon meringue, and chocolate-and-salted-caramel tarts. Also on offer are artisanal breads like brioche burger buns, whole meal loaves and seeded bread sticks, all made using stoneground wheat.
The doughnuts are the show stoppers here: sugar dusted, golden-brown balls filled with the most scrumptious vanilla-bean crème pâtissière. Don’t be fooled by the humble-looking doughnut with a tiny bit of custard peeking out. The first bite of the brioche-style exterior reveals a generous filled centre of pure custard heaven. Shakil is working on some exciting new fillings to add to his range, and you can expect fillings like salted caramel and peanut butter soon.
Make sure you also try the chocolate brownies, which are like bars of luxurious chocolate torte, studded with nuts and chocolate chunks – a perfect fudgy texture of bitter chocolate and sugar.
The croissants are some of the best I have tasted in Johannesburg: multiple layers of buttery pastry in a flaky exterior reminiscent of perfection from a French boulangerie. I took some home and reheated them in the oven to relive the experience.
I will be back to try the kouign-amann (pronounced ‘queen amaan’), a pastry containing folded layers of butter and sugar, similar to puff pastry. These are only available seasonally as they needs to be crafted in cooler temperatures.
As the doughnuts are filled to order, grab a coffee and sneak a cheeky doughnut before you take the rest home.
Shakil will personally take you through the range in a humble yet enthusiastic manner; this man’s passion for baking oozes like his custard doughnuts.
The newish bakery is located in the River Sands Incubation Hub in Fourways. The setup is a large commercial kitchen in a business park with a small café area. It’s easily accessible from the north of Johannesburg and definitely worth the drive. They currently supply products to Melissa’s Deli in Dainfern and a few other restaurants. Doughnuts, croissants and coffee are on offer daily, but the bakery primarily functions on a per-order basis, so it’s best to call a day before to pre-order the delicious pastries.