By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsMany of my students ask, “What’s matcha? Why is it so bitter? Do Japanese people really drink it?” I always answer, “Yes, I do like matcha, but I don’t drink it every day. I mostly have it at tea ceremonies or when I eat Japanese sweets [wagashi].”
The bitter tea goes well with sweets. However, interestingly, most people who dislike matcha love green tea or matcha-flavored desserts. (I’m talking about “pure” matcha tea, not matcha latte drinks.)
Actually, matcha is a form of green tea. It differs from other types of green tea in that it is grown in the shade for a certain period and its leaves are not rolled before being dried. It is made by grinding the leaves into very fine powder in a millstone. Matcha is also a brighter shade than other types of green tea.
Although matcha was once little known across the world, its benefits are now recognized to the extent that matcha bars have opened in New York. Where I live in Philadelphia, it’s also easy to find places featuring matcha on the menu.
I really recommend using matcha powder for baking or making sweets like ice cream. You can use it like pure cocoa powder, but since matcha powder is super bitter even in small portions, you should add more sugar to balance it.
If you are wondering which matcha to buy, it’s generally a good idea to choose a cheaper variety. It depends, of course, but normally more expensive ones have a sweeter aroma, meaning they’re often consumed at tea ceremonies. The bitterness is needed to enhance the flavors in your cooking.
My favorite matcha cookie recipe features hazelnuts and white chocolate chips, which harmonize well. It has the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, and lures you into eating way too much.
The cookies are perfectly delicious when served with coffee. To give them a nice shortbread texture, make sure the butter you use has not melted, otherwise they’ll end up a little hard. Also, let the dough sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator. It can be made ahead of time, and keeps well in the freezer for up to a month.
Mari’s recipe for matcha cookiers
Ingredients (about 15 cookies):
110 grams (1 stick or 8 tbs) unsalted butter at room temperature
60 grams powdered sugar
150 grams flour
10 grams matcha powder
Pinch of salt
50 grams roasted hazelnuts
80 grams white chocolate chips or crushed white chocolate
1. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
2. Combine the flour, matcha powder and salt in a separate bowl, then sift it into the bowl with butter and mix well. Add the hazelnuts and white chocolate chips, then mix lightly.
3. Wrap the cookie dough with plastic wrap and form cylindrical shapes 4 centimeters in diameter and about 15 centimeters long. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. (The dough keeps well in the freezer for up to a month.)
4. Preheat the oven to 180 C with a baking tray inside. Line the tray with baking sheets. Cut the dough into 1-centimeter-thick pieces, then place them on the sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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