On the Matcha Bandwagon at Last
Matcha is making a comeback like no other…tea, and if it’s constant appearance in recipes from food bloggers and major publications aren’t signs of eminent takeover, I don’t know what is. So what is matcha, exactly? This article by Kathy YL Chan on Eater is a one-stop-shop for all things matcha, but if you’re in a hurry, hungry or simply enjoy reading bullet points, here are some quick notes on Matcha:
- Matcha leaves can be grown all over the world, but the best leaves originate in Japan
- The leaves can have different flavor profiles based on where they are grown
- Made from meticulously grown tea leaves, matcha powder is produced by grinding dried tea leaves into a fine powder
- So, instead of steeping tea leaves in hot water and infusing their essence into the water, match powder is mixed into hot water and the whole tea leaf is consumed
- Matcha powder is more expensive due to careful and quality steps taken to grow the tea leaves and produce the powder, so don’t sweat the extra cash because quality is steeped in $$$
So I gave in. One day while trawling through recipes, I came across this one for Matcha Tea Cake Cookies by Ben Mims on Food & Wine. Cookies, I believe, have a language all their own. Some, like monster cookies, with their crazy ingredients and odd end forms, say to the world, “I’m a mess! A delicious mess!” And others, like peanut butter cookies, say “I’m classic and uncomplicated with my four ingredients.” Both are delicious but say different things. The Matcha Tea Cake cookie recipe said, “I’m hip and modern, yet fancy enough for a tea party.” I was totally sold.
The recipe is simple enough, with the required ingredients as follows:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder
1/4 cup confections’ sugar
All relatively common pantry items if you have a pantry, in a normal city with affordable housing. If you live in San Francisco, and you use your closet to store these standard baking items, then you will most likely have these ingredients, too. Eggs, however, can’t be stored with your shoes, sorry. Luckily there are kitchen enthusiasts In my apartment, so we had most of these ingredients, save for canola oil and ground cardamom.
Lacking two key recipe ingredients calls for substitutions. In place of canola oil, I used vegetable oil. Canola oil, produced from canola seeds, is said to be more heart healthy. Yes, I would like a healthy heart, but when your car is nearly out of gas, running out to procure the appropriate oil seems less amusing and the idea of using alternative oil becomes far more inviting. I will, however, remake this recipe using canola oil in the future for comparison purposes. And also because these cookies are ah-mazing and I want to eat them again.
The second substitution was for cardamom and one I actually “made”. Unable to find this spice in my seasoning repertoire, I searched cardamom alternatives online and About.com provided this answer: combine equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg. Done. As I have yet to encounter this mystical 1/8 teaspoon, I combined 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg and used 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture in this recipe. The resulting cookies weren’t dominant in flavor from either spice, however, if you’re a recipe purist and have an 1/8 teaspoon in your cookery arsenal, by all means use an 1/8 of the mixture.
Cinnamon + Nutmeg = Cardamom?! Or close enough..
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. In another bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and almond extracts. In a small bowl, stir 2 tablespoons of the matcha powder with 2 tablespoons of water, then stir into the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until combined.
Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or 2 tablespoons, scoop 1-inch balls of dough at least
2 inches apart onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until set at the edges and very lightly browned on the bottoms. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Arrange the cookies on 1 baking sheet. In a sieve, combine the confectioners’ sugar with the remaining 1 teaspoon of matcha. Dust over the cookies and serve.
Pretty straightforward, right? Having followed each step of this recipe, my only edit is this: I preferred chilling the dough in the mixing bowl instead of forming the warm dough and then chilling on cookie sheets. My fridge was compromised and space for two cookie sheets was unavailable, so I tried both methods. Lacking a cookie scoop, forming warm dough balls by hand quickly became messy business, but chilling the dough for 20 minutes and then shaping proved more efficient and less frustrating.
These cookies were incredibly easy to make and made for a great first dip into the world of baking with matcha. Ben Mims did a fantastic job detailing each step for baking a deliciously simplistic cookie. Most ingredients for this recipe are kitchen staples, save for cardamom, which was easily substituted, and refrigerating dough prior to rolling into dough balls will yield more uniform cookies in a less-mess fashion. Dense yet fluffy, with a moist, cake-like texture, these cookies will be accompanying me to my next tea party. Or, I’ll just make them to feel fancy.