This morning at the cafe in the park my friend behind the counter asked me if I would like a pastry with my coffee. She regularly tries to persuade me to try something exotic like an apple turnover, but I’m a purist and if I’m going to have something I shouldn’t it’s going to be a croissant, chocolate croissant if I’m feeling particularly ornery. This morning I had to decline because I’d made some cookies the night before and ate two for breakfast.
“What kind?” “Matcha.” “What’cha?” “Matcha, it’s a green tea.”
Her face said it all, but ever the encouraging young woman she is, she said, “I bet you’re going to become famous for that, because who’d ever think of putting tea in a cookie?”
Unfortunately, that ship has sailed, but it did get me thinking about what other crazy idea I could become famous for in the world of cookery. It’s pretty wide open for nutty ideas. Cronut, anyone? That thing is actually trademarked! It’s only a matter of time folks. And speaking of time, a little over ten years ago, my daughter and I were lucky enough to spend a few months in Japan. This is where I first encountered green tea in pastry, this was before matcha latte’s and matcha wisks joined the western vernacular. We stayed for a while in Azabu-Jūban, Tokyo and not far from our apartment was a Doughnut Plant. I had no idea that Doughnut Plant originated in NY, I just thought it was a very clever Japanese name, or a weird translation of something, which was not completely uncommon. It was there that I met the green tea doughnut. I remember looking at it and pretty much pulling the same face that my coffee friend gave me this morning, but I had to try it, because it was green, and a doughnut. And not green like the Chicago River on St. Patricks Day, or those horrifying green Sno Balls – also, I think, an homage from our childhood friends at Hostess to the snake wrangling saint, it was a beautiful earthy sort of ashy green (are you mentally creeping back toward the green sno ball?) It’s a strange mixture, to be sure, but I very much like earthy flavors. I love beets, and ginger, and garlic, wasabi, and horseradish, and although matcha is not what I’d call pungent there was something about the dull bitter tang mixed with an appropriate sweetness that made me feel like my toes could reach right through the floor to the warm soil below. I fell in love with the whole idea and returned as often as I could to see my little round, unpretentious green friend. And then one day… it was gone. Turns out it was seasonal. You pumpkin spiced latte fans will feel my pain on this one. Once we returned I thought about my friend occasionally but didn’t make the connection when the whole matcha thing happened because I didn’t ever see it in a baked good again until the last couple of years. And then I found this recipe for Matcha Tea Cake Cookies on the Food & Wine site. I’m not going to lie to you, Matcha powder is expensive, but a little goes a long way in most recipes, in this one -only 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. I bought 30g for $9.95 from Jade Leaf, and I’ve made these cookies twice plus some date matcha bars which we needn’t discuss. These cookies are made with canola oil which makes me a wee bit woogly for some reason, but there’s really no need for woogliness. I’ve made them twice and they’ve come out great both times. It makes me feel very happy that I’m able to reproduce a tasty memory of my toes on foreign soil. I add just a pinch of gold dust to the mix of confectioners sugar and matcha which you dust over the cookies. I like the idea of the faintest sheen of gold on the cookies, it reminds me of the elaborate bean paste confections I had in Japan, and I just like the idea of green and gold. I got this little jar for six bucks from NY Cake & Baking, be sure it’s edible because not all of them are, and if I had to do it again, I’d go with a less yellow gold because that would look better on a dark chocolate ganache.
I once ruined a lovely ganache covered cake I made for some friends by putting gold dust in a normal strainer and blarbing a pile of it all in one place. Luckily my sister had given me some little chocolate Eiffel towers which covered up the goof and gave the cake a certain je ne sais quoi. (just go with whatever fixes you have)
I mentioned last post that I had made a lovely lemon pudding, and I’m not going to go into that here but I thought the lemon pudding and the matcha cookies would make a wonderful combination. I’m going to say they actually did not. The beautiful rich but delicate flavor of the pudding was just lost when combined with the distinct flavor of the matcha. The matcha has a sort of blunt sharpness, which I know sounds ridiculous to say, but it is sort of like that, and so the pudding really had no positive effect on it, the cookies just cancelled the pudding out.
Back to the drawing board for my genius idea! They do look awfully pretty together though, don’t they? Looking pretty together does not a soul mate make, but Matcha Tea Cakes like matcha doughnuts, can become a welcome friend.