Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Tea Shortbread

Shortbread is a wonder cookie.  It has a delicate crunchy texture that rests on a mantle of sweet buttery goodness. Think you can eat just one?  Think again. Shortbread whispers in your ear.  It taunts and teases until you partake of another luxurious morsel, keenly aware of each melting crumb on your tongue.  The notion strikes you.  Food like this should be illegal. Thank G-d it's not.

Shortbread is a simple affair when it comes to ingredients.  It is comprised of flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a touch of salt.  Non-wheat flours or starches are typically added to alter the texture of the cookie which is made without leavening.  Shortbread's simplicity makes it the perfect canvas for a variety of sweet and savory flavors. Green tea is a great addition to shortbread's flavor repertoire, but finding a recipe that doesn't result in a grassy tasting cookie isn't easy. 

The secret to great tasting Green Tea Shortbread is koicha tea, a form of matcha that is used for making "thick tea" in the Japanese tea ceremony known as chadoKoicha is more expensive than usucha (known as "thin tea"), the powdered green tea typically found in stores and catalogs.  The beauty of koicha lies in its verdant sweetness and lack of astringency which is why it fetches a higher price than usucha. The price is worth it when you taste the difference. You wouldn't use regular mushrooms in a recipe that called for truffles, would you?

Green Tea Shortbread
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 70 cookies

·        2 cups all-purpose flour
·        1 tablespoon high quality matcha tea (koicha is best)
·        cup organic yellow cornmeal
·        ½ teaspoon non-iodized sea salt
·        ½ cup (plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter (room temperature/softened)
·        ½ cup (plus 3 tablespoons) organic cane sugar
·        2 large eggs, at room temperature
·        1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon almond extract

·        Divide oven racks into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F.
·        Line two baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set aside.
·        In a medium mixing bowl, sift and combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and matcha tea. Mix well with a large silicone spatula.  The resulting mixture will light green in color.
·        Soften butter in the microwave for 15-30 seconds.  It should be softened (not warm or transparent) when it is done.
·        Cream the butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl beat the two eggs and almond extract.
·        Add the butter mixture to the egg mixture and incorporate.
·        Combine wet ingredients with dry ones.  Work the dough with the spatula for two minutes. The dough should be slightly resistant (not overly tacky or hard).
·        Shape one teaspoonful of dough at a time by placing it between your hands and rolling it between the centers of your palms, pressing down very slightly.  Place onto baking sheet in seven rows of five cookies each.
·        Bake for 15 minutes, turning and reversing trays from top to bottom at 7.5 minutes and continuing to bake for another 7.5 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
·        Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
·        Store in an airtight container.

Ito En Matcha-Banreki No Mukashi and Upton Tea Thick Matcha Mathuno Mukashi are great choices for making Glass Petal Smoke's Green Tea Shortbread. If you would like to experience a traditional tea ceremony and live in New York City you can visit the Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York. Demonstrations take place monthly and there is a series of classes offered as well.

Brigette-Keks® Letter Message Cookie Press from Germany is finally available in the U.S.  It was used to imprint the cookies in the photo that accompanies this post.  You can follow your own muse and use any kind of small embellishment in the center of the cookie that you like.

Photograph of tea cookies by Michelle Krell Kydd.