I sat on the matcha powder bought during our trip to Kyoto in January last year and only just cracked it open today, over a year and a half later. And over a year past its expiration date. I think we all do this. We buy an expensive ingredient, and it’s so precious that we’re afraid to open it when we get home because we know that we can’t afford to replace it if something goes awry when following an unfamiliar recipe with an unfamiliar ingredient. Never having bought or used matcha powder before, I was scared that my recipe wouldn’t work and the precious powder would have been wasted. Kyoto is supposed to be famous for its matcha, and so I had made a point of buying as much as we could afford in the expensive cash-only city – which turned out to be a tiny, tiny little tin containing roughly 3 tablespoons worth of powder. It still looked and smelled great, and I had no intention of throwing it out.
Kyoto has matcha everything. While there, I feasted on matcha KitKats and matcha soft serve ice cream served over a roasted rice puff bun. I brought back a little tin of green tea hard candies, like the kind the poor kids ate in Graveyard of the Fireflies. These bright green matcha shortbread cookies vibrantly brought back the bitter, roasted, earthy aromas of that wonderful trip to Japan and all of the fantastic food that we ate.
Thankfully, the first attempt with matcha powder was a great success. I had seen many recipes for green tea short bread cookies on various baking blogs, and filed away the most promising looking recipe (i.e. the one with the prettiest pictures) for later. Now that baking season is again in full-swing, I dusted off the recipe and had at it.
I had left a pound block of butter in the microwave for a couple of days to keep it at room temperature for baking…however, thanks to my already frigid apartment, room temperature was actually quite hard. Since the recipe called for 10 tablespoons, I used my butter ruler to measure out the appropriate quantity. It took quite a bit of elbow grease to mix it into the confectioner’s sugar and matcha powder and to whip it into a light and fluffy mixture, but I did it. Queen of the kitchen! Then in went the flour and then the egg yolks.
Cultural side note: confectioner’s sugar is always labeled as icing sugar in Montreal.
I found forming the dough into a ball to be difficult, as it didn’t want to stick together and kept crumbling. I used a long strip of plastic wrap to force it into a thick, oblong pancake, and ran a rolling pin over it a few times to make it flat. Then it was wrapped up with the rest of the plastic and into the fridge it went while we went out to brunch and errands. Time to stock up on window draft protection!
When we returned several hours later, the dough had hardened. Perhaps it would have been more malleable had it only been chilled for 30 minutes (or, given the temperature inside of our apartment, left inside the cold oven for a while). It again took a bit of work to roll it out into the desired thickness. I kept the dough in the plastic wrap, which saved me from scraping oily bits of dough off the counter and the rolling pin. I did not have a cute petit four cutter like the blog from which I’d gotten the recipe, and found that the smallest cookie cutter I had was a 2″ biscuit cutter. I rolled the hard little hockey pucks in sugar, but found that they were so cold the sugar didn’t stick very well to them. Also, 1 cup of sugar was too excessive for the small batch of cookies – 1/2 cup would have served just as well. I carefully patted together the remaining dough to cut out all the cookies, and for the last bit, smushed flat the small ball and carefully cut it into pie pieces with a knife.
When they came out of the oven 14 minutes later (maybe 15 minutes would have been better, but I was getting impatient), I rolled them again in the sugar, which helped a bit. These are not sweet cookies, but the matcha gives them that unnameable, irresistible flavour that makes you want to keep eating them, like green tea ice cream. I’ve never had homemade shortbread before, and the texture was quite different from Walker’s – they were very tender and did not have a crunch to them. The main smells were butter and matcha. After eating three while still warm and almost reluctantly sharing a few with my husband, I regretted that the recipe was so small, making only 2 small cookie sheets of cookies, roughly 20 cookies. I often bring in leftover baked goods to work, since my building has a lot of young people who are always happy to eat and enjoy them, but I think that these are staying put right where they are. I still have about 1 1/2 tablespoons of expired matcha left, so we might be seeing these cookies again very soon. Husband’s verdict? Another culinary masterpiece!