Holiday Cookies with Tea: Maple Chai Cookies & White Chocolate Frosted Matcha Cookies

Holiday season is upon us! With Thanksgiving just around the corner and holiday parties not far behind, we thought we’d share a couple of our favorite recipes for cookies that are made with tea. These treats are a delightful way to show off your love of tea to friends and family – or maybe try out a new flavor for yourself! We find that maple chai cookies offers a wonderful contrast to darker, smoky teas like Dominion Caravan, while the matcha cookies pair excellently with Japanese greens like Shincha.

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup real maple syrup (Grade B syrup will give you a darker, richer flavor. We sourced ours from a local producer, Vale of the Blue Ridge Maple)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons maple chai tea

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  2. Grind maple chai tea to a fine powder in a spice grinder or food processer and sift out any remaining large particles.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together. Add egg, syrup, and vanilla. Mix until blended.
  4. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and powdered chai. Stir into wet mixture until well combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool on wire rack.

 

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons matcha
1 large egg
1½ cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 cups white chocolate pieces or chips, as needed
Red sprinkles or decorative sugar

 

 

 

  1. In a small bowl, sift matcha until smooth and free of clumps.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together softened butter, sugar, and matcha about three minutes until smooth. Add egg and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed throughout.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add dry mixture to wet and mix until a uniform dough forms, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  6. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake 13-15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are set, but not brown. Rest on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler, then generously dollop over each cookie, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Top with sprinkles or decorative sugar as desired.

By Jen Coate

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Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge

Matcha peanut butter fudge on a plate with tea in background.

Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge for Desert

Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge is a fun addition to the holiday cookie tray or jar. Not only is it a beautiful green color, the sugar, peanut butter and matcha combine to create a luscious flavor worthy of any holiday treat. This is a child friendly recipe that they can help make, except for the step of taking the bowl into and out of the microwave. We have made substitution notes below for those with peanut allergies.

We will admit this is technically not fudge, because there is no chocolate in it. However, this is a fudge like candy. You can drizzle chocolate over the top once it has cooled if you need to have chocolate for you to be comfortable calling this a fudge. This recipe will produce about a 3/4 inch thick pieces of fudge. If you want thicker, double the recipe, just make sure you have a bowl big enough to handle it melting and bubbling the microwave.

Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Equipment

Large microwavable bowl
Mixing bowl to sift the sugar and matcha into
Plastic wrap or lid for microwavable bowl (Do not skip this or you will not get fudge.)
Kitchen scale
Sifter or small strainer
Spatula
Parchment paper
8″x8″ baking dish

Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
15oz of confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Matcha

Substitutions – The peanut butter can be substituted with another nut butter like Almond, Cashew or Coconut Butter. The butter can be substituted with 1/2 cup of coconut cream and 1/2 cup of coconut oil. Follow the same steps below.

Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Steps

  1. Prepare your baking dish by cutting a piece of parchment paper and putting it in the dish. You will want excess paper hanging over so you can fold it over the fudge before putting it in the refrigerator.
  2. Measure out the confectioners sugar and matcha and sift it to remove all lumps. If you choose not to sift you will find that you have lumps of sugar you will need to press out when you stir the fudge, which can be annoying.
  3. Put the butter and peanut butter into a microwave proof bowl and stretch the plastic wrap over the top. Microwave for 2 minutes and take out and stir. Put back on the plastic wrap and put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes. Then remove. It should be bubbly and very liquid like. It may darken in color, which is perfect.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the sugar and matcha in batches, roughly pouring in the sugar about a third of the time. The mixture should start to get thick and stiff making it a little tricky to stir. You want to make sure you distribute the matcha so keep stirring and remove any green streaks.
  6. Spread the mixture into your prepared pan and fold the excess parchment over the top so it covers the surface of the fudge. Put in the refrigerator to cool, which will take about 2 hours. Once it cools, you can add that chocolate drizzle by melting chocolate chips and pouring them over the top of the cooled fudge and letting it sit until the chocolate hardens. Pull the fudge out of the pan by pulling up on the excess parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1 inch pieces. It will store for about a week, if it even lasts that long, in an air tight container in the refrigerator. It will darken as the matcha oxidizes, so don’t worry but if you want to keep the bright green color, serve within a couple of days.

Enjoy, I know we did!

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Matcha Green Tea History

The history of matcha green tea, much like many teas, is affected by cultural and political shifts. Its popularity in Japan and virtual absence in China comes from an interesting intersection of political needs, cultures converging and influencing each other, and a side effect of isolationist policies.

Foundations of Matcha Green Tea and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Matcha Green Tea from Japan

Cooking Grade Matcha Poweder

All things tea, regardless of current association, start in China. Starting in the Tang Dynasty, somewhere between 690-705C.E., tea became democratized in China at the same time as the golden age of Chinese culture hit its full height. During this period Buddhism thrived along side Daoism in China. Buddhist monasteries were everywhere and multiple religions were allowed to flourish side by side and acknowledged by the Emperors during this dynasty. During this period, tea was still packed into bricks for easier transport in trading. It was consumed by being broken off and pulverized into powder and then whisked into hot water. It was not called matcha by the Chinese, that name would come later in Japan.

Buddhist monks were heavy tea drinkers, as it assisted them in staying alert during long periods of meditation. So it was a natural evolution for the preparation of the tea for meditation become a ritual in-and-of itself. This ritual would be taught to the visiting Japanese monks several centuries later, in 1191 C.E., when the monk Eisai would introduce the Japanese Buddhists to the powdered preparation of tea. The term matcha is a combination of word ma, meaning powder, and cha, which means tea. At this point in Japanese history, Buddhism was making its way from the privileged classes to the common people of Japan. Recent military upheavals in Japan lead to a resurgence in spiritual practice and the establishment of Buddhist schools throughout the country. Eisai headed the Zen Buddhist school, which used meditation to bring forth the inner Buddha in each individual. It is at these schools that the Japanese Tea Ceremony was created and eventually formalized some four hundred years later.

Producing Matcha Green Tea

Matcha typically is made from the Saemidori cultivar of camellia sinensis. These tea plants are grown under shade, which adds additional complexity to flavor as well as to the plucking of the tea. The shade slows down growth, so fewer leaves are produced by the plant and those leaves that are produced got more of their nutrients from the ground than through photosynthesis. This gives the leaves a very complex taste. Tea leaves plucked for Matcha are sorted by size to help in the removal of stems from the leaves. Matcha green tea production is much more labor intensive than the other teas in Japan, which have been heavily automated in past forty years. The tea is plucked, sorted and then sent into steaming for anywhere between 40-80 seconds given the size of the leaves. The leaves are then laid flat to dry, which will cause the leaves to crumble and the stems to be more easily removed. The tea is fully dried and sorted again with the hopes of removing more veins and missed stems. It is then ground down between two large granite stones, much like an old fashion grain mill. The grinding process is heavily monitored and the consistency of the powder is measured. A finer powder, makes for a stronger and more complex tea generally. In the United States, generally there are two types of matcha green tea available, ceremonial and cooking grade. Ceremonial matcha is generally from the first picking and highest quality leaves. Cooking matcha comes from follow up picking and sometimes larger leaves. There is a difference in taste, but that is rarely distinguishable to those of us not growing up drinking it daily. Cooking matcha is generally more vegetal in taste while ceremonial matcha will have a more complex fruit/vegetable flavor. Neither is overly sweet, which is why it is generally served with sweet treats.

Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream

Matcha Ice Cream (With and Without Mint and Chocolate Chips)

Modern Day Matcha

Matcha green tea is still in high demand in Japan. It has grown in demand in the United States, since it does a great job coloring other foods, like cookies, ice cream, and even salad dressing, green. Matcha has not been embraced by the US as a tea because of its flavor profile and bright green color. What most Americans have not figured out is that they have been drinking matcha in their bottled green teas for some time now (it dissolves beautifully for bottled tea). There are Japanese gardens, museums and Buddhist monasteries where the general public can witness a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony and try some of the matcha in its traditional form. I encourage you to give it a try.

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Matcha Macaroons

After writing the prior blog on tea parties, I started looking at different recipes for cookies that are typically served with tea. Macaroons are mentioned, so I thought it would be fun to use Matcha instead of the green food coloring typically used in Pistachio Macaroons to make Matcha Macaroons. A traditional macaroon always contains nuts, usually almonds or pistachios. I was surprised to find that the matcha and pistachios got along just fine when it came to flavor. I filled these with chocolate buttercream to help soften the green tea taste of the cookies. However, you can make whatever buttercream filing you like to put in the middle of the cookies.

Macaroons made with matcha spread out on a cookie sheet.

Matcha Macaroons before baking.

Matcha Macaroons

1/3 cup pistachios (these can be replaced with almonds)

2 tsps Matcha

3/4 cup powdered suger

2 large egg whites

1 tbs sugar

Chocolate Matcha Buttercream filling

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

2oz semisweet chocolate, melted

1 tsp matcha

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

 

Grind the pistachios, powdered sugar and food processors until the nuts are as fine as the powdered sugar. You may need to stop and scrap the bowl down a couple of times to ensure you got as much of the nut pieces as small as possible. In a metal bowl, whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff and then dust them with the tablespoon of sugar. Then whisk until very stiff peeks forms. Fold into the egg whites the nut mixture about a quarter cup at a time. If the oil from the nuts causes the sugar to clump, just run the mixture through a sifter as you add it to the eggs to separate it. The mixture should be fully incorporated with the egg whites.

Pipe the mixture onto cookie sheets to get round circles. You will need either greased parchment paper or Siltpad in order to keep the cookies from sticking to the baking pan. The goal is to get an even number of cookies that are relatively the same size so we can incorporate the filling. If you do not have a piping bag and tips, just cut the corner off a ziplock bag and use that. They will not be as perfect, but still nicely round. You should get around 24-30 cookies depending on how big you make them. Bake for 8-12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven and allow to cool on tray above a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before handling.

Fresh Macaroons Made with Matcha

Macha Macaroons

To make the filing, using an electric mixer beat the butter until pail and then add in the chocolate followed by the matcha and powdered sugar. The mixture will start to lighten in color and expand in the bowl as the sugar is incorporated. In judging whether to add additional sugar, look at the shininess of the cream and don’t be afraid to stop the blend and take a small taste. The filing needs to stay creamy, hold its form on the spoon (turn the spoon up-side down, if it starts to drop immediately you need more sugar) and not feel grainy on the tongue, which will happen if there is too much sugar added.

The filling can either be spooned onto the bottom of one cookie or piped on with an icing bag if you would like precision. An icing knife or straight edge can clean up the edges for you. Add around 1/2 tablespoon of the filing. Of course you can add more, it just may squeeze out the sides and become a bit messy when you bite in. (My six year old thinks this is one of the better features of this cookie). This will make somewhere around 12-15 cookies.

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Genmaicha ‘Brown Rice’ Tea

Genmaicha Brown Rice Tea

Genmaicha Japanese Green Tea

We’ve blogged about Japanese teas before, including culture, cultivars, sencha, and gyokuro. We’ve even blogged about the use of a Kyusu for preparing Japanese green teas. This week we wanted to focus on another great Japanese tea, genmaicha. Also known as genmai cha, brown rice tea, or even popcorn tea, genmaicha is very popular in Japan and around the world even if its history isn’t that clear.

Genmaicha History

Unique flavor aside, the stories surrounding genmaicha are lots of fun though there seems to be plenty of fiction surrounding it. Paraphrasing the most colorful story, it is claimed that the tea was created during the 15th century by a Samurai and his servant. The story suggests that the servant was preparing tea for his master, and at the time tea was very expensive. As he poured the tea a few grains of rice fell from his sleeve as he poured the tea. So enraged was the Samurai that his tea would be ruined, that he drew his sword and cut the head off his servant then an there. Yet, instead of pouring out the tea, he sat back down to drink it and discovered that he actually very much enjoyed it.  In honor of his servant, named Genmai, he named this tea Genmai Cha.

Another story suggests that long ago, housewives, eager to serve green tea in their households, yet finding it to be extremely expensive, began mixing cheap brown rice to a smaller amount of green tea, thus enabling common folk to enjoy tea the same as the noble classes.

Infused Genmaicha or Brown Rice Tea Leaf

Infused Genmaicha Leaf

The most likely story of genmaicha seems to be that sometime in the early 1900’s, an inspired tea merchant in Japan sought to stretch expensive green tea a bit further and added brown rice to it. The wonderful nutty flavor of genmaicha has been with us ever since, remaining popular and growing in popularity outside of Japan as well.

Colorful as these stories are, and variations on all three stories abound, there seems to be little historical support for them. They may or may not have grains of truth surrounding the origin of Genmai Cha.  Regardless, Genmai means ‘brown rice’ and so Genmai Cha is literally translated to ‘brown rice tea’.

Genmaicha Ingredients

Genmaicha has historically been made of bancha and brown rice. Being a green tea made from later harvests, bancha was and still is much less expensive than higher grade sencha and gyokuro varieties. The use of bancha contributed to a reputation as a cheap tea in the past. Today, however, genmaicha is made with a variety of Japanese green teas including sencha and gyokuro as well. Additionally, genmaicha can be found infused with matcha to provide both a slightly different flavor and mouth feel.

Matcha Infused Genmaicha Brown Rice Tea

Genmaicha Infused with Matcha Powder

Finally, although genmaicha is sometimes called popcorn tea, it typically does not actually have popcorn. Brown rice, as its heated and toasted, will sometimes pop resulting in something that looks like popcorn yet is really popped rice.

The next time you are looking to have guests and want to serve them something interesting, you might consider telling a colorful story or two about the supposed history of genmaicha while serving them this delightful nutty tea.

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