Saturday, March 8, 2014

Matcha tea

According to NPR, use of tea leaves in entrees, desserts, and cocktails will increase in 2014.  After hearing tea is being touted as one of the top new food trends of 2014, the herb group has begun to explore the use of tea in cooking.
For the home cook, tea offers many possibilities. Brewed strong and then cooled, it makes a great marinade that tenderizes meat, adding a unique depth of flavor. It makes a great addition to soups as a substitute for water or broth. Ground into a powder, tea can be used as a seasoning in a rice pilaf or as a rub on a roast. Tea also can be used when baking cookies, cakes or muffins. If a recipe calls for a liquid, such as milk, substitute brewed, cooled tea (or you can add tea as part of the liquid amount). It's also easy to infuse tea into favorite cocktails.

Since friends had recently given us a lovely gift basket with matcha tea and home-baked cookies as a hostess gift, I decided to search for a way to use matcha in a dish for the herb group's potluck brunch.  The matcha scones were popular with the group.  At a Japanese cook club meeting of the group several years ago, we had sampled a tasty matcha ice cream.

Matcha tea is harvested just once per year between May and June. The tea bushes are shaded for 3–5 weeks prior to harvest using tana, a traditional frame-and-thatch technique, which blocks 70-85% of the sun's energy from reaching the tea bushes. Shading inhibits photosynthesis, boosting chlorophyll levels, creating a deep green leaf color. The tea bush draws up nutrients stored in its roots and grows wide, thin, tender tea leaves in a struggle to gather more light. The plant adaptations boost levels of natural plant sugars, amino acids and caffeine, which along with decreased levels of catechins, give high quality matcha its distinctively sweet, umami-rich flavor with a creamy texture and low bitterness. After harvest, the tea, called Tencha, is air dried. The dry flakes are taken to a "clean" room filled with rotating millstones covering everything with green dust.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony, known as Chado, or 'Way of Tea', is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea. The manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, called temae, is influenced by Zen Buddhism.
The Japanese tea ceremony begins with the host properly cleaning the tea bowl, the tea scoop, and the tea whisk with concentrated and graceful movement. Once the utensils are cleaned, three scoops of matcha powder per guest is added to the bowl. Hot water is ladled into the bowl and the mixture is whisked into a thin paste.  More water is added as needed to create a soup-like tea.  The bowl is offered to the first guest and bows are exchanged before the guest admires the bowl, rotates it, and then sips. The guest wipes the bowl and presents it to the next guest who repeats these movements. Once the final guest has sipped, the bowl is returned to the host who will rinse and clean the tea whisk and scoop again.


Using a bamboo tea scoop, measure out 1 ½ tea scoops of matcha into the matcha bowl. Add 175 degree water, not boiling. Allow boiling water to cool or your Matcha will taste bitter.  Whisk rapidly using the bamboo whisk until tea is dissolved and liquid is topped with a light colored foam. Drink immediately, before powder has time to settle. It is normal for some powder to remain at the bottom of your cup.

Iced matcha

 In a separate glass, with bamboo whisk or stainless slimline frother, whisk 1oz of milk (soymilk or creamer may be substituted) until frothy. Add ice to the glass and then the warm Matcha.

Frozen matcha latte

Add warm matcha mixture, sweetener, 4oz of milk, and ice to a blender. Blend on high.

Matcha Scones

1 3/4   c. Flour (cake or all purpose)
2         t. Baking powder
2         T. Aiya cooking grade matcha
10       T. butter
1/4       c. sugar
1/2-2/3 c. milk
                clotted or fresh cream (opt.)
                jam (opt.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, and matcha together.  Coarsely cut up the butter into cubes.
Add the butter to the sifted dry ingredients and mix until small clumps form.  Once it is loosely together, add the sugar and lightly mix to combine.
Add the milk to the mixture little by little by squeezing it between your fingers until the dough comes loosely together.
Roll out the dough until it is about 1" thick.  Make sure to lightly flour your rolling pin and work surface so the dough doesn't stick.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F.
Using a cup (or any cutter with a circular shape), cut circles out of the dough and arrange them on the baking sheet.  Lightly brush the surface of each with milk.
Bake for about 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350-325F.  Bake for about another 10 minutes or until they turn nice and brown.
Serve with clotted or fresh cream and your favorite jam.

Note: Make sure to chill the flour and butter for this recipe.  It makes the scones come out flakier.

Matcha ice cream

2 c.       Half-and-half
1 c.       Heavy whipping cream
1 c.       Sugar (with 2 T. removed)
1          Vanilla bean
2 T.      Aiya cooking grade matcha
   pinch Salt

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a pairing knife and then carefully scrape the insides out with the back of the knife to remove all the vanilla inside.
Add the heavy cream, half-and-half, vanilla (both the scrapings and the pods), salt, and sugar to a pot over medium heat.
Heat the ingredients together until they reach 170 degrees F, stirring occassionally.  Take off the heat. (Note: If you do not have a candy or cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature exactly, you can tell when it comes to the right temperature by looking at the surface of the mixture.  Once the first few bubbles begin to drift up to the surface, immediately take it off the heat.  DO NOT let it simmer or boil.)
Remove the vanilla bean pod pieces from the mixture and discard.
Sift in the Matcha and mix well.
After letting it cool a bit, transfer the ice cream to a refrigerator safe container with a lid and refrigerate it for 4-8 hours.  Letting it sit overnight so all the flavors can mingle is best. (Note: If using an ice cream maker, disregard the following two steps and instead follow the instructions of your ice cream maker.)
Transfer the ice cream base from the refrigerator to the freezer and leave it there for 45 minutes to begin setting.  Remove it and mix it all together well.  Repeat the process until it takes on the consistency of soft serve ice cream - it should take 3-4 hours.
After completing the mixing process, you can serve as is for soft serve ice cream or place it in the freezer again for at least an hour to fully harden.

Note: If you prefer less Matcha flavor and stronger sweetness, you can decrease the Matcha to 1 tablespoon and only take 1 tablespoon of sugar from the cup.
Note: If you plan on using an ice cream maker, complete the recipe up to step six and then follow the directions on your ice cream maker.

No comments:

Post a Comment