Baked goods: Green tea (matcha) shortbread

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In an experimental fit, I decided to make matcha (green tea) shortbread. This turned out to be a misunderstood and definitely not universally popular offering. Most people have very little idea of what matcha (real matcha) tastes like. People expressed considerable… shock at how bitter these tasted, not fully grasping the matcha has a very strong, very earthy flavor that in no way resembles a watered-down tea-bag version of "green tea". I warned people in advance that these cookies would not be what they expected of green tea unless they had some experience with the real thing. Only a couple of colleagues who sampled them actually enjoyed them (and ended up taking the piles of cookies with them when they left my office). (I tried to make them in this lovely turtle shape; the cookie cutters were a bitch to work with, so I ended up making plain round cookies with the majority of the dough.)

As an aside to this tale, I actually do not like matcha myself. When I attended Japanese-language camp in high school (could I be more of a geek? Japanese-language camp! Seriously. And what is wrong with me that I readily admit to having attended this camp not once but twice?), I took tea ceremony as my in-depth culture course the first year. It was endlessly fascinating… the detail, the ritual… but I never acquired the taste for tea.

Sometime early last year, I had an unwelcome, uninvited guest turn up in Oslo to visit. Luckily the visit was brief, but I cannot begin to explain how intolerable and insufferable he was. (He is now unaffectionately remembered as "Green Tea Asshole" in recounting stories about him.) Nevertheless, I suffered him (because this is how I am… too spineless to speak up, kick people out on their asses and a bit addicted to the short-term pain of a situation for the sake of the story it creates later). He offered me a couple of gifts, though, upon his arrival, one of which was a lovely tin of matcha powder from Mariages Fr√®res (wonderful place that it is). The trouble has been that I do not care for matcha (although I have made myself a few cups). I wondered how to use it. I was first tempted to make matcha macarons, but being a bit unsure of my macaron-making abilities, I decided not to waste the matcha on something I had not mastered yet. (And this aforementioned unwanted guest, by the way, is French and insisted that I would never be able to produce a proper macaron anyway since I am not French!?)

My brother came to visit me recently and admonished me not to misuse matcha in baking *at all*. He being a Japanophile and longtime resident of Kyoto felt matcha should be used only for its obvious purposes. I defied him, and made these cookies.

In short, though, they turned out to be a love-hate affair.

MATCHA SHORTBREAD
Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons matcha (green tea) powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Beat butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add matcha powder and beat until butter/tea mixture is all green and very creamy. Add sugar gradually and continue beating on high speed until very light and fluffy.

Add about one-third of the flour, then mix. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing just until blended. The mixture will look crumbly; if you squeeze it between your fingers, it will come together. Gather it together into a ball with your hands while it is still in the bowl.

Roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness between two pieces of parchment paper. Peel off top parchment.

Cut out as many cookies as possible using cookie cutter in desired shape and place on cookie sheets 1-inch apart. Re-roll remaining dough and repeat until all of the dough is used up. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes; carefully remove cookies from pans to cool completely on racks.

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