Matcha is Japanese green tea that is finely ground into a powder and is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It is very concentrated in flavor and color. The optional sparkling sugar can be sprinkled on half of the batch of match shortbread cookies; after baking, when both the sugared and plain cookies are arranged on a platter, it creates a nice contrast between sparkly and matte. The leaf-shaped cookie cutters are a playful nod to the fact that these contain leaves – tea leaves. You can see by the cookies in the two images that the green hue will vary due to whether you use the lesser or greater amount of matcha. (The flavor will be more pronounced with the larger amount, as well). The color can also vary due to your source of tea.
Image: Dédé Wilson
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 2 to 4 tablespoons matcha (powdered green tea)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon sparkling sugar (optional)
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Whisk flour and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.
- Beat butter with electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add matcha and beat until butter/tea mixture is a uniform green color and very creamy. Add granulated sugar gradually and continue beating on high speed until very light and fluffy. Turn machine off, add about one-third of the flour, then turn machine onto low-speed. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing just until blended, scraping down bowl once or twice. 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 ¼-inch thickness between two pieces of lightly floured parchment. Peel off top parchment and cut dough in half. Sprinkle sanding sugar evenly over one half of the cookie dough and gently, with hardly any pressure, roll over it with rolling pin to help it adhere. Using a 2-inch by 1-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from both doughs and place on cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Use the back of a sharp paring knife to make vein patterns on each cookie if you like (see photo). Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, if desired.
- Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake for about 17 to 22 minutes or until the cookies are dry and firm to the touch; their color will not change. They should retain their shape if you try to pick one up, and there should also be a fragrant butter-and-matcha scent emanating from the oven. Cool pans on racks for a couple of minutes, then carefully transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.
- I used cookie cutters that are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. You can certainly use a larger cookie cutter, or even a different shape, but the yield and baking times might change.
- As with all teas, there is huge range of quality and prices. Ito En is a Japanese tea company, which offers many matcha from which to choose. For baking, I like their Kiri No Ne matcha, which not only has a lovely color and flavor, but also happens to be lesser expensive than many other options. As you can see in the images, the color of your cookies might vary according to the tea that you use.