This post was written by Terry's wife, Marion Boyd.
It’s the time of year again when people are streaming in and out of our house, and we are streaming in and out of lots of other houses, too. To help with all the festive to-ing and fro-ing, we like to have some lovely treats on hand. This year, for the first time, we’ve added green tea shortbread cookies to our arsenal.
Shortbread cookies are so wonderful – buttery, delicate, crumbly goodness. Adding matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) gives them a faintly herbal, haunting note – still delicate, but with a slightly sophisticated edge.
The Internet has zillions of shortbread recipes, but really there is only one. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen notes that, in her green tea shortbread cookie recipe, and so it is. There are faint variations in the amounts of this or that, and now and then someone will add an egg (noooooooo!), and the cookie décor might be different, but really, look around. All the recipes are the same.
Shortbread cookies have very few ingredients, so each one needs to be fresh and of high quality. I recommend using familiar, fresh, unsalted American-style butter rather than a European-style butter like Plugra. The difference is that American butters have a higher water content, and when you are making shortbread, you need that extra bit of water to help it transition from a collection of inchoate ingredients into a single mass.
Regarding the green tea, we hope you will use the best matcha you can find. See the Kitchen Notes for a couple of outlets we recommend.
The most onerous part of this process is melting the chocolate, and that part isn’t complicated at all.
Chocolate-dipped Green Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened green tea powder (matcha – about 1/2 ounce)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling on the unbaked cookies (optional)
5 or 6 one-ounce squares of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degree F. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, powdered sugar, and matcha.
In another bowl, beat the softened butter with an electric hand mixer, just until it becomes soft. Beat in the vanilla. Then gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Everything should form a single mass. If it stubbornly remains a powdery bunch of crumbs, sprinkle in 1 or 2 teaspoons of water, and continue to mix. When everything is combined, you will have a beautiful green dough. Cut it in half, form each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Longer than this and you may have to let it warm up a bit so it can be worked.
Lightly flour your surface and a rolling pin, place a disc on the table, and roll it out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. I cut these cookies into little rectangles, then used a spatula to move them onto parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet. These cookies don’t spread out much in the baking, so can be pretty closely spaced on the baking sheet. Once they are all set out on the baking sheets, sprinkle lightly with the confectioner’s sugar.
Slide the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes or so, depending on the neurosis level of your oven. They should lightly brown around the edges.
Cool the cookies completely on a rack. Only after they are cooled should you try to dip them.
For dipping, chop the chocolate, then melt it in the top of a double boiler until it is shiny and liquid. To dip the cookies, hold by one end, then dip the other end, gently shake off the excess and place on waxed paper on a rack or plate. Once the cookies are set, which will take a while, store them in an airtight container with waxed paper between the layers. Done. The cookies will keep for a week or more.
If you wish, you can also skip the chocolate entirely and just serve these in their delicate, elegant simplicity.
Dipping chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate, but dark chocolate would also work wonderfully. Use baking chocolate, not chocolate chips – the former melts, the latter doesn’t.
Why not white chocolate? Because it is no fun to work with. A “derivative” of chocolate, it’s made from cocoa butter, sugar, salt and milk. That is, white chocolate is not chocolate, and it doesn’t behave like chocolate. In particular, when you try to melt it, it never becomes smoothly liquid like actual chocolate. In the process of making these cookies, I did try melting the white stuff. Even though I knew better, I actually was seized with the notion that maybe this time it would work out. The result was pretty much a stiff, resistant (but melted) blob. I did get white chocolate on one cookie, but it looked bad (although the lucky recipient said it tasted great). If you want this cookie with a white chocolate taste, I recommend Deb’s green tea cookie sandwich recipe.
How about the tea? The matcha in this recipe came from the Spice House. Our more usual source, and our favorite source for great teas, period, is Harney & Sons.
How about a coffee? By the way, these cookies are fantastic with a cup of coffee. When friends drop by during the holidays, serve these and Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies, and you are set.