Green Tea Cookies

Matcha no Kukkī

I’ve adapted a classic American refrigerator-type cookie to accommodate a traditional Japanese ingredient—powdered ceremonial tea. Instructions are given here for making elegant two-toned leaves and some swirls with the leftover dough. You might want to play around with the dough to make more distinctive or exotic designs of your own. No cookie, though, should be so large or so thick that it takes more than 15–20 minutes to bake in a preheated 300-degree oven, since the jade-colored tea powder becomes bitter and turns an unattractive olive shade when exposed to high heat, or even low heat, for an extended period of time.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick sweet (unsalted) butter, at room temperature
  • cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • cups sifted (all-purpose) flour, plus 2–3 tablespoons for board
  • teaspoons matcha (powdered ceremonial green tea)
  • 1–1½ teaspoons cold water

Method

Cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to cream the mixture for about 1 minute until all the sugar is completely incorporated. Reserve 1 tablespoon of beaten egg for later use and add the rest of the beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Add ½ teaspoon of almond extract, too. Beat in the egg and extract thoroughly.

Blend in the cups of flour, ¼ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough might be a bit crumbly, but when you exert gentle pressure on it, it will easily form a ball. Divide the mass into two equal balls.

In a small dish, mix the powdered tea with the cold water, a few drops at a time. Stir to make a thick, dark paste. Add this paste to one of the two balls of dough and knead it in thoroughly. Shape the green dough into a ball again. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to flatten and pat the dough, coaxing it into a small rectangle by inches, and about 1 inch thick. Lay this rectangle on a piece of clear plastic wrap. Shape the plain dough in the same manner into an identical size.

Brush the surface of the green dough with the reserved beaten egg. Place the white dough on top and gently press the two together. Wrap the double dough in the clear plastic wrap and chill it for at least 1 hour. The dough may be frozen after sealing it (allow this dough to return to room temperature before cutting and baking), or sealed and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Unwrap the double dough and slice it into ¼-inch strips, crosswise. Each of these should be placed on its side so that both green and white dough is visible; one color to the right, the other to the left. With a lightly floured 3-inch banquette cutter, cut out “leaves” from each strip of two-toned dough. Gather up and set aside the surrounding dough, keeping separate piles for white and green; this excess dough will be reshaped. With a broad, lightly floured spatula, transfer the cut “leaves” to a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake the leaves for 10–12 minutes, checking progress after 8 minutes. If the cookies seem to be browning, lower the heat in your oven. The cookies are done when they’re firm, but uncolored. Remove the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely before serving.

While baking and cooling the leaf-shaped cookies, reshape the excess dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the white dough, then the green, keeping them the same size and no thicker than ¼ inch. Brush the surface of the green dough with some beaten egg, then lay the white dough on top. Roll them up snugly, jelly roll fashion. Wrap this roll in clear plastic wrap and chill it for at least 10 minutes. Unwrap the dough; cut the roll into about a dozen thin slices, each with a spiral design. Transfer these to a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 8–10 minutes. If the cookies seem to be coloring after 5 minutes, lower the oven temperature. Bake for a few more minutes, until the cookies are firm. Remove the cookies to a rack and let them cool before serving or storing them in a covered container. The cookies stay fresh for 2–3 days at room temperature; for longer storage, I recommend refrigeration.

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