I've been baking a lot this past week, and mainly green things for some bizarre reason, matcha (green tea) chiffon roll, matcha sables and also pandan cake. Matcha, a type of Japanese green tea, is a wonderful flavour that pairs really well with red bean and or black sesame, as many Japanese sweets and desserts attest to. The rich fragrant aroma and the bittersweet aftertaste of matcha lends itself well to most sweet endings - cakes, cookies, ice-cream, macarons, crème brûlée and the list goes on.
One of my go-to books for desserts is this Japanese pastry & dessert cookbook Okashi by Keiko Ishida. There are many basic recipes covered in the book such as different types of sponges, pastry creams and custards in addition to Japanese-style french pastries. What I love about the Japanese renditions are the delicateness and subtlety that Japanese bakers bring to the richer and heavier french cousins. And of course the infusion of traditional Japanese flavours like sesame, soy, red bean and of course the ubiquitous matcha green tea. The cakes are always oh-so-light, melt-in-your-mouth texture and you can always tell it's made with such care and precision.
To satisfy my Japanese pastry craving, I made the matcha chiffon roll with red bean paste from the Okashi book but it didn't last long enough (all eaten up!) for me to photograph haha. I usually bake at night, which means I don't have good natural lighting for shooting (using artificial lighting and shooting at night is something I definitely need to learn more about!). Being too lazy to recreate it again, I decided to try something new out of the book, and decided to pick the matcha green tea sablés cookies since they looked pretty easy. They turned out pretty well and were quite addictive, I kept reaching for more and more! The recipe is posted below after the post, with some of my comments in italics.
I would also like to share with you some of my favourite Japanese bakeries. k-ki at Ann Siang Hill is one of my favourites, helmed by Japan-trained Singaporean pastry chef Kenneth Seah and his wife Delphine. They don't make large quantities of their cakes and the popular ones are often sold out before the end of the day. The Mont Blanc and Strawberry Tart are to die for! Another great bakery is Pâtisserie Glacé, which has amazing cheese tarts and strawberry shortcakes. It started out of a small shop in a quiet spot, but has since located to a bustling location in Icon at Tanjong Pagar. Both these bakeries are in Singapore and located within walking distance of my house, lucky me!
To get my fix here in London, William Curley (again walking distance to me, yay!) does a good Mont Blanc, and selection of green tea flavoured desserts as well, since his wife Suzue Curley is a Japanese pastry chef. I recently discovered Lanka at Primrose Hill,where I met up with Pleasure Monger and Going With My Gut. It serves up pretty decent Japanese cakes and French food as well. Sadly, I've never visited Japan, where I'm sure my heart (and stomach) will not be able to withstand the temptation and lure of the great Japanese pastries and food. That is definitely one trip I'll need to make in the near future. But till then, I'll just have to contend with indulging myself with the yummies from the above bakeries and making my own!
Green Tea Sablés
(from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)
240g pastry flour (I substituted this with 200g plain flour and 40g corn flour)
15g green tea powder
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g icing sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
40g granulated sugar
green tea leaves (or black sesame seeds), optional
Sift flour and green tea powder twice. Set aside.
(I measured out the flours and green tea powder in a big bowl and then sifted it onto parchment paper, and then re-sifted back into the bowl)
Beat butter, icing sugar and salt until soft and creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add flour and green tea powder mixture and fold in with a spatula. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
(I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer to do the above mixing. The refrigeration is to harden the dough, as the butter might have become soft after all the handling/beating)
Take out dough from fridge and divide in half. Shape into logs about 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap the logs in parchment and refrigerate until firm. If not using immediately, wrap with cling film and freeze. Cookie dough can be kept for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Preheat oven to 150 deg Celsius. When dough is firm, cut logs into 7mm thick rounds. Dip edges in granulated sugar.
(I found it easier to coat the logs with sugar first, then to cut them. I also made several logs instead of 2 long logs as my dough kept breaking apart)
Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush a little egg white over the cookies and scatter a few green tea leaves on top if desired.
(I used black sesame seeds instead as I didn't have green tea leaves)
Bake for about 25 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on wire rack before serving. Store cookies in airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.