Photo from Zenmatchatea.For hundreds of years the Japanese royal family, the cream of the elite and of course Zen Buddhist monks have taken part in the highly ritualized tea ceremony, or Way of Tea, which involves the consumption of the very finely powdered form of green tea called matcha.
I just wanted to bake a cake with it.
I'm not the only fan. Today, from the Starbucks Matcha Frappucino to the Jamba Juice Matcha Energy Shot Orange Juice, from Pierre Herme's elaborately constructed matcha cakes and chocolates to matcha and tiramisu-flavored Kit Kat bars, from energy bars to cereals, matcha has hit Main street in many parts of the world. Based on the cooking magazines I rifle through, sites I visit and friends I talk to, my informal perception is that the French are a good deal more charmed by matcha flavor possibilities than are Americans, who seem to focus on the very significant health and dieting benefits. Once again, I kind of find myself in the French camp.
Image from Zenmatchatea.Matcha is made from the same Camellia sinensis plant as regular green teas, but is ten to fifteen times more potent than normal steeped green tea (and boasts 70 times the antioxydant power of orange juice). Basically, instead of consuming an infusion of the leaves, you are actually consuming a refined version of the leaves themselves.The difference between regular green tea and matcha lies primarily in the growth and harvest of the plant. Matcha is harvested from shade-grown plants, as is the expensive gyokuro, or "jade dew". Because they are sheltered from the sun, these plants have both boosted chlorophyll content and amino acids that sweeten the the leaves. Only the youngest, most tender leaves and bud from the top of the plant are picked by hand, deveined, de-stemmed, shade-dried and stone-ground to the fineness of talc. According to Wikipedia, it can take up to an hour to grind 30 grams of matcha...Good quality matcha has an intense flavor and a marked sweetness you cannot find in any other sort of green tea, powdered or not. Chefs and home cooks continue to discover that matcha pairs quite beautifully with any kind of chocolate, including white, vanilla, cinnamon and other Chai spices including ginger, and cream-based drinks/dishes (such as tiramisu, panna cotta, and crème brûlée). I decided to go with a recipe for Marbled Chocolate and Matcha Bundt Cake, from Bakerella's kitchen. Except that I unfortunately don't have a Bundt pan (yet), so I used a silicone pan, hence the decorative top. Verdict? Rich, intriguing and delicious, so check out her recipe (linked above) if you're intrigued.There are some other recipes I really want to try, specifically one for chocolate and matcha truffles. But then again, maybe I should go Japanese Zen and lose weight American style by drinking a cup a day. Hmm.I'll toss a coin and let you know how it turns out.