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Meet your matcha

Subtle, creative and sophisticated green tea desserts: a test of culinary competence

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

For a while now, I've been interested in matcha (finely ground green tea) desserts. I first tasted them in Japan, where powdered green tea was used to flavour mochi and chiffon cake, but French-trained Japanese pastry chefs such as Sadaharu Aoki took matcha to another level with beautiful, subtle variations on mille-feuille and the eclair. Don't use too much matcha, though, or the colour will be garish and the flavour bitter.

 

Matcha tea cakes (pictured)
These can be baked in any type of small, bite-size mould. I use pistachios because the green colour of the nut is intensified by the matcha. If you like, though, substitute blanched almonds.

The deliciousness of this recipe comes primarily from a large quantity of beurre noisette - butter that's melted, then cooked until brown and nutty smelling.

 

220 grams unsalted butter
60 grams shelled, unsalted pistachios
180 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1-2 tsp matcha
60 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
160 grams egg whites, at room temperature

 

Put the butter in a saucepan and melt it over a low-medium flame. Drape a paper towel over the pan (making sure it doesn't come into contact with the flame) and cover it partially with the lid. (The paper towel is to catch the steam and splatters from the cooking butter; the lid is to keep the paper towel in place. Do not cover the pan entirely with the lid.) Cook the butter until it's medium brown. Cool to lukewarm, then strain through a sieve into a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the pistachios on a baking tray that fits them in one layer, place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant but not brown. Cool them to room temperature.

Put the pistachios, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the matcha and flour and process until combined. Through the feed tube of the processor, and with the motor on, add the butter, then mix in the egg whites. Scrape the mixture into a container, cover with cling film then refrigerate for at least eight hours.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Spray moulds (of the same size, so they bake evenly) with non-stick pan-coating. Fill the moulds three-quarters with the mixture and bake for 10 minutes, or until the tea cakes are fragrant, starting to brown at the edges, and have tops that are firm when touched lightly with the fingertips. Take them from the moulds while they're still hot and turn them upside down, pressing on them to slightly flatten the "hump". If the hump is too big, trim it off so the tea cake sits flat, without falling over. Serve warm.

 

Green tea meringue and jasmine tea ganache sandwiches
Although I've been making ganache - a mixture of chocolate and liquid - since my days as a pastry apprentice, I only learned the correct technique a few years ago, at a master class given by Frederic Bau, director of L'Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona. He told us to think of the ganache as a fat and liquid emulsion, such as a mayonnaise - if you add the liquid too quickly, the emulsion will break, or curdle. He told us to add the liquid slowly, so the chocolate can absorb it without separating.

 

For the meringues:
125 grams egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp fine sea salt
135 grams caster sugar
10 grams cornstarch
About 1 tsp matcha
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

For the ganache:
225ml strongly-brewed jasmine tea, warm
250 grams bittersweet chocolate, with a
cacao content of about 65 per cent, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 110 degrees. Thoroughly combine the caster sugar, cornstarch and matcha in a bowl.

In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer on low-medium speed. Whip in the sea salt, then turn the mixer to medium. Start whipping in the sugar/matcha mixture in a slow, steady stream. When all of the sugar/matcha has been added, turn the mixer speed to high and whip until the mixture is light and glossy, with medium-firm peaks. The meringue should be pale green; if you want it a deeper colour, whip in a little more matcha. Whip in the lemon juice.

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with an 8mm plain tip. Pipe 2cm flattish circles onto a parchment paper-lined baking tray. Bake at 110 degrees for about an hour, or until the meringues are firm, crisp and dry throughout (break one open to check). They should remain pale green; if they start to brown at the edges, reduce the heat to between 80 and 100 degrees. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool.

Make the ganache. Put the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl and microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is about 80 per cent melted. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth, letting the residual heat melt the remaining chocolate.

Add about 50ml of the jasmine tea to the chocolate and whisk to combine. Continue to add more of the tea in small quantities, whisking until smooth. At first, the chocolate will stiffen, but as you add more of the tea, it will smooth out. When all of the tea has been added, the chocolate should be smooth and glossy. Leave at room temperature to cool and thicken, whisking occasionally.

Spoon ganache on the flat side of half of the meringues then top with the remaining meringues. Serve immediately, or store in an air-tight container for a few hours. Do not refrigerate.

Shape any leftover ganache into balls and dust with cocoa powder to make truffles.

 

 

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