Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cupcakes to buzz about


Powdered green tea - best known as matcha green tea today - originated in China and traveled to Japan with the spread of Zen Buddhism in the 12th century. Matcha tea ceremonies grew popular among the Japanese upper class, and continue as a cultural tradition today.

In the 21st century, not monks but rather bakers, baristas, and ice cream makers have popularized matcha in the U.S. You can find matcha in green tea ice cream, green tea smoothies, green tea lattes, green tea donuts...

Matcha is made from shade-grown green tea leaves ground into a superfine powder with a stone. Only the youngest leaves are picked - new leaves are brighter in color and less tannic (thus producing a less bitter tea). Because of the high level of quality and great amount of labor that goes into matcha production, we see matcha priced relatively high, compared to other types of green teas.

When we consume matcha, we consume the entire tea leaf, and so the belief is that we benefit far more from the antioxidant quality of the tea.

I like matcha, because it is an exuberantly happy shade of green. I love the bright, clean green tea flavor, and how well it pairs with creamy textures, adding complexity to everyday treats.

My matcha cupcakes came from a recipe I found on eat, me delicious, which, I believe, came from Cupcake Bakeshop.

Green Tea or "Matcha" Cupcakes
1/2 sheet pan or 24 cupcakes
350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons matcha

1. Prepare sheet pan by rubbing with butter, covering with parchment, rubbing with more butter, and dusting with flour. Or, prepare cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
3. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs/egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to batter and mix to combine.
6. Mix matcha in with the milk. (A bamboo matcha whisker is helpful for getting rid of clumps.) Add to the batter and mix until combined.
7. Pour into prepared 1/2 sheet pan and smooth flat or cupcake pan.
8. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

I topped each cupcake, once cooled, with a basic vanilla egg white frosting and sprinkled some toasted coconut on top.

PS - Each cupcake should contain about 20 mg caffeine from the matcha powder (a can of Coke is about 35 mg).