I wondered if I would be bouncing off the walls from all of the caffeine as I made my way to the Coffee and Tea Festival back in February. At least that was the case when I went to the Chocolate Show the previous year. By the end of the three hours, I ate so much chocolate that I was talking ten miles a minute, and darting from booth to booth.
This time I took a more leisurely pace, and had the pleasure to get to know a number of the exhibitors. It is always more interesting when you get to meet the founder behind the brand. Then I get to ask probing questions such as “How did you get started?”, “Why are you passionate about this product?”, and “What did you have for dinner last night?”
One such founder was Cheryl from Cheryl’s Tea. As she mixed a small cup of sencha tea for me, I asked if she was “THE Cheryl.” (With my uncanny Sherlock Holmes ability, I deduced that it was not the guy standing next to her.) I was intrigued by her twist on sencha tea powder. Instead of offering different types of tea leaves, she focuses on sencha tea powder in original, mint and cinnamon flavors.
Ever since my experiment with almond chai cupcakes last year, the gears in my brain have been squeeking with ideas on incorporating tea in both sweet and savory dishes. Cheryl’s sencha tea was a wonderful challenge to take on as part of my project. All I knew was that I wanted to create something unique and indulgent. I also wanted to feature sencha front and center, and decided to first work with the original flavor. For weeks I sniffed the tea, drank the tea, and kept smacking my lips imagining the taste of sencha as I went about my day.
Sencha is a mild green tea. It also has a hint of nuttiness that reminds me of roasted brown rice. It is grown in the sun, and is served as an everyday tea in many Japanese homes. On the other hand, matcha is a green tea that is grown in the shade, and is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Matcha has a sharper, more bitter flavor and is what we are more familiar when it comes to green tea flavored desserts.
At first I had the brilliant idea of making White Chocolate Sencha Truffles. Fat is a great flavor carrier, and because white chocolate is mostly made up of cocoa butter it would be a great base so that the sencha melts into your tastebuds. Milk and dark chocolate would overpower the mild flavor of the tea so I nixed those options right away. Even though ganache is typically comprised of heavy cream and chocolate, I added a small amount of butter to create a smoother mouthfeel.
After making the sencha ganache, I realized that my brilliant idea was not quite so brilliant. The sencha was perfect with the white chocolate, but the white chocolate was too sweet without something to balance it out. I put the ganache away in the refrigerator and mulled over this dilemma for one more day.
I came up with brilliant idea #2 to use the sencha ganache as a filling for a sandwich cookie. I needed to create a cookie that had a minimum amount of sugar so that it could temper the sweetness of the filling. The cookie also had to be delicate to complement the mildness of the sencha and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the ganache. To achieve this lightness and fine crumb, I used confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch. I needed some baking powder so that the cookie would not turn out as a flat biscuit. However, I used only a small amount to prevent the cookie from puffing up and becoming cakey.
To make the cookie even more indulgent I added shredded coconut, making sure to use the unsweetened kind since the ganache was sweet enough. The coconut works well with the roasted nuttiness in the sencha tea. And rather than mixing the coconut into the batter, I rolled the cookie dough in it before baking because the dusting of coconut provides a sumptuous visual preview.
In the end, my brilliant idea was a success. I savored each bite as I polished off the batch, thinking that these were one of the best cookies I ever created. That counts as success for me and my sweet tooth. Of course, happiness (even the sugar-induced kind) needs to be shared so I promptly baked another batch for my
guinea pigs friends and family.
Recipe creation is often a long process, and sometimes quite frustrating. There have been numerous times when I have had to just dump a whole test batch into the garbage because I was be too embarrassed to be associated with it. And once in a while, it is so bad that I want to drive the garbage bag to the nearest construction site and bury it where no one will ever find it. Oh wait, are we still talking about cookies here? Anyway, every so often a “flop” can lead to an even greater end product. And these dances-for-joy-moments make it all worth it. I am already thinking of recipes for the other two sencha tea powder flavors: Sencha Snickerdoodles (cinnamon) and Sencha Mint Chocolate Cookies (mint).
I would love to hear about your own recipe creation experiences. Leave a comment with some of your best concoctions and crazy flops. And to get you started on your own sencha adventure, Cheryl’s Tea has graciously offered to give away a pack of all three of their teas (see photo below) to a lucky Tasty Pursuits reader. The giveaway details are below. Or you could use the tea to make these Sencha Coconut Cookies. One can is good for four recipes or 75 cups of tea.
Sencha Coconut Cookies
4 ounces white chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Cheryl’s Tea sencha powder (original flavor)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (for dipping)
1/3 cup shredded coconut (for rolling the cookies)
In a small bowl, microwave the white chocolate, heavy cream and butter for 30 seconds. Stir the mixture and continue to microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is mostly melted. Stir the mixture to finish melting the chocolate with the residual heat.
Add the vanilla and sencha powder to the chocolate mixture. Stir well. Refrigerate while baking the cookies.
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
Combine the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, mix the butter and confectioner’s sugar until just combined, about 1 minute.
Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and mix on medium-high until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and mix just until it becomes smooth, about 30 seconds.
Roll the dough into balls the size of 1 1/2 teaspoons. Place the shredded coconut into a small bowl and roll the dough balls in the coconut. Lay the balls out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use silpat baking sheets) 2 inches apart.
Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in granulated sugar, and press down on one of the balls to create a flattened cookie shape. Repeat with the remaining balls, dipping the glass in granulated sugar between each one.
Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until the bottom edges of the cookies become a pale golden color. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let the cookies completely cool for 30 minutes – 1 hour. If they are not completely cooled, they will melt the ganache when you assemble the “sandwiches.”
Pair up similar sized cookies. Scoop some of the sencha ganache onto the center of one cookie. Cover with the second cookie and gently press to flatten the ganache. If the ganache is too stiff
Retweet the following message along with your favorite cookie to win a pack of all three Cheryl’s Tea flavors (Original Sencha Tea, Cinnamon and Mint):
RT Cheryl’s Tea #giveaway from @TastyPursuits http://ow.ly/4SqX3 #tastysencha
- Contest ends May 31, 2011 at 11:45 p.m. Eastern.
- Contest open to US States only.
- Anyone found using multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible.
- One entry per person per day.
- Winner will be chosen via onekontest.com and will have 3 days to respond before becoming disqualified and a new winner is chosen.