Tea and cookies, pre-assembled: Chocolate-dipped Green Tea Shortbread Cookies

by Marion on November 28, 2012

Japanese matcha green tea and bittersweet chocolate make these buttery shortbread cookies deliciously decadent, with coffee or tea. Recipe below.

It’s the time of year again when people are streaming in and out of our house, and we are streaming in and out of lots of other houses too. To help with all the festive to-ing and fro-ing, we like to have some lovely treats on hand. This year, for the first time, we’ve added green tea shortbread cookies to our arsenal.

Shortbread cookies are so wonderful—buttery, delicate, crumbly goodness. Adding matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) gives them a faintly herbal, haunting note—still delicate, but with a slightly sophisticated edge.

The Internet has dillions of shortbread recipes, but really there is only one. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen notes that, in her green tea shortbread cookie recipe, and so it is. There are faint variations in the amounts of this or that, and now and then someone will add an egg (noooooooo!), and the cookie décor might be different, but really, look around. All the recipes are the same.

Shortbread cookies have very few ingredients, so each one needs to be fresh and of high quality. I recommend using familiar, fresh, unsalted American-style butter rather than a  European-style butter like Plugra. The difference is that American butters have a higher water content, and when you are making shortbread, you need that extra bit of water to help it transition from a collection of inchoate ingredients into a single mass.

Regarding the green tea, we hope you will use the best matcha you can find. See the Kitchen Notes for a couple of outlets we recommend.

The most onerous part of this process is melting the chocolate, and that part isn’t complicated at all.

Chocolate-dipped Green Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened green tea powder (matcha—about 1/2 ounce)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling on the unbaked cookies (optional)
5 or 6 one-ounce squares of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 325ºF. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, powdered sugar and matcha.

In another bowl, beat the softened butter with an electric hand mixer, just until it becomes soft. Beat in the vanilla. Then gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Everything should form a single mass. If it stubbornly remains a powdery bunch of crumbs, sprinkle in one or two teaspoons of water, and continue to mix. When everything is combined, you will have a beautiful green dough. Cut it in half, form each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Longer than this and you may have to let it warm up a bit so it can be worked.

Lightly flour your surface and a rolling pin, place a disc on the table, and roll it out to about a quarter-inch thickness. I cut these cookies into little rectangles, then used a spatula to move them onto parchment or waxed paper on a baking sheet. These cookies don’t spread out much in the baking, so can be pretty closely spaced on the baking sheet. Once they are all set out on the baking sheets, sprinkle lightly with the confectioner’s sugar.

Slide the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes or so, depending on the neurosis level of your oven. They should lightly brown around the edges.

Cool the cookies completely on a rack. Only after they are cooled should you try to dip them.

For dipping, chop the chocolate, then melt it in the top of a double boiler until it is shiny and liquid. To dip the cookies, hold by one end, then dip the other end, gently shake off the excess and place on waxed paper on a rack or plate. Once the cookies are set, which will take a while, store them in an airtight container with waxed paper between the layers. Done. The cookies will keep for a week or more.

If you wish, you can also skip the chocolate entirely and just serve these in their delicate, elegant simplicity.

Kitchen Notes

Dipping chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate, but dark chocolate would also work wonderfully. Use baking chocolate, not chocolate chips—the former melts, the latter doesn’t.

Why not white chocolate? Because it is no fun to work with. A “derivative” of chocolate, it’s made from cocoa butter, sugar , salt and milk. That is, white chocolate is not chocolate, and it doesn’t behave like chocolate. In particular, when you try to melt it, it never becomes smoothly liquid like actual chocolate. In the process of making these cookies, I did try melting the white stuff. Even though I knew better, I actually was seized with the notion that maybe this time it would work out. The result was pretty much a stiff, resistant (but melted) blob. I did get white chocolate on one cookie, but it looked like hell (although the lucky recipient said it tasted great). If you want this cookie with a white chocolate taste, I recommend Deb’s green tea cookie sandwich recipe.

How about the tea? The matcha in this recipe came from the Spice House. Our more usual source, and our favorite source for great teas, period, is Harney & Sons.

How about a coffee? By the way, these cookies are fantastic with a cup of coffee. When friends drop by during the holidays, serve these and Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies, and you are set.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

randi November 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Is Matcha that salty green tea? I can’t believe I’ve never made shortbread cookies, considering how much I love them. Probably a good thing because I wouldn’t share.

Susie November 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm

These sound good enough for me to actually bake something!

kitchenriffs November 29, 2012 at 12:15 am

You’re so right about all shortbread recipes being essentially the same. Same is true of lots of other recipes, of course. Which is why I’m always more interested in how well someone prepares a recipe than I am with the originality of it. With that said, I’ve never had green tea in my shortbread! I like the idea, a lot. And how perfect to serve with tea! ;-) Really good stuff – thanks.

Marion November 29, 2012 at 1:43 am

Randi, might you be thinking of some of the green teas that also include popped or toasted rice, like genmaicha? As it happens, matcha is simply pure green tea, stone ground to become ultra-fine; the classic way to drink it is to whisk it into boiling water – you are consuming the whole leaf, blended into the water, rather than the liquid created by the steeping process.

Susie, I hope you try them – and if you skip the chocolate coating, they are even simpler to prepare.

Kitchenriffs, you are always so nice! Give this recipe a shot. I think you’ll like it.

angela@spinachtiger November 29, 2012 at 4:17 am

What a lovely idea. I might have tea cookies with coffee. Would that work?

Marion November 29, 2012 at 4:43 am

Angela, it worked for me!

Marc November 29, 2012 at 11:35 am

Well, there goes an hour of my Saturday! You’ve inspired me to crank up the oven.
=)

Marion November 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Enjoy, Marc! I hope it will be an hour well spent.

Alma November 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I haven’t done any baking in a while because I haven’t been inspired by any recipes. I feel as though I have been waiting for this one (or has it been waiting for me?) Can’t wait to try it out.

The Rowdy Chowgirl November 29, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Ok, absolutely brilliant! I’m making these! Wish me luck, because I’m really not a baker, but I can’t resist.

Marion November 30, 2012 at 2:21 am

Alma, yes, it has been waiting for you, and I bet it will become part of your life, too.

Chowgirl, thanks, kiddo!

Both you guys, one of the great things about this recipe is that it is not very fiddly. It’s baking for people who are suspicious of baking yet want a swell payoff.

Mary December 3, 2012 at 12:30 am

DEF initely going to make this for holiday gifts (I’ll safrifice and eat the ugly ones!) I’m looking at the Harney and Sons website…Should we purchase the “Thin Grade” matcha or the “Thick Grade”?

Marion December 3, 2012 at 5:56 am

Mary, I recommend the thin grade.

kitty December 5, 2012 at 4:18 am

oh my gosh. These look great!

don’t you just want to retire right now and cook all day?!

Marion December 6, 2012 at 4:41 am

Kitty, pretty much – cook, eat, and paint.

Valentina December 6, 2012 at 5:11 am

what a fantastic cookie — and yes, the perfect treat to have on hand this time of year! :-)

lapiubelladitutte December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I would love some of them with my tea-coffee or even with out!

theflyingjenny December 15, 2012 at 3:35 am

What simplistic beauty. I keep a tin of matcha in my cupboard just in case I get the whim to make something — anything! — with it. Green tea pancakes, green tea muffins, green tea cupcakes, green tea madeleines… I love the earthy flavor of it, and how it makes me feel like I am almost eating a “healthy” snack. I’m in the process of making this recipe right now, but I wanted to incorporate coconut somehow. Any suggestions?

I’m a novice baker who usually doesn’t trust herself enough to wing it, but I think I am going to form the dough in a log, freeze it for just under an hour, and then brush with a bit of water and roll the log in shredded coconut. I plan on slicing a quarter-inch-thick pieces and then baking as the recipe says.

I would love to hear suggestions from more experienced bakers. Thanks!

Marion December 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Jenny, sorry I did not see this yesterday – how did it come out?

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