Matcha Shortbread Cookies with Dark Honey and Orange Icing

Photo: Camille Llosa

A shortbread cookie is made for tea — so what’s better than one made with tea? Here the verdant and earthy flavour of matcha is paired with the traditional heft and creaminess of a shortbread cookie to add an unexpected twist to this holiday classic.

The traditional shortbread originates from Scotland and typically consists of one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. The dough itself is dense and crumbly, almost the consistency of damp sand, and can at times be difficult to work with. Too cold and dry and it barely takes shape; too warm and wet and it will not hold a shape when cooked. The trick here is patience and gentleness. There are multiple resting times in the refrigerator to reset the butter, but your patience will be rewarded when perfectly even shortbread emerges hot and buttery from the oven.

What is great about shortbread is that the cookies do not spread in the oven, like a chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie might.  As long as the cookies are rolled out to a uniform thickness, you can make them with any shaped cookie cutter you please. Here we suggest using a 1½-inch circle, but the traditional shortbread fluted rectangle would work equally well.

Matcha is included in this iteration to develop colour and add a mild and slightly savory flavor to this humble biscuit. Matcha itself is a powdered, specially grown green tea, most commonly used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, where it is ritualistically whisked into a frothy green tea.

Because these cookies have a depth of flavor and only a mild sweetness, they take well to a very sweet icing, made with deep, dark honey and orange to accentuate the dynamic flavor of the tea. Any dark honey will do, but the darker and more locally sourced the better. If all you have in your pantry is commodity honey, it will suffice in a pinch, but take note that the icing will retain a white appearance as opposed to an amber hue.

(Makes approximately 24 1½-inch cookies.)

Ingredients

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

½ lb (2.26 g) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 ½ tablespoons (22.5 ml) of matcha powder

¾ cups (175 ml) of white sugar

2 ½ cups (625 ml) of white flour, sifted

¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) of salt

1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract

Dark Honey and Orange Icing

1 cup (250 ml) of icing sugar

3 tablespoons (45 ml) of orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, from a small sweet orange, such as a mandarin or clementine)

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons (30 ml) of dark honey, such as buckwheat

Method

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Sift the matcha powder into the butter and whip until fully combined and an even green colour.

Gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whip until the sugar and butter have creamed, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Working in small batches, add the flour and salt while mixing on medium low speed, until all of the flour is incorporated.

Lay out a large, baking sheet-sized piece of parchment and form the dough into a ball on the parchment.

Gradually roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness. This must be done slowly with even pressure, as the dough itself is crumbly.

Maneuver the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes have elapsed, remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator. Using the cookie cutter of your choice, cut out as many cookies as the dough will allow and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Return the cookies once more to the refrigerator and chill for an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325F. Bake the cookies for 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cook on a wire rack.

Prepare the icing by whisking the icing sugar and orange juice together until evenly blended. Next, add the honey and vanilla extract and whisk until an even consistency is achieved.

Once the cookies are cool, drizzle the icing over them.

Photo: Camille Llosa

Photo: Camille Llosa