[Travelling in my kitchen] to… Japan with matcha & white chocolate biscuits recipe

From my trip in Japan in Spring last year, I brought back quite a few things; and no, I’m not only referring to the cotton Hello Kitty emergency underwear I bought to make-do while waiting for the temporary lost suitcase. I also came back with 2 packs of matcha.

What the h*ll is matcha? It’s basically green tea powder. Instead of infusing tea leaves, just dissolve the very bright green powder into hot water. According to the legends, it has been drunk in Japan as part of the tea ceremony for almost 900 years, and is used by Buddhist monks to keep them alert, awake and focused during long days of meditation.

matcha powder

Reality is that, I was very curious but I never used it. It’s been decorating my “exotic product” kitchen shelf for months… With an expiry date approaching soon, I really needed to find a good use to this green gold, and I was pretty unlikely to hydrate myself the way bodybuilding.com recommends!!! (sight).

Granted that the butter and chocolate in those cookies probably outweigh the weight loss alleged benefit, however the “mind improving” power was clearly quite strong – or maybe it was just the amazing night with the girls in Paris… Perhaps. But try them, you’ll tell me.

I initially tried the Americano-Japanese soft backed cookies and while they were good, I found them a little bit “too much”. Also I could never quite reconcile in my head the quiet Japanese tea-room atmosphere with those gooey white choc naughty things!! I love the green tea / white chocolate combination though, and I thought I would come up with something a little bit more Japanese-lady like.

Ingredients:

  • 250gr all-purpose flour
  • 50gr almond powder
  • 50gr demeara sugar
  • 50gr caster sugar
  • 100gr soft butter
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 ts baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • couple of spoonfuls of milk
  • 2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • sprinkle sugar or / crushed almonds or/ 75gr white chocolate

matcha cookies

*Instructions

Start mixing the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and almond powder; throw a spoon of matcha powder and watch the mix becoming weirdly green.

Dig a little whole in the middle and break the egg in, and add the softened butter. Stir well. You will probably need to add about 3 spoonful of milk to get soft dough (depends on the size of your egg).

Shape the dough as a big sausage, wrap in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 20min.

Pre-heat the oven, 180 degrees.

Roll the dough on a flat surface and cut the shapes with a cookie cutter or a round glass. If you prefer the almond or sugar sprinkle version then roll the edges each biscuit into crushed almonds / sugar ahead of baking. Otherwise bake first and cover in white chocolate later.

Bake for ~15min at 180 degrees.

Cool on a rack while softening the white chocolate in a water bath. Once melted throughout, poor into a piping bag (or a freezer bag where you will cut a tiny corner) and start drawing on the biscuits. Let cool and dry. Enjoy!!

Next stop…red bean paste? Not sure if I can manage that!

Afternoon tea in Tokyo
afternoon tea at Kyohayashiya, Mid Town Toyo

my fix of matcha sweet in London at Yauatcha, Soho

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I’m reading The Popol Vuh, the Sacred book of the Quiché Maya people… Guatemala 3 weeks to go!

yes!! 3 weeks before leaving to Guatemala and I’m really excited!!

So while I’m counting days, I’m reading Mayan legends, browsing through travel blogs (I have been studying what the chaps at Eat Drink Culture did for example), trying to find hiking boots (well I have to admit, I desperately want the boots that Cheryl Strayed wears in the film Wild, but that’s for another topic), watching documentaries, in particular I watched the excellent When the Mountains tremble and Granito by Pamela Yates, and I’m getting my photo gear in order…

I’m also trying to work on a trip planning that works for just a week, following a weekend in Guate City, for a long overdue catch up with friends. Guatemala looks like a small country but I am having a hard time fitting it all in one week so please feel free to comment and advise if you think I’m making any major mistake there!

* Sunday:
06:30 Flight to Flores
Arrive in Flores and transport to Tikal
Sunset tour in Tikal
Overnight in Tikal

* Monday:
Sunrise tour in Tikal
Shuttle back to Flores
18:30 Flight back to Guatemala city
Overnight in Antigua

* Tuesday:
Walking and discovering Antigua
Overnight in Antigua

* Wednesday:
Pacaya volcanoe hike
In the afternoon transport to Antigua
Overnight in Antigua

* Thursday
shuttle from Antigua to Chichicastenango Market
Overnight in Pana or maybe Antigua, not sure yet?!

* Friday
Boat tour around Lake Atitlan
Back to Guatemala City and to London on the Saturday morning!

Is it too much to cram in 1 week?
I was dying to go trekking to but just could not resolve myself to miss Tikal…

any good guides recomendation? hotels? food I shouldn’t miss? precautions to take?

Map out your favourite films

OMG, I just got really excited. I love clever mapping, and I can’t remember what the world was like before Google maps!? I also love linking places to popular culture, and sitting in a cinema watching James Bond driving accross the Istanbul Gran Bazaar and thinking “oh I was there a month ago”, is almost as good as the trip itself (almost). So I got really excited when I found this post: those guys created a map including over 300 Oscar winners from the 1950s to the present day, the best actor/actress as well as 5 top box office hits from the last 30 years.

Check it out:

map your favourite films

Map out your favourite films.

Travelling in my kitchen to…the Italian Alps with a fennel flavoured rye bread “la Puccia”

Just back from the Italian Dolomites Alps where snow was pretty scarce, but nevertheless 4 days of sun, good company and gorgeous food made up for it! Cortina D’Ampezzo is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, about a couple hours away from Venice and about 4h from Milan making it a resort of choice for Northern Italians looking to parade a fluffy fur. The village has that atmospheric old-fashioned chic to it, but it’s actually their fennel flavoured bread that I will dedicate this post to.

cortina_italy_dolomiti

The “Puccia” bread is a brown, fennel and cumin seeds flavoured bread from Trentino Alto Adige (it seems there are also other versions of it in the south). In local dialect, “puccia” means that it “came badly”, i.e., it didn’t raise much, describing that flattish shape.

 

puccia bread out of the oven

Ingredients for 2 loafs of 500gr each:

– 500gr rye flour
– 200gr refreshed white manitoba 50:50 leaven
– 300gr tepid water
– 2 spoons of malt sugar
– 8gr of salt
– 1-3 tbs of fennel seeds
– 1 tbs of cumin seeds

Instructions: 

Take 200gr of refreshed starter leaven and stir it lightly with 100gr of tepid water. Put the rye flour in a large bowl, in a “volcano” shape and pour the diluted leaven, water and malt sugar little by little, while mixing at hand (or at slow speed in the bread mixer). Rest for 15min.

Add the salt and seeds and knead for another 5-10min and until well mixed. Let it rest in its covered bowl for another hour or couple of hours (depending on how active your leaven is, and the temperature of your room).

At this stage I actually retarded mine overnight in the fridge.

Shape in 2 round flat loafs and let rest another little bit while pre-heating the oven at maximum temperature; and when ready, turn down the temperature to 220 and bake for 25min, then turn it down again to 200 degrees and bake for another 25min.

puccia bread wild yeast

 

It’s delicious with a soup, I tried the earthy mountain version of the Zuppa d’orzo (barley soup), yum!

A well deserved grappa with wild berries after a heavy mountain meal...
A well deserved grappa with wild berries after a heavy mountain meal…cheers!

 

other recipes in Italian, but I couldn’t find any using wild yeast:

http://laforchettarossa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/pane-di-segale-con-semi-di-finocchio-e.html

http://terradeltipico.blogspot.it/2013/01/veneto-puccia-di-cortina.html