Green tea butter cookies

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while. Not for any good reason, since these little green tea shortbreads are wonderful. But it never quite felt like the right time to share them. First Thanksgiving, and then the start of real soup-and-stew season, and then, really, the world has so many sugary holiday goodie recipes already, why post this one, and, and, and…

But you know what? It’s almost Christmas, the perfect cookie time, and these are so simple and sophisticated and the perfect shade of festive green. So I’m sharing them now, and I’m pretty excited about it.

These are the second green tea cookie recipe I’ve tried so far, and like the chocolate chip cookies, they’re a real winner. They’re based on a French shortbread, or sablé, recipe, lightened up with cake flour and just a touch of baking powder. The resulting texture is sandy and rich like a good shortbread, but without the lingering graininess: these cookies really do melt in your mouth.

The matcha powder stains the dough a deep forest green, and if you taste the dough raw–which I cannot confirm or deny that I did–you might think the flavor is a little too intense. But in the oven, the color softens to a mossier green, and the green tea flavor becomes more delicate. Rolling the dough in coarse sugar is an optional step, but I highly recommend it, as the slight crunch around the outside of the cookies makes them even more elegant and lovely.

As I’m writing, I can’t help thinking that this is a terrific Christmas cookie recipe. The dough comes together in a matter of minutes, and once it’s been shaped into logs and chilled for a couple hours, you can simply slice off and bake as many cookies as you like. It also seems like a fairly kid-friendly recipe, since you could put small hands to work helping shape the bright green dough and roll it in sugar. And finally, like so many shortbreads, this seems at its best when eaten indoors on a cold winter day, possibly dunked into a mug of hot cocoa or–you guessed it–green tea.

green tea butter cookies

Green Tea Butter Cookies (makes about 3 dozen cookies)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups cake flour OR 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted

2 tbsp matcha (unsweetened green tea powder), sifted

2 large egg yolks

1 tsp almond extract

Coarse sugar for rolling (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour (or flour and cornstarch), baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, powdered sugar, and matcha until smooth. Add egg yolks and almond extract, and beat again until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined–a few streaks of flour are fine. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Turn the chilled dough portions out onto a work surface. One at a time, shape the dough into logs about 1 inch in diameter (I find it easiest to wrap the dough in plastic wrap before shaping). Wrap each log of dough tightly in plastic, transfer to a zip-top bag, and return to the refrigerator. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month and thaw in the fridge overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350º F and position the racks to divide the oven in thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, and roll them in coarse sugar (if desired). Using a sharp knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Place the sliced cookies on the baking sheets, leaving at least 1/2 inch space between them. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and place the baking sheets on cooling racks. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer them directly to the racks to cool completely.

Leftover cookies will keep at room temperature for 3-5 days, but their color and flavor may change if they’re exposed to light or heat. To minimize this, store baked cookies in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

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