In June, Food Republic is counting the many reasons to love Asian food in America right now. Here’s one of them.
Pastry chef Jen Yee grew up eating green tea ice cream, which gets its vibrant hue from matcha, a powdered form of green tea showing up in sweet and savory applications across the culinary world. A veteran of Charlie Palmer’s Aureole and Shaun Hergatt’s SHO, Yee is now pâtissiere (head pastry chef) at Andrew Carmellini’s Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery in New York’s Soho. Suffice it to say, she knows what’s popular, what’s about to be popular and what definitely should be popular. As a result, Yee incorporates matcha into dessert wherever she can.
“Matcha’s always been on my back burner,” Yee says. “Because of where I had been working, French and American places, it was never really a front-running ingredient. But now that matcha has this growing Western following, it think it’s more approachable, and I have more freedom to work with it.”
Why is matcha so popular now? The trend of healthier coffee alternatives is growing quickly, particularly among those who are sensitive to coffee. Matcha provides a caffeine buzz, but according to Yee, it’s more even-keeled. “You won’t get jittery and you won’t crash from a dose as opposed to a coffee crash.”
Interested in incorporating matcha into more of her pastry work, Yee consulted with the professionals. “I was speaking to a representative for a green tea company and asked her why matcha is so popular now,” she says in the kitchen at Lafayette, where we photographed some of her go-to matcha recipes. “I’ve really only seen it in Japanese restaurants and Asian grocery stores, in ice cream and as a hot drink, but now you see it everywhere from savory risotto to breakfast smoothies.”
Matcha comes in a very finely ground powder, which makes it a prime candidate for lots of culinary applications. “It dissolves well in any sort of moist environment,” Yee attests. “You can replace some of the flour in noodle dough with matcha, which will give you a beautiful color and flavor. It might also add a little oil, because matcha has an oily fattiness to it that helps it incorporate.”
What’s the best part of this delightfully trendy ingredient? It’s hard to choose just one, but consider the most forward attribute: its color. “Matcha does lend a nice chartreuse tint to things,” says Yee, who has some advice on curbing your desire to add green pigment to everything you make. “If you get a little carried away with the matcha, or it overcooks and oxidizes, it turns a weird army green. But if you use it correctly, the color can be beautiful. For example, we incorporate matcha into our chocolate spray, then spray mousse with green tea chocolate and it takes on this almost — I don’t even want to say it— but Kermit the frog green. It’s a very pleasant, eye-catching effect without using any food coloring.”
Go green with Jen Yee’s matcha recipes to make at home and keep a can or two in the pantry (now that you know when you’ll need it).
Matcha Chocolate Truffles
Prep Time: 35 minutes plus chilling time
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 4-6 as dessert
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (I like Valrhona Jivara)
- 2 1/2 ounces very soft butter, in small pieces
- About 3 1-ounce cans of matcha powder for dredging (you will have some left over)
- Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk in 1 teaspoon matcha powder and salt. Set aside.
- Gently melt the chocolate in a medium bowl over a pot of simmering water (or you can microwave it in 30- to 40-second increments). You don’t want the chocolate hot, just melted.
- Now pour about 1/4 cup of your still-warm cream into the chocolate. With a rubber spatula, vigorously stir in the cream. The mixture may look grainy at this point, but that’s okay.
- Continue to add the cream to the chocolate mixture, stirring well with each addition, until everything is in the bowl. The mixture will go from grainy-looking to greasy to smooth and silky.
- Now add your pieces of very soft butter and stir until it melts into the chocolate. If you find you still have bits of butter, use a whisk to incorporate. You have just made the perfect ganache!
- Immediately pour the ganache into a 9 x 13-inch sheet tray lined with plastic wrap. Tap the tray on the table to level out the ganache. Carefully place another piece of plastic directly on the surface of the ganache. Chill to set, about 2 hours, or overnight.
- Have another tray lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap ready for your truffles. Remove the top sheet of plastic and flip the ganache onto a cold cutting board. Using a thin bladed knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry, cut the ganache into 1-inch squares.
- Once everything is cut, place the remaining matcha powder in a shallow bowl or dish. Dredge each square of ganache into the powder, coating all sides, and gently shake off any excess.
- Rechill these and pack into gift boxes or keep in airtight containers. Consume within five days. Alternatively, you can store the naked squares in airtight containers in your freezer for your next truffle craving. Just defrost overnight in the same container in the fridge and dredge in matcha.
Coconut Matcha Smoothie
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Serving Size: 2
- 2 tablespoons matcha powder
- 2 to 4 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on how sweet you want it
- 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (I like Chaokoh brand)
- Put everything in a blender and blend at medium speed, moving to high speed, until the ice is crushed and there are no streaks of matcha remaining.
- Turn off and scrape down the blender once and make sure matcha is fully incorporated.
- Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately.
Matcha Yogurt Pops
Prep Time: 20 minutes plus freezing time
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Serving Size: 6 pops
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- 2 7-ounce tubs of Greek yogurt (I use Fage brand 2%)
- Pinch of salt
- Heat the milk and sugar in a pot until sugar dissolves. Pour into a blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend at medium speed, moving to high speed. You may have to turn off and scrape down the blender once to make sure matcha is fully incorporated.
- If you’d like to have fruit in your pops, slice and cut desired fruit and drop in a couple pieces in the bottom of the pop mold before filling with matcha mix. I like to stick a few more pieces to the sides of the mold as well so you can see which fruit it is.
- Pour the mixture into the pop molds and secure the handles. Freeze at least 4 hours or until completely frozen and solidified. Unmold by dipping mold in warm water and sliding pops out.