Classic shortbread cookies will never go out of style. Their rich, buttery flavor and irresistibly crumbly texture are incomparable. Shortbreads are also very simple to make and lend themselves easily to variations. The leaf-shaped cookie cutter I use for this recipe is a playful nod to that fact that these contain leaves—tea leaves. Matcha is Japanese green tea that is finely ground into a powder and used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It’s very concentrated in flavor and color. As with all teas, there is a huge range of quality and prices. (Ito En is a Japanese tea company that offers many matchas from which to choose. For baking, I like their Kiri No Ne matcha, which not only has a lovely color and flavor profile, but also happens to be less expensive than many.)–Dede Wilson
LC How Much Matcha? Note
In the recipe below, author Dede Wilson suggests a varying amount of matcha. In her words, “I offer a range as it has a distinct flavor that some might prefer on the nuanced side. If this is the case, use the lesser amount. If you’re a matcha fan, use the more generous proportion.” Makes sense. She also notes that the coarse sanding sugar can be ordered here.
Matcha Tea Leaf Shortbreads
- 2 x 1-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutter
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons matcha (powdered green tea), to taste
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse sanding sugar optional
- Line 2 jelly-roll pans with parchment paper; set aside.
- Whisk the flour and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed with the flat paddle attachment until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the matcha and beat until the mixture is a uniform green color and very creamy. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating on high speed until very light and fluffy. Turn the machine off, add about one third of the flour, then turn the machine on to low speed. Gradually add the remaining flour, mixing just until blended, scraping down the bowl once or twice. The mixture will look crumbly; if you squeeze it between your fingers, it will come together. Gather it together into a ball with your hands while it is still in the bowl.
- Roll out the shortbread dough to a 1/4-inch thickness between two pieces of lightly floured parchment. Peel off the top parchment and cut the dough in half. Sprinkle the sanding sugar evenly over one half of the shortbread dough and gently, with hardly any pressure, roll over it with a rolling pin to help it adhere. Using a 2 x 1-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible from both doughs and place on the prepared pans 1 inch apart. Use the back of a sharp paring knife to make vein patterns on each shortbread (see photo above). Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight, if desired.
- Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) . Bake the shortbreads for 17 to 22 minutes, or until the cookies are dry and firm to the touch; their color will not change. The shortbreads should retain their shape if you try to pick one up, and there should also be a fragrant butter and matcha scent emanating from the oven. Cool on the pans set on racks for a couple of minutes, and then carefully transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely. Store the shortbreads at room temperature for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Here’s a case where my first batch of cookies looked every bit as beautiful as the picture-perfect cookies in the recipe photograph. The cookies are light and tasty, and they are delicately pretty, with the green of the matcha lovely and appealing. (To be certain to achieve that lovely green color, I used the full two tablespoons of matcha powder, the top of the specified range on the ingredients list. Because the matcha flavor is subtle, this ended up being an excellent idea!) They are a melt-in-your-mouth cookie, perfect in the size specified, and the batch makes plenty to have and to share. I had no difficulty locating a leaf cutter to match the one in the photo.
Note that while the recipe states it makes eighty cookies, my yield was fifty cookies.
Definitely top with the sugar: it adds the perfect finish to this cookie. Top them all, not just half! The sugar-topped cookies looked more festive and special than those left plain. I substituted raw sugar for the coarse sanding sugar, which worked just fine. Make these to serve with tea, after a Japanese meal instead of green tea ice cream, or whenever you’d normally make shortbread, or a sugar or butter cookie. They are very simple to make and the results look more impressive for the same amount of work as other similar cookies. They look extra-special with the leaf shape, though they’d certainly work with a round cutter, a heart or star, or any of the more standard shapes in the cookie cutter repertoire. Note that it was a good idea to refrigerate the cookies before baking, in order to help preserve the precision of the shape, though it was not necessary. Even the ones that were not refrigerated looked terrific.
Refrigerating overnight is a tempting option for the future, so they could be baked off right before serving. Being able to store them for up to two weeks creates another advantage: Either way, they can be made, in whole or in part, in advance.
These would make a beautiful hostess gift. They are sturdy enough to pack and travel a bit and visually impressive: a little bag or box of these would surely make the recipient feel loved and appreciated!
Originally published December 21, 2009