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Matcha has been around for more than a thousand years, first in China and then Japan, where it's central to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It's only in the last few years, though, that the green tea has started to catch on in the U.S.—you can now order a matcha latte at Starbucks. Proponents of the green powder—matcha is made from finely ground tea leaves that are mixed with hot water—tout its high levels of antioxidants and the feeling of calm alertness that's supposed to come from its combination of caffeine and L-theanine (an amino acid said to reduce stress).
Kristine Antonian, pastry chef at the recently revived Cherry Circle Room, had baked with matcha before Farmhouse Tavern's Emily Kraszyk challenged her to create a dish with it, but she'd never gotten into drinking it. "It's kind of bitter . . . really earthy," she says. "It's a pretty strong flavor, especially when it's just mixed into water, as opposed to mixed into recipes."
Her solution: incorporate matcha into a recipe that reminded her of a cup of tea. "My inspiration for the dish was encompassing everything in a cup of tea: milk, honey, vanilla, and sugar," she says. She made cake with matcha powder, which she served with milk and honey sherbet, honey-lemon gelee, tiny matcha meringues, and strawberries compressed in a honey, lemon, and vanilla syrup. After garnishing the dish with candied almond clusters and microgreens, she whisked matcha with hot water in a tea bowl and poured it into the bowl.
"The creaminess and the fat from the almond milk and the sugar really mellows out that bitterness and acidity in the matcha," Antonian says. "It's like a cup of tea in a bowl."
Antonian has challenged Christian Ragano of Cindy's—another restaurant in the Chicago Athletic Association—to create a dish with yuzu. "I didn't want to give him something too crazy," Antonian says.
Matcha cake with milk and honey sherbet and matcha meringues
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 T matcha powder
1¼ cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup Greek yogurt
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and matcha. Whisk sugar, oil, and eggs together. Whisk dry ingredients into wet, then mix in yogurt. Bake in one-quarter sheet tray at 350 F.
Blanch slivered almonds. Toss in powdered sugar until well coated. Fry at 350 F until golden.
190 g sugar
110 g egg whites
¾ tsp cornstarch
1½ tsp matcha powder
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and matcha. Whip whites until frothy. Slowly add sugar mixture, mixing on medium until all sugar is dissolved. Whip on high until stiff. Pipe in small rounds and dehydrate at 120 F overnight or until completely dry.
Milk and honey sherbet
500 g whole milk
60 g honey
100 g 1:1 simple syrup
Combine all and blend together. Churn in ice cream machine.
Matcha almond pour
1 tsp matcha powder
¾ cup water
2 T almond milk
1 tsp honey
½ tsp vanilla paste
Scoop matcha into a wide bowl. Heat water to 175 F. Pour water into matcha and whisk vigorously until frothy and all matcha is dissolved. Stir in almond milk, honey, and vanilla.