Matcha Chocolate Chips

I’m always looking for the latest and greatest in gourmet baking items.  I loved it when semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips evolved into the dark and super dark kind.  Next came peanut butter and cinnamon chips, which were fun for making new flavors of tarts and scones.  One of my friends got me into mint baking chips–a nice addition for a pop of freshness and color, especially in chocolate baked goods.  And of course there are white chocolate chips, the most plain yet most versatile of chocolate chips that you will find.  Any macadamia nut cookie just wouldn’t be the same without them.  But hello!  Where are the matcha chocolate chips?  Now you know that’s a good idea!

Matcha chocolate chips are the chips that I wish I could buy at the market but aren’t available. There’s something about the slightly bitter taste of matcha that cuts through the cloying sweetness of white chocolate to create a more complex and balanced taste on the palette. Chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, ganache…with these Matcha Chocolate Chips the possibilities are endless.

At the World Tea Expo, I was offered some samples of Aiya’s Cooking Grade Matcha, and ended up using it to make these chips.  Cooking grade matcha is a much more affordable version of ceremonial drinking matcha.  As it is used as an ingredient and not meant to be drunk on its own, it’s a lesser quality grade of matcha tea.  Be cautious when purchasing it though, as some brands are dull in color which often translates to a lack of flavor.  I like Aiya’s Cooking Grade Matcha not only because you can get it at a very reasonable price, but also because of its brilliant color and lovely taste.  It’s a great find for someone who uses matcha to cook with as often as I do.  If you prefer, Aiya also carries Organic Cooking Grade Matcha.

If you work fast and can take the heat on your hand, these chips may look more like buttons than chips when you pipe them.  “Buttons” have a more rounded top, whereas “chips” have a little peak to them.  The hotter the chocolate when you pipe it, the more likely these matcha bits will look like buttons.  As the chocolate cools, it’s able to create more pronounced peaks since cooler chocolate holds shape better.

The first time I heard of chocolate chips being referred to as “buttons” was when I was watching Nigella Lawson make some sinfully decadent chocolate chip cookies on the BBC.  I remember falling in love with the word instantly, much preferring it over the word “chips.” Buttons, chips, drops…whatever you decide to call them, this recipe will add a world of possibilities to your baking repertoire.

Matcha Chocolate Chips 

Makes 1 cup of chips (buttons).

Ingredients:

5 1/2-6 ounces white chocolate or vanilla candy melts

1 Tbsp matcha powder (I used Aiya Cooking Grade Matcha)

Equipment:

double boiler

rubber spatula

fine mesh strainer or sifter

#5 pastry tip

pastry bag

large drinking glass

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

Directions:

1.)  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently mix and melt the chocolate.

2.)  Sift matcha into the melted chocolate and mix in thoroughly.

3.)  In pastry bag fitted with #5 pastry tip, pour the melted chocolate.  It’s easiest to fill the bag by folding the tip over and placing the bag in a glass before filling it with the chocolate.  You will have more control over the chocolate flowing out this way.

4.)  Secure parchment paper to a large baking sheet by placing dabs of the same melting chocolate on the bottom four corners of the parchment.  Smooth out the parchment so that it is well secured to the sheet and laying completely flat on it.

5.)  Pipe 1/4″ dollops of melted matcha chocolate on the baking sheet so that the chips don’t touch each other.  If you are working with candy melts you will need to pipe faster than if you use white chocolate (candy melts set up/harden faster).

6.)  Wait for the chips to completely harden, then release them from the parchment by gently pulling the parchment up from each of the 4 corners towards the center of the baking sheet.  Use the chips/buttons in any recipe, as you would chocolate chips.

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Yep, you read it right!  Over this past weekend, I ventured out of my tea-steeped comfort zone and created a Pocky recipe for all those die-hard, peppy coffee lovers out there.  Homemade Pocky always make an elegant cookie to have with a good cup of tea, and these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky are no exception.

Just last year, I decided to completely nix coffee out of my daily regimen.  Tea gave me all the eye-opening effects that coffee did without the jitters, tummy discomfort, withdrawal headaches.  It’s a good thing I did quit too, because despite the fact that I love to cook, I am the seriously the worst coffee maker out there.  Not counting the K-cup brewer that my in-laws got me for Christmas last year, I can somehow manage to ruin every cup of coffee that I make. Sometimes the coffee I brew tastes like dirty dish water and other times it tastes like jet fuel. For some reason, I can never get it right.  That’s when I started using freeze-dried coffee.

As much as Hawaii is bountiful in its tea culture, it’s perhaps even more well-known for its coffee culture.  Much like they do for tea leaves, soil, climate, and altitude all work together to create complexities in coffee bean flavor.  A few years back when I was on the Big Island, I stopped by a coffee plantation high up in the hills of Kona.  Coffee plants thrive in humid, tropical conditions with a good amount of cloud cover.  Whether referring to tea, coffee, or even wine, term terrior is used to describe a plant’s sense of place, the collective effect of environmental factors like climate and geography on the taste of a product.

kona coffee farm

It was when I spotted some freeze-dried coffee in Hawaii that I began formulating this Homemade Coffee Pocky recipe.  Similar to the freeze-dried strawberries I used for my Homemade Strawberry Pocky, these crystals give us a punch of rich coffee flavor without moisture being an issue.  Where it seems like pouring some espresso or coffee extract into your melted dipping chocolate would instantly give you coffee flavored chocolate, I assure you that it won’t!  You’ll end up with a shaggy, clumpy mess, since both are water based.  The only way around this is to use freeze-dried coffee crystals.

The freeze-dried coffee crystals need to be ground into a fine powder before they can be added to the melted white chocolate.  If you add them directly, the crystals never dissolve and you end up with big, noticeable dots on your cookie stick coating.  The sticks would also be way too strong tasting, as each coffee crystal packs a punch of strong coffee flavor.  The solution is to use a mortar and pestle set to pulverize the crystals.  You could also place the crystals in a Ziploc bag, lay the bag on a flat work surface, and press down on the crystals using a large, heavy pan.

I was surprised that after mixing in my coffee powder to the white chocolate, the color of the dipping chocolate wasn’t as tan as I would have hoped.  Alas, I decided to not add any fake food colorings as I knew the taste of these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky were already spot on.

Decorate these confections with some of the same freeze-dried coffee lightly crushed, for a sprinkly look.  Another pretty option is to sift leftover freeze-dried coffee powder over the top of the cookies while the chocolate it is setting up.  The warmth of the chocolate will help the coffee powder to bloom and darken in color.

My favorite variety of these Coffee Pocky are the ones drizzled with chocolate and then scattered with toasted macadamia nut bits.  The salt in the macadamia nuts balances out the sweet coffee chocolate base.  This combination is reminiscent of the chocolate covered macadamia nuts that visitors in Hawaii return from vacation with stacks of.

If I was going to violate my no coffee regimen I was glad to have done it with these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky.  These cookie sticks pack a punch of rich, robust espresso-like flavor, so it’s nice to savor them nibble by nibble.

Back when I made Homemade Green Tea Pocky, I mentioned yuanyang, a popular Chinese drink where coffee is mixed with black tea.  The two flavors are very different, yet amazingly complementary.  Try these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky with a cup of unflavored, unsweetened black tea, and the next time you’re asked “coffee or tea?” you just might end up asking for both!

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz package of vanilla candy melts or 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp freeze-dried Kona coffee crystals, ground into a fine powder with a mortar & pestle

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

reserved coffee powder, for dusting

reserved coffee crystals, crushed, for sprinkling

chocolate candy melts

macadamia nuts, chopped finely and lightly toasted

Equipment:

mortar & pestle

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

small sifter

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

piping bag fitted with #2 tip or fork

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix coffee powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this coffee oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in thoroughly.  If you are using white chocolate (not candy coating) you may need to mix in another 1-2 tsp of oil to get a nice dipping consistency.  Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  If you use white chocolate, the Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  If you use candy melts, they will take about 20 minutes to dry.  In a pinch, you can place the dipped cookies in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Variation:  Lightly scatter crushed, freeze-dried coffee bits on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.  Alternatively, you can sift a light dusting of leftover freeze dried coffee powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the coffee to bloom and intensify in color.  For Chocolate Macadamia Nut Kona Coffee Pocky, drizzle the dried Coffee Pocky with chocolate candy melts.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave according to package directions. Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a #2 decorating tip and drizzle across the dipped cookie sticks back and forth crosswise.  You can also use a fork to do this.  Scatter finely chopped and toasted macadamia nuts on top of the drizzled chocolate and allow to fully dry before serving.

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Welcome to Matcha Mondays here at Thirsty for Tea!

I’ve finally given into my obsession with matcha.  Inspired with so many ideas for using my favorite green tea powder, I realized that dedicating Mondays to my matcha related posts is best way for me to celebrate this very special ingredient.  After all, a boost of vibrance and some caffeinated pep could only make your Mondays that much better, right?

***Easy Brew Tip for a Frothy cup of Matcha: In a jam jar, add 1/2 – 1 tsp of matcha powder, then add 1 cup of water @ 175 degrees F.  Screw the lid on the jar tightly, and shake for 1-2 minutes like a bartender… your tea will be unbelievably frothy!  Truth be told, this is much more effective than using a matcha whisk, but you should still get one because they are just so unique and beautiful!

Just last weekend, my husband and I visited a Thai restaurant by my parents house in Rowland Heights called Coconut Bay.  Paying for our bill on the way out, I saw the most delightful box of cookies peeping out just in front of the register…Matcha Cream Pocky!  Despite that it was double the price of its chocolate and strawberry counterparts, they instantly became a must-try, must-buy item.  You simply cannot be a tea-obsessed blogger and not report back on green tea flavored Pocky!

Inspired by my love and memories of Pocky as a child, I got to work on my Homemade Chocolate Pocky and Homemade Strawberry Pocky posts last week.  I decided to post this Green Tea Pocky recipe as the last of my 3 part Pocky series because now that we’ve covered the basics we can get a bit more adventurous!

To make Homemade Matcha Pocky, you want to start with the best-quality matcha you can find.  Being able to control the quality of the ingredients you are working with is what makes these biscuits worth making (and eating!) at home.  From the Pocky boxes pictured above, you can see that both the strawberry and matcha varieties are artificially flavored.  Using powdered freeze-dried strawberries (for Homemade Strawberry Pocky) and a brilliant natural matcha (for Homemade Green Tea Pocky), we get the most wholesome flavor and beautiful coloring in our stick biscuits.  There’s simply no need for the fake stuff here.

Black sesame and coconut are the toppings I used for my Homemade Green Tea Pocky.  The savory and slightly roasted taste of black sesame seeds cut through the sweetness of the white chocolate for a well-rounded, umami-inspired bite.

I also chose unsweetened, desiccated coconut to decorate with.  Dried coconut gives a tropical touch to the stick cookies, and a light and fluffy looking finish.  Try not to use regular sweetened shredded coconut here, as the combination will be way too sweet.

A pairing that will probably make you think twice is what I call my “Yin Yang Pocky.”  If you’ve ever visited modern Chinese tea shops (the ones with boba milk tea) you might be familiar with Yuanyang, also known as Hong Kong Style Coffee-Tea. This drink is mostly tea with a bit of coffee added in for a boost in flavor and caffeine.

Not as harsh as coffee and not as mild as tea, this Yuanyang blend strikes the perfect balance between Yin (here, the stronger and darker coffee) and Yang (the lighter and brighter tea).  For my Yin Yang Pocky, I sprinkled gourmet coffee vermicelli sprinkles atop my tea infused biscuit sticks.  These are exceptionally delicious if you love the taste of Yuanyang!

Ok, I think it’s time for me to go on a bit of a Pocky hiatus now.  For you Pocky lovers out there, I hope you’ve had a good time reading my last 3 posts!  Pocky are really the quintessential Asian tea cookie, so nibble away at these lovely biscuits while slowly sipping your favorite brew (might I suggest a thick, hot cup of frothy matcha?).  Keep that happy buzz going until the next Matcha Monday!

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz package of vanilla candy melts or 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp matcha powder

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

matcha powder for dusting

unsweetened, desiccated coconut flakes

black sesame seeds

coffee sprinkles (I used Cacao Barry Coffee Vermicelli)

Equipment:

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

small sifter

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix matcha powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this matcha oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in until you get an evenly green colored dipping chocolate.  If you are using white chocolate (not candy coating) you may need to mix in another 1-2 tsp of oil to get a nice dipping consistency.  Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  If you use white chocolate, the Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  If you use candy melts, they will take about 20 minutes to dry.  In a pinch, you can place the dipped cookies in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Variation:  Generously or lightly scatter desiccated coconut, black sesame seeds, or coffee sprinkles on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.  Alternatively, you can sift a light dusting of matcha powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the the matcha to bloom and intensify in color.