Dippy Egg with Matcha Toast Soldiers

Before May slips away from us I want to share one of my favorite spring recipes with you. A drippy, dippy egg is one of the loveliest ways to start any weekend morning. Here, thick matchsticks of Homemade Matcha Honey Wheat Bread are dunked into perfectly cooked 4-minute eggs. Served with a mélange of aromatic cut herbs, this humble yet elegant meal celebrates spring’s freshest flavors.
Instead of regular store-bought toast, I make a Matcha Honey Wheat Bread that has a heartier flavor and texture than regular white bread. To enjoy it with Dippy Eggs, you’ll need to plan on making the bread ahead of time, ideally the day before.

When enjoying this light meal, I typically follow a double dipping process where a toast bread stick first takes a plunge into the eggy pool of liquid sunshine before getting lightly pressed into a mound of fresh herbs. Whichever herbs look the most vibrant and fresh at the market will work great here, just be less generous with adding stronger tasting herbs (like rosemary) so that the flavors stay light and bright. 
My other favorite herbs to use in this recipe are tarragon, thyme, and even basil. Cut the herbs finely with a super sharp knife so that they are easily picked up by the moistened bread sticks. A light sprinkle of smoked French sea salt makes a tasty finish.For those of you not feeling the making bread from scratch bit, you can simply slather store-bought, toasted bread with softened salted butter and then top it with a generous sifting of matcha green tea powder. Cut the bread slices into matchsticks (i.e. soldiers) and you’re all set to start dipping! 
Dippy Eggs with Matcha Toast Soldiers 

Ingredients:

Matcha Honey Wheat Bread (see recipe below)

eggs

chopped herbs (I used a mix of chopped dill, chives, and rosemary)

sea salt to taste (I used Maldon Smoked Sea Salt)

Equipment:

small pot

slotted spoon

egg holder

sharp knife

Directions:

1.)  In a small pot, bring water to a full boil (enough water to completely cover eggs). Cut the Matcha Sandwich Bread into long sticks, about 1″x 5″, to make Matcha Toast Soldiers.

2.)  Boil eggs for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread sticks.

3.)  Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the hot water, then carefully place them into the egg holders. Use a sharp knife to slice off the top of the eggs, then sprinkle the eggs with sea salt. Serve immediately with the Matcha Toast Soldiers and chopped herbs on the side.Matcha Honey Wheat Bread

Makes 1 large loaf.

Ingredients:

1 cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water

2 1/4 tsp SAF instant yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups bread flour

2 Tbsp matcha, sifted

2 Tbsp flax meal

3 Tbsp honey

2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 Tbsp melted butter or non-stick spray, for coating bowl and pan

Equipment:

large stand mixer with dough hook attachment

large bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

pullman loaf pan (13″ or 12 cup capacity)

serrated bread knife (if slicing)

cooking thermometer (optional)

bread slicer (optional)

Directions:

1.)  Make the Dough. Place the yeast, whole wheat and bread flours, matcha, flax meal, honey, salt, and butter in the mixing bowl of a large stand mixer. Turn the mixer on low-speed, then add the water. Increase the speed to low-medium, then continue to mix for 10 minutes.

2.)  First Rise. After 10 minutes you should get a soft and supple ball of dough. Place the dough in a bowl lightly greased with melted butter or nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then place it in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled in volume.

3.)  Shape the Loaf. After doubling in volume, place the dough on a work surface, then give the dough a few light kneadings. Lightly pull/press the dough to make an evenly thick 8″ x 11″ rectangle (like a piece of paper). Fold the left and right sides over lengthwise to meet in the middle (the sides should overlap). Square off the edges, then pinch the seams closed. Tuck, pinch, and seal off the ends under the long loaf.

4.)  Second Rise. Place the cylinder-like loaf seam side down, into a pullman pan greased with melted butter or nonstick spray. Let the dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes (covered with plastic wrap), then use your fingers to press the dough into the pan as evenly as possible–this will help to assure squared off edges on the loaf when it bakes. Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap, then place in a warm, draft free place until it rises to 1/2″ under the top edge of the pan.

5.)  Bake, Cool, and Slice! About a half hour before the loaf has finished rising, place an oven rack in the middle of your oven, then heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the dough has risen (1/2″ under the rim), slide the greased top of the pullman loaf pan on. Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown or registers an internal temperature of 190 degrees F on a cooking thermometer. Wait until the bread completely cools before slicing with a serrated knife.

Valerie Tea House & Bakery in Echo Park

In the heart of Los Angeles lies Echo Park, an area that I usually zip through while driving on the 5, 110, or 101 freeways. This historic urban neighborhood was recently renovated over the last few years, and the result is an arty mix of shops and light eateries–the perfect way to take a break if you are stuck in LA traffic.A few large blocks north of Echo Park Lake, you’ll find Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery, a cafe known for their luxurious petit fours and baked goodies. This bake shop may look small and simple, but inside you’ll find a host of tea time treats, from Tartine to Crème Fraîche Scones to Matcha Petit Fours.

The teas served at Valerie are blended by American Tea Room, a tea shop based out of Beverly Hills. You’ll find a few of their tea varieties in the store, but if you want a full list of their offerings you’ll need to visit the Valerie Confections website. Another wonderful perk of shopping online is being able to order petit fours for your friends and family. These little cakes are a welcome change from your everyday box of chocolates, with a marked touch of elegance and good taste. For the true petit four lover, Valerie even carries a yearly subscription for these confections. What’s great is how their petit four flavors have evolved over the years. They now carry two of my favorite tea flavors, both Matcha (with lemon verbena) and Earl Grey!
You can also pick up some tea accessories at Valerie. The one teapot that they stock is one that I brew with everyday called Hario Chacha Kyushu Maru. This Japanese glass teapot is ideal for brewing tea for 1 or 2 people, easy to use and clean. If you have some time to relax, definitely make your way out to the patio area of the tea shop. On the day I visited with my friend Danielle from This Picture Book Life, we ended up sitting out there for hours, chatting away while enjoying the LA sunshine.

In LA, it’s rare to find an artfully crafted tea shop. As such, Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery does a great job of setting a standard–the atmosphere here is casual yet finished, everything you’d expect modern tea time to be. Valerie also has two other locations in the LA area, one on First Street and the other at Grand Central Market, but if you love tea as much as I do then the Echo Park location is the one you’ll want to seek out first.

Valerie Echo Park

1665 Echo Park Avenue

Los Angeles, CA  90026

213.250.9365

valerieconfections.com

Roasted Blackberry Matcha Pops

I’m relishing LA’s 70 degree weather this week. It’s simply perfect. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and there’s a slight chill in the air to refresh and rejuvenate. The relentless California summer will be here soon, which in recent years feels like it begins weeks before its calendar start date. With Roasted Blueberry Matcha Pops on-hand, I’ll be ready with a healthy, cooling snack whenever the first heat wave hits. These pops are made with fresh blackberries, slow-roasted to thicken their juices and bring out their sweet-tart flavor. I’ve tried the simpler method of cooking the berries over a stove top, and must say that the oven-roasting route creates a far superior result. Top the pops off with coconut milk infused with soothing honey, earthy green tea, and vanilla beans scraped straight from the pod. Use only best-quality, natural ingredients to make these and they’ll satisfy and your not-too-sweet tooth all spring and summer long. 
Roasted Blackberry Matcha Pops

Makes 8 ice pops. 

Ingredients:

2-6 oz. packages organic blackberries

5 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

1 can coconut milk

1 Tbsp matcha powder, sifted

1 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment:

paring knife, to scrape seeds from vanilla pod

small baking sheet, lightly oiled with non-stick spray

medium mixing bowl

sifter

whisk

Tbsp measure

liquid measuring cup with spout

popsicle mold

8 popsicle sticks, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes then blotted with a paper towel

Directions:

1.)  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix together the blackberries, 3 Tbsp of honey, and the seeds of one vanilla bean, then place this on a lightly greased baking sheet. When the oven comes up to temperature, roast the berries for 25 minutes. Remove the berries from the oven and lightly smash them with a fork. Set the berries aside to cool a bit. As the berries cool the juices will thicken.

2.)  In a medium mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the coconut milk, sifted matcha, vanilla extract, and remaining 2 Tbsp of honey together. Transfer this mixture to a liquid measuring cup. Spoon the cooked berries, about 2 Tbsp, equally into each of 8 popsicle molds. Carefully top the matcha coconut milk mixture over each of the fruit-filled popsicle cavities. Leave a 1/4″ allowance at the top of each cavity to allow the pops to expand during freezing.

3.)  Place the lid on the popsicle molds, then carefully insert the popsicle sticks, straight down, into each of the open slots. Leave 1″ of each popsicle stick above the lid. Let the popsicles freeze for at least 4 hours or until completely hardened. If you have difficulty removing them from the molds, run the outside of each popsicle mold under warm water to help the popsicles release.

Midnight Matcha Bites

Midnight and matcha in the same thought? Doesn’t seem quite right does it? Matcha is hands down the best drink to have in the morning, but as much as I love it I’d definitely tell you to think twice before partaking late in the PM.

Luckily, we aren’t talking about the time of day here, we are talking about an ingredient–one of my favorites–black cocoa. This ultra dark cocoa powder, also known as midnight black cocoa, is known for its incredibly intense color and flavor. It can sometimes be hard to find, but if you know where to look it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

Aside from being rich and sinfully chocolatey in flavor, it’s also earthier than regular cocoa powder is. The unusual charcoal-like color comes from the dutching process, which greatly reduces the cocoa powder’s acidity. Every time I taste black cocoa I’m reminded of Oreos, Devil’s food cake, and whoopie pies…and in my book, this can only be a good thing.

There are few teas that can stand up to a strong, dark flavor like black cocoa and matcha is one of them. The two ingredients actually have similar taste profiles. If you love the bittersweet taste of matcha, then you’ll love the taste of black cocoa powder too. When they are of good quality, both are pleasantly mellow yet intense.

Instead of dusting the bites in pure matcha, I coat them in matcha-laced unsweetened coconut, which helps to balance just the right amount of tea in each bite. The sweet factor comes from super ripe bananas and a touch of honey, which give mild sweetness and bind the dry ingredients into a brownie-like texture.

Enjoy these as an on-the-go breakfast, a mid-day pick me up, or whenever you need a sustained energy boost. If there were ever such a thing, I like to think of these as healthy chocolate truffles. Midnight Matcha Bites are a hearty way to indulge your darkest and most serious chocolate cravings!

Midnight Matcha Bites

Makes 35 balls.

Ingredients:

{Chocolate Energy Balls}

2 bananas, very ripe & mashed

1 cup almond meal

1 cup ground whole oats, ground to a powder in a food processor

3/4 cup whole oats, left whole

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/3 cup dried coconut, unsweetened

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used midnight black cocoa)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup almond butter

1/4 cup honey

2 tsp vanilla

{Coconut Matcha Coating}

1/2 cup dried coconut, unsweetened

1 Tbsp matcha powder

Equipment:

food processor

large mixing bowl

large mixing spoon

cookie scoop with 1 3/4″ diameter (2 Tbsp)

Directions:

1.)  Place the dry Chocolate Energy Ball ingredients in the mixing bowl, then lightly toss together. Add the wet ingredients, then mix everything together thoroughly with the spoon.

2.)  In a small bowl, mix the Coconut Matcha Coating ingredients together. Use your fingers to evenly distribute the matcha with the dried coconut. Set aside.

3.)  Use the cookie scoop to scoop out a 2 Tbsp portion of the Chocolate Energy Ball mixture, then roll it into a smooth ball. Repeat this process to form 30 energy balls/bites. Roll and evenly coat the chocolate balls in the matcha coconut. Store the bites in a sealed box or bag in the fridge.

Matcha Sushi Balls

Sushi rice balls or temari are easily becoming my new favorite tea meal. These colorful rice bites are a twist on ordinary cut sushi rolls, simpler to make (no sushi mat required!) and with an added touch of artistic flair. I love that you can make them using leftover tidbits of this and that, whatever you have on hand in the fridge. Like dim sum or a tea sandwich, they are delightful little delicacies, ideally served with a soothing cup of Japanese tea.

Sushi balls can be made with host of pre-prepped ingredients like lunch meats, cocktail shrimp, or even thinly sliced sushi grade fish. Here, I’ve used smoked salmon, which is easy to find and enhances the rich umami taste of the matcha flavored rice. Eaten together this way, you can taste the best of flavors from land and sea.

For vegetarian variations, you’ll want to showcase the beauty of your produce as much as possible. A cluster of carefully sliced green onions, thin pieces of ripe avocado, or vibrant orange carrot cut-outs add flavor and visual flair to your sushi game. Even Western ingredients like cheese, capers, and sliced olives make pretty embellishments.Above all, remember that creativity is key when making temari sushi. Try selecting colorful ingredients that are easily molded around the rice ball, not too bulky or too large. If you like your sushi more on the traditional side, you can nix the matcha power and make the rice balls plain, seasoned simply with sweetened rice vinegar. These crafty homemade sushi are ideal for parties, bento lunches, or even a romantic dinner. Serve them with emerald green gyokuro, grassy sencha, or caffeine-free soba cha and your artful Japanese tea meal is complete.
Matcha Sushi Balls

Makes 20 rice balls. 

Ingredients:

{Seasoned Rice}

2 cups sushi rice

3 cups water

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp matcha

{Toppings}

a few slices of smoked salmon

capers

furikake

avocado

masago or caviar

cocktail shrimp, halved down the spine

black sesame seeds

Equipment:

rice cooker or medium pot with cover

small pot

small sifter

wooden spoon

plastic wrap, a piece the size of a sheet of paper

small bowl of cold water

large plate or baking sheet

2 Tbsp cookie dough scoop

sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters

Directions:

1.)  Place the rice in the pot, then wash it several times until the water runs clear. Drain off the water from the rice, then add the 3 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, then let the rice cook for 20 minutes on a low simmer until all the water is absorbed.

2.)  While the rice is cooking, prepare the seasoned vinegar. Warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

3.)  When the rice has absorbed all the water, let it sit for 5 minutes, then add the sweet vinegar seasoning. Sift the matcha over the hot rice, then gently incorporate it with the wooden spoon.

4.)  To make the rice balls, dip the ice cream scoop into a bowl of cold water, then scoop out the seasoned rice onto a large plate or baking sheet. For the sushi balls to all be the same size, pack the rice into the scoop and level it off.

5.)  Place the toppings on each rice ball. Use a sharp paring knife, kitchen scissors, or mini vegetable cutters to cut the toppings into pretty shapes. The toppings you add at this point will end up lying flush against the surface of the rice ball. Shape the rice balls by placing one in the center of a piece of plastic wrap lightly damped with water. Use the plastic wrap to mold the topping against the rice ball, using your hand to create a smooth surface.6.)  Remove the rice ball from the plastic wrap and place on a serving platter. At this point, you can finish the temari with delicate finishes like capers, masago, furikake, or sesame seeds. Repeat steps 4-6 to create 20 sushi balls…enjoy!

Tea of the Week: Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha Au Lait

There’s something about being in the midst of winter that makes me yearn for sunnier days and brighter steeps. As a food blogger with modest camera knowledge, I’m at the sun’s mercy everyday. A clear, bright day after a host of overcast ones not only brings my craft back to life but also helps to keep the winter blues at bay. Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha Au Lait is a foreshadowing of lovely spring days to come. Sweet and savory with a kick of caffeine, it adds a lively pop of freshness to any dreary day. From the name of this tea, you might expect it to taste like bowl of fresh cherries. I hate to break it to you, but it’s simply not going to taste like that. This tea tastes distinctively of cherry blossoms (sakura)not cherries. In Japan, cherry blossoms are often pickled in salt after flowering in the spring, which is what gives this blend its pleasantly salty and mildly floral taste. For those longing to take a trip to Springtime Japan though their taste buds, this matcha will take you there.
Tasting Notes for Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha au Lait:

BREWING TIPS:  In a large microwave safe bowl or chawan, mix 2 heaping teaspoons of the mix with 8 fluid ounces of milk (I like soy milk or almond milk). Mix thoroughly with a whisk or chasen, then microwave on high for 1 minute. Carefully remove from the microwave, then mix again to create frothy bubbles just before serving.

THE BLEND:  Sugar, powdered green tea, powdered cherry leaf and cherry petal, and aluminum potassium sulfate.

THE SCENT:  Softly grassy. Very subtle on the floral notes.

THE STEEP:  Mildly salty and lightly sweet with a vanilla-like essence. Slightly bitter and earthy as is characteristic of matcha. Brews to a creamy, vibrant leaf green.

GET IT:  Online, at Lupicia or at Lupicia stores in California or Hawaii.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be yummy with savory or sweet snacks as it borders on the flavor profiles of both. Furikake Tofu Fries, Neapolitan Mochi Cake (for V-Day!), or Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls would all complement this tea’s complex flavor.

Fruit & Tea Rainbow Smoothie

Mornings…I dread mornings. Even with a cup of tea, the AM is a rough patch for me. It’s the time of day that I usually reach for some matcha to give me a visual pleasing and flavorful boost.

This Rainbow Smoothie is the deluxe version of my favorite morning cup of matcha–perfect for weekends or when you have a bit of extra time to spare. Layer after layer, it’s packed with fruits, yogurt, green tea, and even some veggies. It’s a special treat for those mornings that need an extra dose of sunshine and vitality.

It took me a few tries to get this recipe right. The key is to get each layer of the Rainbow Smoothie to be about the same thick consistency as the next layer. This assures that each layer can stay in its place without mixing with the smoothie layer before or after it.

I prefer to use frozen fruits or veggies whenever I can so that the smoothie retains a thicker consistency during blending and layering. Following measurement is important here, as is slightly adjusting the amounts of fruit you use depending on their juiciness and weight.
The foolproof way to create this colorful drink is to place each smoothie layer in the serving glass and then directly into the freezer to chill for about 10 minutes before adding the next layer. Use a tablespoon measure to gently lay in each smoothie layer to help the rainbow colors appear even in thickness.

If you want a quick Rainbow Smoothie fix, you can even make these up to a few hours ahead of time with good results. Simply place them in the fridge to chill before serving time. The process is a lot like making a layered jello, where a bit of patience goes a long way. Whip these up using only best quality, organic produce and your mornings with be that much brighter!

Fruit & Tea Rainbow Smoothie

Makes 2- 1 cup smoothies. 

Ingredients:

Purple Layer {1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup regular vanilla yogurt, 2 Tbsp coconut water)

Green Layer {1/3 cup packed kale, 1 rounded tsp matcha powder, 1/4 cup regular vanilla yogurt, 2 Tbsp coconut water}

Yellow Layer {1/2 cup frozen pineapple, 1/4 cup regular vanilla yogurt, 2 Tbsp coconut water}

Orange Layer {1/2 cup frozen mango, 1/4 cup regular vanilla yogurt, 2 Tbsp coconut water}

Pink Layer {1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 1/4 cup regular vanilla yogurt, 2 Tbsp coconut water}

Equipment:

blender (I used my mini one)

serving glasses

Tbsp measure

5 small cups for placing each smoothie color/flavor in before layering

Directions:

1.)  For one color/layer of the smoothie, place all the ingredients into the blender and blend on high, until you get an even consistency. Place the mixture into a small cup, then in the fridge to stay cold. Rinse, shake out, and dry the blender before blending the next smoothie layer. Pour each smoothie color into one small cup.

2.)  Starting with the purple smoothie, carefully spoon about 3 Tbsp of the mixture into each of 2 glasses. Place these glasses into the freezer to chill for about 10 minutes until the layer is softly set.

3.)  After 10 minutes, spoon out the green layer, then chill in the freezer again for 10 minutes. Repeat the spooning and chilling process for the next layers (yellow, orange, and then red) until the smoothie is complete. Enjoy!