Put yourself in a spook-tacular mood for Halloween with treats that are a little otherworldly looking. With their haunting fern-green hue, these sandy-textured shortbread look like they could have been handed out by friendly Martians.
It’s matcha, finely ground Japanese green tea, that gives them their striking color. The recipe for Green Tea Shortbread with Poppy Seeds comes from “Beyond the Great Wall” (Artisan) by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
Both poppy seeds and green tea are local to southern Yunnan province. Besides color, the green tea also lends the cookies a lovely, subtle, earthy bitterness. You can find matcha at Japanese markets, usually in the refrigerator case; and rice flour can be purchased at Asian grocery stores.
The recipe calls for sprinkling 2 tablespoons of sugar over the shortbread before baking. If you’re like me, and don’t want to mask the taste of the green tea with too much sweetness, you might want to use only 1 tablespoon instead.
The recipe also says it makes about 80 to 100 shortbread. I found it made more like 25 small squares. Additionally, the recipe says to lift the shortbread out and place on a rack to cool. I think it’s easier to let them cool longer in the pan before transferring them; the cookies are so crumbly that they can be hard to handle when still warm.
This Friday when you’re awash in orange and black, inject a little green to spice things up.
Green Tea Shortbread with Poppy Seeds
(makes about 25 small squares)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, well softened and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1-2 tablespoons for topping
Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon rice flour
2 tablespoons finely ground green tea
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a mixer on medium speed, cream butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. With mixer on low speed, gradually add all-purpose flour, rice flour, tea, and poppy seeds. The dough should start to come together like moist pie pastry and form into clumps. Alternatively, if using a wooden spoon, cream butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Gradually add flours, tea, and poppy seeds, beating well after each addition, until dough is well blended and forming clumps.
Press dough into a 9-inch square baking pan, removing any air pockets. Prick with a fork, pricking right through to the pan, making rows of marks spaced 1/2 inch apart. Then cut into fingers 1 1/2 inches by 1/2 inch or into 1-inch squares (I cut mine into about 1 1/2-inch squares).
Bake until edges of shortbread pull away from sides of pan and top is touched with brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
Cut shortbread again while still in the pan. Sprinkle on 1-2 tablespoons sugar, then carefully lift shortbread out and place on a rack to cool. (I prefer leaving them in the pan until they are cool because they crumble so easily when warm.)
Adapted from “Beyond the Great Wall”