January is the traditional time to follow through with good intentions and try for a healthier lifestyle. I am always full of New Year’s resolutions and sometimes I actually manage to pull them off. This year I have set myself a tough one, but as it doesn’t involve food or drink, I was happy to take on the teapigs #matchachallenge as well.
I’ve had a love affair with matcha ever since CT brought some back from his Japan trip in 2007. I’d never heard of it before then, so it was a real novelty. Green tea was my tea of choice, so once I got used to the idea, it wasn’t such a big step to drinking matcha: it’s a very finely ground Japanese green tea with a distinctive flavour. Because you are ingesting the whole leaf this way, it provides a concentration of all those healthy nutrients that green tea is renowned for. It’s very high in antioxidants, has plenty of betacarotene and contains vitamins A, B and C. It’s said to boost energy levels for four to six hours after drinking it as well as raising metabolism and relieving stress. Teapigs matcha is organic and comes in 30g packs, normally costing £25. There is currently a 20% discount.
As well as a great drink, matcha lends itself very nicely to baking, not only giving a distinctive flavour, but also an interesting green colour. I have made a number of cakes and biscuits using matcha, but was particularly pleased with matcha shortbread, matcha and white chocolate cupcakes and chocolate matcha battenberg.
Much as I like matcha, it’s not something I’ve had every day, so I was interested to see if drinking it regularly made any difference to my flagging post flu energy levels. The teapigs #matchachallenge is to drink ½ tsp of matcha a day for a fortnight. It’s early days yet as I’m only on Day 5, but I have been enjoying finding different ways to drink it. I have so far made two different kefir matcha smoothies, drunk it as normal in a mug of hot water and tried it as a matcha shot in a glass provided by teapigs. Today I made a frothy matcha white hot chocolate. I used white chocolate so I could retain the beautiful green colour.
This is how I made:
Matcha Hot Chocolate
- Warmed 150ml of milk to just below boiling.
- Poured it into a mug containing 2 heaped tsps of white chocolate powder (I used Mortimer’s) and ¼ tsp matcha powder.
- Used an electric milk frother (kindly provided by teapigs) to mix and froth the drink.
- Sprinkled a little matcha powder over the top.
It was delicious. The frothing gave it a really light texture and the white chocolate was creamy, but the matcha cut through the sweetness with strong refreshing notes.
If you fancy entering the Matcha Challenge there is a chance to win a year’s supply of matcha from teapigs and a pack of matcha is being given away daily via instagram. The challenge runs throughout January and it’s a nice easy way to get your New Year off to a healthy start.
Thanks to teapigs for providing a pack of matcha green tea, a shot glass and aerolatte frother in exchange for blogging about the challenge.
I am sending the matcha hot chocolate off to Nayna for her event, Let’s Cook/Create Hot Drinks over at Simply Food.
Last year, I won a copy of William Curley’s book Couture Chocolate. It’s an excellent tome giving insights and detailed instructions on making chocolates and chocolate pâtisserie. Every aspiring chocolatier should have one. William Curley was the youngest ever Chef Pâtissier at The Savoy and has won numerous awards in the world of chocolate and pastry. This year I was sent a copy of his newest book Pâtisserie. This one is written jointly with his wife Suzue Curley, a pâtissiere whose work is influenced by her Japanese background. Endorsed by renowned pâtissier, Pierre Hermé who writes the Foreword, we get the idea that William is a very talented man indeed.
Twice the size of his last book, but in a similar vain, this is a detailed manual on the art of modern pâtisserie. The history of pastry making is not forgotten and makes a fine start to the proceeding chapters. Perusing the mini biographies of various influential pâtissiers, I have to admit I was only familiar with the names of Marie-Antoine Carême and August Escoffier. A detailed twenty page guide covering ingredients, equipment and basic techniques prepares us for the two main parts of the book: The Foundation and The Pâtisserie.
The Foundation covers all of the basic recipes that are needed in order to create pâtisserie. Comprising nearly half of the 344 pages, it covers all sorts of recipes and techniques for making pastries, doughs, sponges, meringues, creams, custards, mousses, syrups, glazes, compotes and caramels. Each recipe tells you what patisserie it is linked to in the second part of the book and the accompanying page numbers make it very handy to have a quick look. Precision is a key factor and even the eggs and baking powder are measured in grams rather than being left to the vagaries of teaspoons and differently sized eggs.
The Pâtisserie part of the book is where the creativity comes in and succulent tarts, pretty little gâteaux, dainty macarons and various magnificent structures can be seen in all their glory. Each entry refers you back to the basic recipes but includes any additional requirements. Step by step instructions are given throughout, with accompanying informative photographs for all but the simplest creations. The recipes are detailed, often going into four pages. With my love of matcha for baking purposes, I was pleased to see a number of recipes where it featured, including some vibrant green matcha eclairs and Les Misérables – a stacked affair of matcha and almond sponges layered with a Japanese muscovado caramel buttercream. My mouth is watering just at the thought of it and I’m feeling just a little bit miserable that I can’t eat one right now. The photographs of the finished articles, by Spanish photographer and artist Jose Lasheras are works of art in themselves. For the visually orientated and those that like to see what they might make before they attempt it, you will not be disappointed – photographs abound.
As someone who is always in a hurry, elegant pâtisserie is something I very much appreciate but I’m doubtful that I’d have the patience to make myself. So I was glad to see that not everything in the book is complicated. The Baked Cakes section is more in line with what I’m used to and I’m looking forward to trying out some of these slightly more prosaic recipes. The bakes are a mix of traditional with a Curley twist and new creations. The cannelés de Bordeaux au rhum, a recipe I’ve long wanted to make, looked fairly traditional, but I suspect the pâtissiers of old would have been perplexed by the houji cha & hazelnut financiers. It was in this section that I found out that madeleines were much older than I expected and dated back to 1661. Amongst the French fancies, I was surprised to see a Dundee cake. I’m not sure what the good folks of Dundee would think of this version, containing rum-marinated sultanas and decorated with crystallised pistachios, but it sounds very tasty to me. The carrot and chocolate chip cakes, one of Suzue’s recipes, soon caught my eye and I decided those would be my introduction. As usual, I didn’t quite follow the recipe; I suspect my reluctance to embark on some of the more complicated recipes is the need I feel to go my own way and keep things as simple as possible.
This is how I made:
Carrot and Chocolate Chip Cakes
- Melted 150g unsalted butter and left to cool slightly.
- Grated 150g carrots and mixed in a bowl with two medium eggs.
- Stirred in 150g golden caster sugar.
- Sifted in 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 25g ground almonds, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.
- Stirred gently until just incorporated, then stirred in the butter and 75g chopped 70% dark chocolate.
- Spooned the mixture into 24 mini cupcake moulds, filling them to about ¾ full.
- Left to rest for 30 minutes, then baked at 180℃ for about 12 minutes.
I do not have the originals to compare these to, but I absolutely adored these cakes and they didn’t last nearly as long as they should have done. But hey, I was only following the Curley advice to eat them within one or two days.
This book would make a fantastic reference work for anyone interested in learning the techniques and recipes involved in pâtisserie or just wanting to improve their presentation skills. Many of the creations in this book are so magnificent, they are beyond what I even aspire too, but there are so many useful tips and techniques given here I know I shall be referring to it and using it as inspiration for many years to come. If nothing else, it’s a fabulous book to browse through, dream over and treasure.
Patisserie by William Curley and Suzue Curley. Photographs by Jose Lasheras. Published by Jacqui Small in 2014. 9781909342217. It has an RRP of £40. Reviewed by Choclette on 1 July 2014.
To give a flavour of what you will find inside, here is a video of William and Suzue demonstrating one of the recipes: Strawberry and Pistachio Breton Tart.
Thanks to Jacqui Small for the copy of Pâtisserie. There was no requirement to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
Prizes are offered and provided by Jacqui Small and Chocolate Log Blog accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of said third party.
Quite some time ago, Teapigs sent me a small sachet of matcha tea to try, along with three chocolate flake tea temples (otherwise known as funny shaped teabags). The matcha I tried straight away, but the tea temples I managed to mislay until this week. The weather was thoroughly cold, wet and unpleasant so it seemed like a good day for a tidy up and that’s when I found them.
Tea temples are Teapigs’ answer to loose leaf tea without the bother and mess that comes with teapots, tea strainers and associated paraphenalia. The bags are see-through allowing good visibility of the tea leaves within. They are tetrahedrons with plenty of head room for the tea to infuse properly rather than being straight jacketed in a teabag. And on top of all this, they are also biodegradable – genius.
Chocolate tea sounded like an exciting concept and I was keen to try it – once I’d found the lost tea temples. The tea smelt both fruity and chocolatey and looked as though it contained black tea leaves as well as flakes of chocolate. I placed a temple in a teapot, poured on two cups of boiling water (I like my tea weak) and left it to brew slightly longer than I meant to. By the time I’d managed to find somewhere light enough to take a half decent photograph, the tea was cool enough to drink. On first slurp, the overriding taste was fruit and quite sweet fruit at that. Second slurp, I tasted chocolate – aha – but still not coming through as strongly as the fruitiness. Third slurp and the distinctive astringent drying quality of black tea was there. When I had a look on the Teapigs website for ingredients, I found the tea consists of black tea, chocolate chips, cocoa bean and natural flavouring. Ah, natural flavouring, that’s what must give it the predominant fruity flavour. Unfortunately there were no more details than this, so I was unable to ascertain what type of black tea was used or what the chocolate chips consisted of. I think it’s a shame fruit flavours (if that’s what they were) were added to the tea; it would be far better without and would allow the chocolate to come through a little more. I have to say I was not overly impressed with this particular tea.
I was hoping to make a cake with the matcha as I really like it in cooking – do have a look at some of the matcha bakes I’ve made so far. But there wasn’t enough for that, so I consoled myself by drinking it instead. Matcha as I have mentioned on numerous occasions is meant to be very good for you. I also like it – both colour and taste. I had no complaints about the matcha powder from Teapigs. It was ground beautifully fine (by granite rollers) and tasted as good as the matcha tea that CT brought back from Japan when he went there a few years ago. It got additional bonus points for being organic too. This tea I was very happy with.