(Author’s note: this is my last cupcake post for a while; I’m being sent to India for a work assignment next week, and baking is not in the equation. Watch this space, however; there may very well appear some one-off features on the challenges and oddities of an expatriate trying to eat in the Asian subcontinent.)
Last week I received some sample packets of matcha from Matcha Source. Matcha is traditional Japanese green tea powder, and I’ve wanted to use it in cupcakes for awhile now, but its relatively pricey price in America has so far discouraged me. It’s not that I’m a tea snob; on the contrary, I enjoy a nice cuppa. Black teas provide a gentler morning “lift” as opposed to coffee’s caffeine bitch-slap, regular bagged green teas are excellent for detoxing, (Yamamotoyama’s genmai-cha is a personal favorite) and Mighty Leaf makes a nice camomille blend that doesn’t taste too much like soap.
Fun fact: herbal teas aren’t technically teas at all since most of them contain botanicals and aromatics and no real tea leaves.
Matcha, however, is something altogether different. Steamed and dried, green tea leaves are then stone ground over and over again until a fine, silky powder is produced. Since matcha is mixed directly with water and not steeped, you consume the tea leaf itself, which makes for a very heady, earthy, albeit bitter, brew.
As for the cupcakes, if you take any lesson away from reading this today, it’s this: recipes are written down for a reason. What that reason is varies from cook to cook, but for the most part, it’s to provide a proven, documented legacy of culinary functionality for anyone who comes after that initial session in the kitchen. That said, I’m a person who likes to experiment with recipes, to tweak little things here and there, take something out and add something else, to make the dish my own and create my own legacy. There’s supposedly an unwritten rule among amateur cooks that states you can claim an established recipe as your own creation if you change at least three things about it, which has been the case for most of the cupcakes I’ve posted here during my tenure at ES.
But, as we all know, baking recipes are different than just mucking with a recipe for borscht or noodle soup or green bean casserole. Tweak something the wrong way, and you get a Friday Fuck Up that doesn’t care what day of the week it is.
The recipe I followed was for the Green Tea Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and while I like to think that I have a pretty well-stocked kitchen at this point in my amateur culinary career, there are still a few queer one-off ingredients that occasionally pop up in recipes and throw me for a loop. Sometimes it’s an obscure spice like fenugreek, or something I never use but should, like coconut milk. This time around, the recipe called for soy yogurt.
I know what you’re thinking, and admittedly, even as a vegan, I thought the same thing a year or so ago: “Soy yogurt? Ew!” (Actually, my first thought was, “Soy yogurt? That’s an abomination against nature!”) Technically, however, soy yogurt is really no different from regular yogurt; it’s just soymilk that’s been cultured and flavored so it thickens up and gets all lumpy and gross. Lots of baking recipes call for yogurt; it adds extra body and smoothness, but since I was caught short and didn’t have any on hand, I decided to skip it and just use a cup of almond milk and hope for the best.
The best is not what I got:
While in the oven, they puffed up beautifully, and showed all evidence of producing the nice, flat cupcake tops that are ideal for frosting. Once evacuated and left to cool, however, they quickly deflated and darkened, resulting in the sunken, lumpy, algae-colored aberrations shown above. Internally, they were baked through, but since I was already switching up ingredients, I also chose to swap out some of the all-purpose flour for rice flour and almond meal, which no doubt added to their structural maladies. They just didn’t have enough protein to hold themselves up. Had I stuck with a pure wheat flour blend and maybe added a pinch of the dreaded xanthan gum, they might have come out all right. But in the end, I ended up following the recipe word-for-word for the second batch and wound up with the emerald beauties at the top of the page.
For the green tea frosting: start with a standard batch of Mother Buttercream Frosting, blending in 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and up to 1/2 teaspoon of matcha powder. Garnish with sliced almonds.
Oh yeah: do they taste like green tea? Honestly, not really. The one thing that really stands out is the almond flavor, but as for the matcha‘s green and grassy notes, they’re lost underneath the other ingredients, sadly.
Pretty, though, no?