Green tea white chocolate chunk cookies (experiments with matcha powder)

New favourite cookie alert. Too good not to share.

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Lately, a few of my co-workers and I have become obsessed with DAVIDsTEA. Perhaps it’s because the extended winter (there’s still a wall of snow here in Sudbury) has my inner self yearning to be awash in warmth, or perhaps it’s the “got to try ’em all” mentality that the promise of delectable tea creates. For those who don’t know what DAVID’sTEA is, it’s like a bulk store for gourmet teas. I’ve been to stores in both Ottawa and Toronto, and they all have the same feel – bright, clean lines with an entire wall of shelving filled up with colourful canisters that look like time capsules. From these cylinder silver containers, one usually sniffs five+ different teas, your nose filled by a disarming number of loose leaf combinations that smell liked freshly baked muffins (especially a tea called “forever nuts”) and play dough (an oolong tea called “happy kombucha” with mango and pineapple had me particularly nostalgic). I always pray my nose doesn’t drip into the sample sniffers. Our web editor Wendy always jokes that if she doesn’t like the tea flavour, should could always just use it as potpourri.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of fancy teas, mostly because I get a little freaked out when people try to capture what I have determined to be “food tastes” in hot drinks. As is, I only started liking tea a few years ago, primarily because of the fact that, growing up in a half-Chinese, half-Irish household, drinking tea is part of the fabric of life. I remember visiting Ireland as a kid and begging for a glass of milk as my young Irish cousins sipped their Red Rose mugs. Like I didn’t already stand out enough.

Anyways, that’s why I was startlingly surprised to fall in love with DAVIDsTEA. My affection started slowly, with a simple “Creme of Earl Grey” purchase. Now I find myself browsing the website on a daily basis, my indecision (thankfully) being the only thing between me and a giant box of tea.

But I did manage one purchase: a 50 gram bag of matcha powder.

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Matcha powder is finely ground green tea that resembles a Shrek-coloured talcum powder. It’s what is used as the flavour and colour in such favourites as green tea ice cream, green tea cakes, etc. etc. It was also my worst enemy when I worked at Starbucks in grade 12. Back then (and still now, I believe), Starbucks had its “green tea lattes,” a special blend of matcha powder, boiling water and steamed milk. The matcha powder came in these big silver bags, the likes of which baristas had to transfer into some other storage container. When this task fell upon me, I would always try to gingerly create the finest of tears in the bag. Despite my best efforts, I nearly always ended up with green tea sediment on my black dress pants and a plume of powder up my nose. Thank goodness it always smelled divine.

I’ve looked to buy matcha powder in the past, but my purchases have always been deterred by the cost and size of the bag. The price is for a reason – it can take up to an hour to grind just 30 grams of matcha powder. So when I saw that DAVIDsTEA sold 50 gram-sized bags for $14, I jumped at the opportunity to try my hand at some green tea desserts.

Namely these cookies.

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As mentioned in the first line of this post, these were pretty unbelievable. The white chocolate complemented the green tea flavour – one that grew on you as your continued to eat the cookie. Kind of like how spicy food takes a while to build in intensity. It wasn’t an overwhelming flavour either, so if you were to eat the cookies with a blindfold, you might not be able to put your finger on what it was that was causing the taste. I made two batches over three days this month, mostly because I knew I had to blog about them. I brought the first set of cookies into work, where even the most monstrous-looking desserts get inhaled in about 0.04 seconds. There were a few “but these are the same colour as vegetables!!!!” stares, but those quickly dissipated. Hey, it’s not easy being green, or so I hear.

PS: So I didn’t blog about these in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Well, there’s always Easter!

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February 14: Annual day of paper crafts and cookies*

*Also known by most as Valentine’s Day.

So here’s the thing. I’m obsessed with Valentine’s Day for all the wrong reasons. I don’t like the phoney (sounding like Holden Caulfield here) romance of it – the rush of people to buy flowers and cakes and fine dinners for their loved ones, because it’s the one time during the year they feel as though they need to make an effort. Is that cynical? I think it is. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Maybe the real reason for my not liking Valentine’s Day is because I once had to use a teddy bear-shaped paddle to spank a man dressed up as Cupid for a television story in j-school. Folks, that footage still exists somewhere. Ten thousand buckets of tears to whomever can uncover it.

What do like about Valentine’s Day is the excuse to make crafts and cookies, treats that I hope are so carefully and lovingly created that they can make up for the fact that I can sometimes be a cynical bum.

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Like Christmas, to me the mid-February affair is more about the lead-up than the actual day – the time before the event when, every night for a week, I’m yanking my craft drawer off its night-table tracks and plopping it down on our gaudy lime green craft table cloth. Valentine’s Day is an invitation to make something – and not just any something, but paper somethings. A time to put my rainbow hued collection of bits and bobs to good use. And unlike birthdays, I don’t get to make just one card, but rather a whole collection for a whole lot of wonderful people. As you can see, I have selfish, DIY motives behind this day, too.

As with all card-making, I very much try and match my creation to its intended receiver. Example: My friend Yoshi who owns Café Petit Gâteau in downtown Sudbury got a little cupcake card, complete with a muffin liner flower on the inside. Ella, my former classmate and fellow Ottawa food-lover, got a card embellished with a whole pile of doughnuts, a throwback to the Capital city’s fairly recent revelation that it is (and rightfully so) in love with the deep-fried dessert. And so on and so forth.

card collage

The cards were mailed off in homemade envelopes (I always get really into making these bizarrely-shaped cards, before realizing that, damnit, they do not fit in any standard postage packages). Out of five cards for out-of-town friends, I managed to create one envelope. Just one. Jen made the rest. While an experienced cutter, gluer, and marker-user, paper folding is an area in which I lack all skill. As a 10-year-old, the only thing I could ever make in my Origami kit was the paper crane, and even then, that was only because I was so determined after reading one of my favourite childhood books, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Anyways, digressing like crazy here, but point is: Jen is far more proficient at envelopes, and made a lovely set of them. Some were two shades of pink, some had zigzag-ed edges. All (except mine) were great.

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And, of course, what would DIY Valentine’s Day be without baking. Actually, what would any night with me be without baking?

Jen, Ian and I had a team effort cookie-making session into the late hours of Valentine’s eve. Here’s how that developed:

1. Hilary decides to bake cookies for work. Because, if nothing else, Valentine’s Day is about showing your appreciation for the friends and co-workers you admire.

2. Jen suggests making a cookie cutter out of a tin can. Hilary hesitates, Jen persists. She proceedds to make an impressive mould out of an old chick pea tin.

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“CRUSHED IT” – Jenifer Norwell

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3. Sugar cookies are made.

From here, the decorating was improvised step-by-step. I originally planned to cut another mini heart inside the heart cookie, and melt Jolly Rancher candies inside, through which creating a stained-glass effect. However, liking the unusual chick pea can heart shape so much, I decided against it, and turned these into little mouse (or some other animal of your choice) cookies. The discovery of decorations was swift.

“Hmm, what can I use for the nose?” A: Why, those “pretty bubble” pink dragées that I bought two years ago at the fancy kitchen store near my Ottawa house.

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“Uhh, what about the eyes?” A: Easy, chocolate chips. Bake the cookies without them and put them on immediately after, so they melt to the top.

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“Okay, but it needs ears.” A: OH, I just happen to have this tube of red icing sitting in my closet. I was going to use to make the laces on a baseball cake in the summer. (note: it was too late to make homemade icing. I only have so much energy on Thursday nights)

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It all worked out. I think, anyways.

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Oh right. Here! Have a Valentine’s Day kitty. I love you, Norbert.

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Bacon chocolate chip cookies (finally!)

Kitchen mishaps are one of the things I love most about cooking. I enjoy the moments that would normally frustrate people – something breaking, something dropping, accidentally dyed utensils and spoons that have been flung to the floor.

Know where this is going? The ultimate bacon fat failure.

These cookies contained a pound of bacon, and, as you can surely guess, this much meat cooks off quite a bit of fat. Being the person I am, I wanted to find the best way to keep this fat for as long as possible, thereby to extend its cooking potential. Holding it in an old chick pea can would not do, and so I set my eye on one of the cute little Mason jars sitting beside the sink. That way I could put a lid on the bacon fat and store it in my closet should my mom get too “you’re SO unhealthy for keeping all that crap around my kitchen.” Well, as these things sometimes are, this idea was good in theory and not in application.

I started pouring the freshly warmed bacon fat into the Mason jar and, about three seconds in, heard a quiet “pop.” It sounded like the tiny man who had been inhibiting the inside of the jar decided he wanted to have a firing practice. Imagination aside, I looked down at the base of the Mason jar where, sure enough, all that lovely fat had started spreading over the kitchen counter, like a zamboni flooding an ice rink.

I am an impressive individual

It dripped down the drawers and pooled in a small puddle at my feet. I was shocked, confused and incredibly amused. I rushed upstairs to get my camera, all while my mother set idly by in the family room watching Law and Order.

Bacon fat incidents aside, let’s talk about these cookies. For those who don’t know, I consider bacon and chocolate the ultimate combination – a rich marriage of salty and sweet.

The delicious dough

I first fell in love with the pairing when I tried these Movember-inspired chocolates at the end of last year. They were unbelievable, first because Jen at koko chocolates in Ottawa is amazing at her job, and second because they included b&c. I’ve been trying to find an excuse to make something like this ever since.

Thank god for those newsroom bake sales (as previously mentioned here).

Cookie recipients

Also: It must be mentioned that my friend and one of my baking idols, Yoshi, made bacon cookies at the same time as me! I know I’ve mentioned this many times before, but Yoshi is the owner of café petit gâteau in Sudbury and a constant source of inspiration and lunchtime chitter chatter for me. We were talking about bacon baking a few weeks back and inadvertently co-ordinated our attempts. You know what they say about great minds… Anyways, Yoshi and I did a cookie trade – her bacon oatmeal raisin cookie for my bacon chocolate chip one. Thanks, Yoshi!

Yoshi with her bacon oatmeal cookie
Our cookies are friends!

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Three-layer cookie jar brownies

These brownies were completely ridiculous.

When I saw a picture of these brownies online, I couldn’t resist making them myself. I do have a penchant for Oreo-stuffed desserts, after all. And come on… THREE LAYERS, GUYS.

Originally called “slutty brownies” by the Pinterest crowd, I decided against this name since I’m not a super huge fan of throwing the term “slut” around. The “cookie jar” name was inspired by my favourite Dairy Queen blizzard, a customized everything-Hilary-loves ice cream treat with cookie dough chunks, crumbled Oreo cookies and added brownie bits. It’s a treat.

But back to the brownies.

Yesterday’s newsroom bake sale gave me the perfect opportunity to make them. I feel like bake sales beg for over-the-top, sensationalized desserts. The more absurd the better. The inter-office bake sale was just another means to raise money for our Christmas party, an event for which I’m not even sure if I’ll still be around to attend. A few of us submitted a list of items we wanted to make and then people snagged each set of baked items ahead of time. I made these brownies and…wait for it…bacon chocolate chip cookies, a combination that I’ve been wanting to try for more than a year. I’ll post about those early next week.

A word of caution: heavy pre-10 a.m. sugar intake + Friday = not a productive morning. Factor that in with the head cold I’m currently recovering from and you’ve got a sugar buzzed, slightly congested half Asian on your hands. Beware. Also: not to be consumed with a mint chocolate cupcake and three ginger cookies. Or with those garlic-heavy perogies that a morning show guest brought in to celebrate the start of your city’s garlic festival. Yikes.

PS: someone asked me on Instagram how I got the three layers to stick together. This was something that concerned me, too, but they actually baked together extremely well. I think the icing of the Oreos had some sort of binding power over the two outer layers. As for getting these out of the 9×13 pan – I ran out of parchment paper, so I buttered/floured the hell out of the pan. They popped right out!

Oh yes, and have sneaky photo shoots at your desk before delivering the goods. This is key.

Oh hey, blurry Amy Dodge!

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Happy Pride Week, Sudbury! Homemade rainbow Oreo cookies

Please allow me to present the coolest and most colourful cookies I’ve ever made.

I’m sure by this point most of you have seen that phenomenal Oreo cookie meme that the company put out back in June.

Corporate cookie ploy aside, I knew I wanted to recreate a version of these Oreos at home (I can’t believe some other blogger hasn’t already done it). This past week was Pride Week in Sudbury, so I figured what better time to make these than now.

In terms of the online Oreo cookie photo, it was interesting to watch the public backlash. I read some of the comments left on the Facebook photo, before stopping because there were so many ignorant and offensive statements. People said they didn’t like that Nabisco was politicizing the Oreo, but you know what, I don’t like that people are homophobic, either. I am completely fine with people having their own values – and that includes those who may have traditional views on marriage and what constitutes love – but please do not use those values to outwardly try to limit or discriminate against others. Some of the most beautiful and nurturing relationships I have seen are between two men or two women.

ANYWAYS. I thought these homemade Oreos turned out super well and was so excited that you were able to see all the icing colours, even after cookie sandwich squishing occurred. The cookies even had that same, slightly-dry/slightly-crunchy texture that store-bought Oreos possess.

Warning: a cavity was born with each bite, so these are not for the faint of heart. You will be wanting to brush your teeth after these (or at the very least, drink a litre of milk).

Happy Pride Week, Sudbury! And to everyone else out there, I love you, no matter who you love.

Packed up and ready to be brought into work

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