I once worked at a tea plantation on a little island in Japan. From dawn to dusk, we harvested the tea leaves, plucking them and gathering them in big baskets, until our fingers were green. From there, the tea was sorted and steamed, then dried and packaged and shipped across oceans to be enjoyed by green tea drinkers around the globe. My brief harvest experience instilled in me a deep appreciation for this precious tea. The fact that it is abundant in disease-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants is even more reason to find ways to enjoy it.
Matcha, a green tea that has been ground to powder form, is the one used in formal tea ceremonies in Japan and has a unique earthy, almost grassy flavor that is startlingly delicious. When you take part in a tea ceremony, rules of tradition and hierarchy dictate every move you make: how to bow to your host, how to rotate and inspect the tea cup, how to comment on the weather and beautiful scenery around you… even the temperature of the hot water, the distance between the teapot and cup as the tea is poured, and every slight movement of the host is keenly measured and noted. I found it difficult to focus on such minutiae when I had this delicious cup of frothy green goodness before me, along with a token sweet that was a perfect counterbalance to the tea’s bitter notes.
When you make your own matcha ice cream, however, I say you can create your own rules. I wanted to find a recipe that re-created that frothy texture of matcha and hit all the refreshing bitter notes while also blending in creamy, rich sweetness. While it takes a bit of whipping and stirring and waiting for the mixture to freeze, this recipe created just that. I think it’s even worthy of tradition — one where there’s always an extra scoop for the hostess.
Note: I used a matcha powder from Maeda-en that I bought online; there’s a wide variety of quality and prices for matcha powder, but I found this basic (non-culinary grade) one tasted great and wasn’t too expensive.
(Adapted from Setsuko Yoshizuka’s recipe on About.com)
- 1 Tbs. matcha green tea powder
- 3 Tbs. hot water
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 5 Tbs. sugar
- 3/4 cup milk
Whisk hot water and green tea powder together in a bowl until frothy green and powder is completely dissolved; set aside. Whip the heavy cream (I used an immersion blender to get it thick) and set aside. Set up an ice bath with a medium mixing bowl set inside a larger mixing bowl with ice and very cold water.
In a small pot, lightly whisk egg yolks. Add sugar and mix well. Gradually add milk and mix well. Put the pot on low heat and heat the mixture, stirring constantly with the whisk. When the mixture is thickened (4-5 minutes — just don’t let it boil), remove the pot from the heat. Pour the egg mixture into the mixing bowl and cool the bowl in the ice bath briefly. Add the green tea mixture into the egg mixture and mix well, cooling in ice water. Add whipped heavy cream in the mixture and stir gently. Pour the mixture in an ice cream maker and let it churn, following instructions of the ice cream maker (20 minutes), then freeze. Or, pour the mixture into a container and freeze, stirring the ice cream occasionally. It reaches the best consistency after freezing for about an hour; after more than this it gets difficult to scoop. Take it out and let it soften slightly before serving. Makes 4 servings.