Let’s talk about fats. Relax, I’m not referring to the kind stuck around your waist but the ones we use for cooking. Not all fats are created equal and butter is one of those that has come in and out of fashion in the last few decades. Made from animal fat, butter was ditched in favour of margarine, which was purportedly healthier for us since it is made from vegetable oils. But what we only realized later, was that the vegetable oils which are liquid at room temperature, had to be hydrogenated (a chemical process that exposes the oils to high heat, high pressure, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst) to solidify it and prolong its shelf life. So what started out as heart-healthy unsaturated fats, turn out to become highly processed, artery-clogging trans fat when served in a margarine tub on the breakfast table. To be fair, today there are some margarines that avoid the hydrogenation process and opt for ‘interesterified’ vegetable oils – a treatment that rearranges the fat molecules under high temperature and pressure, using enzymes or acids as catalysts. These tend to be softer in texture and are a good option for those avoiding animal or saturated fat. But for a baker, soft margarine has little use in the pantry. Butter is unequalled in flavour and texture and is one of the most important building blocks in many baked goods. Croissants, buttercream, butter cakes, cookies, tarts, brioche, puff pastry, scones, are just some items where butter is fundamental. So as for me and my household, we consume good quality butter, but in moderation.
Speaking of butter and baked goods, SCS butter is currently running a baking competition! Called the Star Baker Challenge, it consists of five rounds of themed baking challenges. In the first round, the 1-star challenge, all baking enthusiasts are free to submit a photo of anything they baked using SCS butter. Shortlisted participants will then move to the next round where a theme will be announced for the next challenge. After four rounds of competition, four finalists will compete live in the 5-star challenge and the winner will walk away with the grand prize of a luxury trip for two to Australia worth $5,000! This is the kind of competition I watch on TV longingly and secretly wish I could take part in. It’s so much fun and I find myself thinking up of all the possible competition-worth entries I can submit. But I can’t cos I’m hosting the live finals! So I decided I’m just gonna bake along and blog my unofficial entries just for fun. You can bake along with me too or better still, take part in the competition yourself! More information on SCS Dairy’s website and Facebook page.
When I think of butter, I think of many things. But I wanted to bake something that would let the butter speak for itself and use the premium matcha (green tea) powder that my aunt bought for me from Japan. So matcha shortbread it shall be! Sure helps too that it’s super easy, super fast, and super yummy. You don’t have to go to Japan to get the matcha powder, you can get it from your local baking store or buy a good quality, fine green tea powder. I hope you enjoy it as much as me and family did!
(Recipe from food.com)
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon matcha powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1. Sift flour, matcha powder and salt together.
2. Cream unsalted butter and sifted icing sugar together until creamy
3. Fold dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined.
4. Wrap dough into a log using clingwrap. Chill or freeze until the dough becomes hard.
5. To bake, preheat oven to 325 F/ 160 C. Remove clingwrap and cut dough into discs 5mm thick.
6. Place cookies on a parchment or silpat lined baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges start to brown and the centre of the cookie is firm on the surface.
7. Remove from oven and cool. Enjoy immediately or store in an air-tight container for 3-5 days.