Good Dish: Flourless Matcha Tea Cake

photo credit: Macha Tea Company

Until this month, I was new to matcha, that gloriously green powder from tea leaves grown in Japan. I had viewed the ceremony of it many times, in food magazines and in documentaries on TV—the bowl, the whisk, the warm, frothy healthful drink it becomes.

And so I wasn’t sure how this tea–the flavor of which can best be described as a freshly picked young blade of grass– could be made the star ingredient in a flourless cake. Then again, like I said, I was a newbie.

What I didn’t know was something Macha Tea Company co-owner Rachel Verbrick (with husband, Anthony) knows very well, that a green cake—a flourless one at that—is a good cake. A really, really good cake.

Verbrick whisks by hand the vibrant matcha powder into egg whites and then folds the mixture into white chocolate melted with butter, before gently combining with the yolks and then baking at a low temperature under a watchful eye.

Of this moist and tender cake, she says that it’s a “good vehicle for matcha” and that it “shows what matcha can be.”

The matcha is not just there for color, but it certainly works to build intrigue. The flavor is present, gentle at the same time. Finished with a dusting of powder sugar, the memory of it lingers, long after you’ve savored the last bite.

And of course, enjoy it with tea. Something delicate, Verbrick offers. If not matcha then from their menu, perhaps Japanese Sencha or the Yue Guang Bai “Moonlight White”.

Of note, and an important one at that: Verbrick makes this cake when she makes it and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Best to check Macha Tea Company’s Instagram feed or Facebook page for the announcement that it’s about to come out of the oven and then get there.

Quickly.

Macha Tea Company

823 E. Johnson St., Madison, 608.283.9283

http://www.machateacompany.com/

 

 

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Get out of Bed and Meet Madison’s Newest Coffee Shops

Madison is a highly caffeinated city. There are no shortages of cafes and coffee shops in every direction. For those of us who couldn’t (believe me, you wouldn’t want us to) go a day without imbibing the elixir of the roasted bean, we need look no further than to our own neighborhood to grab a latte, espresso and pour-over. Fellow java friends rejoice, for not one, but three new coffee shops have recently sprung up, bringing us to life with the buzz we crave and the cozy atmosphere we desire.

Stone Creek Coffee (1216 East Washington Ave., 422-5266)

In this Milwaukee-original shop, urban dwellers in knit hats sip lattes softly infused with dreamy flavors such as lavender, vanilla bean or cardamom spice. You can have a conversation and yet not feel intrusive upon the entrepreneur tapping away on his laptop at the table next to you. The  space is industrial-chic with tall ceilings and a large garage door that come spring will open to a patio facing East Wash. Madison Sourdough provides the scones and other sweet and buttery things.

Café Domestique (1408 Williamson St., 467-2021)

Domestique is a French term that describes the cyclist on the racing team who rides for the benefit of the team; who serves rather than tries to win the race for himself. You don’t need to be a cyclist or even own a bike to enjoy the camaraderie of Madison natives, Dan and Tim, two friends/owners of this Willy Street space serving coffee within the also newly opened Cargo bike shop. Here, beans from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee Roaster’s are behind every cup. The rosemary brown sugar syrup latte is a surprise and worth experiencing as an afternoon pick-me-up. This is a cozy, if slightly narrow space, with a few tables that could seat 3 to 4 friends comfortably and a smattering of chairs that encourage a leisurely sip. Get your bakery fix from treats provided by next door neighbor, Batch Bakehouse.

Porter (640 West Washington Ave., Suite 101, 720-1110

Waiting for a train that never comes has never been spent so pleasantly at Gil Altschul’s (owner of Grampa’s Pizza and Gil’s Bar) coffee and sandwich shop located in the more than a century-old Milwaukee Road Depot just off West Wash.  Part of the revitalization of this historic train station, Porter joins Motorless Motion Bikes and La Lingerie along the boardwalk that faces a sunny yellow train car. Most seating is up on bar stools, but there are a couple of bistro tables with additional seating in the room that joins the coffee shop with the bike shop. We have Lazy Jane’s to thank for the delicious baked goods. The sandwiches are all Altschul. A stand-out is perhaps the Heritage Farms shaved ham breakfast sandwich with sharp cheddar, stone ground mustard, egg and red onions on a brioche bun. Along with a cup of coffee—maybe a flat white, this pairing is worth getting out of bed for.

Lunch Squad Slurps at Morris Ramen

Lunch Squad. That’s the name this group came up with when we first met back in September over lunch at the new West Washington Avenue location of Madison’s Red sushi restaurant. We’ve gathered at a different location every month since, usually on the last Thursday and have sampled some of the city’s new and solid standbys.

This month I put out the call again on Facebook: I have a reservation for eight at Morris Ramen, just off the Capitol Square. If you’d like to check out this new restaurant with us, say “I’m in!” in the comments. You should come!

Every month familiar faces blend in with new around the table and every month the group hits it off. By the time our checks arrive, new friends are exchanging Instagram handles, websites and random foodie facts–last month, someone asked what the difference in taste was for fresh tumeric vs. dried.

Lunch Squader and photo stylist @sunnyfrantz (check out her Instagram feed!)
Lunch Squader and photo stylist @sunnyfrantz (check out her Instagram feed!)

In October we visited Ha Long Bay on the east side–a stand-out is always the feel-good Tom Kha. In November we went downtown to Osteria Papavero (owner/chef Francesco Mangano’s Pasta al Forno that day was a tower of pasta, sauce, meat, cheese and peas–I ate that and followed it up with his That’s-so-damn-good! creamy and caramelly budino).

We went a bit farther east Madison in December to Om Indian Fusion. One look at the Galab Jamun at the buffet had us all eager to head back up for those fried pastry balls in cardamon syrup with cocoa and coconut.

Last month, we met back downtown and down the steps to cozy Layla’s Persian restaurant. I am still dreaming of the lamb shank I ordered that Laila Borokhim, owner/chef, served over fragrant butterful rice.

I can’t wait to share more about the Lunch Squad and what we eat next month. If you’re in Madison and we’re friends on FB, you too should come!

In the meantime, if you go to Morris Ramen and you should, here’s some helpful info.

  • Name: Morris Ramen
  • It’s about: fresh ramen noodle bowls from chefs/husband & wife: Matt Morris (who spent the last eight years at Shinji Muramoto’s Restaurant Muramoto–now Muramoto Downtown–and several months in Japan, immersing himself in the food and culture) and Francesca Hong, who gets props for being one of the youngest female executive chefs while at Shinji’s 43 North. And Shinji Muramoto himself (Muramoto Downtown, Muramoto Hilldale, 43 North) is also in this kitchen rounding out one hell of a ramen team.
  • And eat the: pork bun with pickle, hoisin and Hong’s chicken wings with kimchi ranch, pickled daikon
  • Open since: December 2016
  • Helpful Hint: Got long locks? Bring a hair tie and tie it up for maximum noodle slurpidge.
  • Location: in the former Red sushi restaurant just off the Capitol Square on King St. And before that, Muramoto’s first restaurant location.
  • Address: 106 King St., Madison
  • Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 am -2 pm; Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10pm
  • Website: http://morrisramen.com/

 

Orange-Scented Molasses Cookies

There is an ice storm passing through and every shape outside from earth to sky–only grey–a heavy, wet, chilling shade of grey. Every once in awhile, a neighbor burdened with the task of catching the downtown bus, walks cautiously past my kitchen window, skidding, catching himself at the last minute. I’m so lucky that I get to be home today and having cancelled a couple of appointments, here is where I shall stay.

One of my favorite issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine is one that I happened to pick up while in line checking out at the grocery store 5 years ago. It’s the 2012 Holiday Baking issue and I’ve referenced it often (read: pages are flour-dusted with pen-scratched notes in the margins) from buttermilk biscuits, Christmas morning cinnamon buns and to these very addictive chewy gingerbread cookies that while baking, fill my kitchen with the fragrance and aroma of a more pleasant winter’s eve–cinnamon, cloves and orange.

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar PLUS 2/3 cup for dipping
  • 3 teaspoons grated orange zest (2 teaspoons for dipping; 1 teaspoon for cookies)
  • 2 1/4 cup (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine, freshly ground pepper
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 12 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (measure in a liquid measuring cup) light or dark molasses (not blackstrap–too strong)

Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Then, in the little bowl that came with your food processor, that if you, like me, haven’t used before, process 2/3 cup granulated sugar with 2 teaspoons grated orange zest until a lovely and fragrant pale orange (10 seconds ought to do it). Next pour sugar into an 8- or 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda (as molasses has a bit of acidity to it, it needs a bit of baking soda, an alkalai, to react with it and provide lift) salt, and spices together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter for a 20 seconds or so, then add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed to medium-low and add egg yolk and vanilla. Increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.

Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses beating until fully incorporated (20 seconds), scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with a rubber spatula. Reduce speed to lowest setting and add flour mixture slowly, mixing until just combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl again, once.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final stir with the rubber spatula, making sure to really get to the bottom of the bowl. Dough will be soft.

Scoop and form 1 1/2-inch balls (using a tablespoon as a guide may help), dropping 6 at a time into the cake pan with the sugar/orange zest mixture. Toss balls in sugar to coat and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet. (I spaced 3 across and 4 down–my pans are 17″x 12″).  Bake only one pan at a time for about 10 minutes (cookies won’t bake evenly otherwise), turning the pan once half-way through baking. 

Do not over bake. Cookies are done even though the centers are still soft and in between the cracks appears to look raw. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

#MadLunchSquad

Last month I announced on Facebook that I was hoping to gather interested friends to have lunch with me at a newly located restaurant in Madison.  I made a reservation for five and in no time I had received confirmation from four individuals allowing me to easily fulfill the reservation. Ruth Reichl, the award-winning author, one-time New York Times restaurant critic and the last editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine, promised me in an interview I conducted with her a couple of years ago that foodies find foodies.  I feel it’s time I find mine.

What’s great about this group is that its purpose is to be fluid and ever-evolving, quite possibly never the same group twice. I announce the restaurant on my FB page and friends can decide if they’re interested in that particular menu of the month. There is so much diversity in Madison’s food scene that there is sure to be a restaurant offering for everyone interested in going out for lunch and meeting new friends.

That’s what happened last month at Madison RED, a favorite sushi restaurant. Although I knew all the women sitting around the table, few of them knew each other. Before we even ordered our rolls we had come to be fast friends and actually came up with a name for ourselves. We are Madison’s Lunch Squad.

Because I couldn’t help but take a few notes, I thought I’d share with you my impression of the new space.

Farewell to RED Sushi, the cozy raw joint of King Street and Hello to the lady in red–Madison RED Dine Lounge, now on West Washington Avenue. Dressed to the nines in red, black and gold; draped with sparkling stainless chandeliers, the new restaurant looks as if it has matured from what was once an intimate locale just off the capital square.

The bar now is an expression of sophistication and good taste, sweeping through the room like the train of an elegant evening gown, adorned with intimate booths cradling smartly-dressed guests. Chopsticks pirouette over creative rolls and sashimi, seared filet mignon and halibut. On a recent lunch date with friends, we each enjoyed the two-roll lunch special for $13. A toothsome favorite was the tropic bintoro roll (see above)—spicy, buttery albacore tuna, sweet tempura-battered mango, cuddled with smooth avocado.

Both raw and cooked as well as vegetarian rolls are offered. Whichever rolls you choose, consider getting the pork bun as an appetizer and the sweetly seasoned seaweed salad with crunchy cucumber slices involved in your dining daydream.

See you this month at a yet to be disclosed location!

#Madlunchsquad