Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Baking: Matcha Green Tea Castella

Matcha Green Tea Castella
Date: 26/07/2014

It’s been two weeks after coming home from South Korea and a quick visit to Japan. I found myself craving green tea flavoured desserts. As easy as it is to purchase them nowadays, the winter associated laziness syndrome kicked in and I couldn’t even be bothered going to the shops to hunt down food. Shocking I know.

This is when you head to the kitchen and scrummage around and see what meager ingredients you have left. You proceed to sit down and have an Iron-chef-esque moment where you brainstorm what you can create out of nothing.

I had one of those exact sugar craving moments just last Saturday.

Now here is where we add the magic of a beater and heat, and hey presto, a castella is now standing where all those ingredients once were. Not just any Castella, but a green tea one!

Here’s a little history behind Castellas. In basic terms, they’re a sweet sponge cake that due to its simple taste has become a Japanese favourite. The name Castella is actually of Portuguese origin, and were originally brought over by Portuguese merchants. Over time the taste has changed to what the Japanese have today. They are most commonly sold as a rectangular shape.

I first was introduced to them through the infamous bread-making manga “Yakitake!! Japan”, -spoiler alert-, it’s what the main character makes when presented with only eggs, sugar, and salt.

My inspiration came from the Cookingwithdog youtube channel, but I made a few modifications, and a few short cuts. I was impatient to eat cake.

So soft yet dense, perfect with a cup of an green or black tea without milk.

Green Tea Japanese Castella
Serving size: A round cake tin, a medium sized one…(if you want to be traditional use a square pan about 19cmx19cmx8cm)

6 medium sized eggs
150g white sugar
3 Tablespoons of Honey (a lighter one gives a more delicate flavour)
3 Tablespoons of Hot water
150g Plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons of Japanese green tea (matcha) powder

1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius, line your cake tin with baking paper.[1] Bring eggs to room temperature.[2]

2. Crack eggs in to a mixing bowl, and beat all of them with a hand beater at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add your sugar, and beat for a 1 minute.

3. Place your bowl containing your egg mixture into another dish that contains freshly boiled hot water,[3] and continue to beat the eggs at high speed. Once the egg mixture becomes lukewarm you can take the egg bowl out of hot water. You’re aiming to beat the eggs until the batter forms soft “swirls” or “ribbons” when you lift your stationary mixer.[4]

4. Place 1 tablespoon of hot water into the green tea powder, and mix until it forms a smooth mixture with no lumps. If needed add another tablespoon of hot water. Add this tea mixture into your honey and add the remaining hot water. Mix this tea and honey mixture well, then add it to the egg mixture. Beat everything at high speed for 1 minute, and at low speed for another minute.

5. Add flour to the egg mixture and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, until everything is well combined.

6. Drop the bowl onto the table at a height of 15cms a few times, to encourage any large air bubbles to travel to the top, so that the resulting cake will not have massive holes.

7. Pour the batter into your baking tin, and slash the mixture a few times to further encourage your bubbles to dissipate.

8. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 15minutes, then reduce to 150 degrees celsius for about 30minutes, in a fan forced oven.[5] Test to see if done yet, by inserting a fork or skewer into the middle of your cake.
Skewer comes out with wet mixture; then bake for another 10 minutes.
Skewer comes out with a few crumbs of cake stuck to it; this is perfect so take it out of the oven immediately.

9. Drop tin a few times to dislodge cake, and upend the cake onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover cake with another piece of plastic wrap perpendicular to the sheet underneath. If need be, place even another piece on. The aim is to completely cover the whole cake in plastic wrap, in order to trap the moisture within the cake. Leave the cake in the fridge to cool down completely. The ideal time is one day, but it’ll still taste perfectly nice after a few hours.

Explanatory footnotes
1.  I’m terrible at cutting the right shape to line the sides, so I sprayed mine with olive oil spray. Be aware as olive oil can slightly change the taste of your final product.
2. Bringing eggs to room temperature makes whipping them slighter better for more delicate cakes like chiffon cakes, I always taught to do it and only learnt why later. To bring them to room temperature quickly, place them in a bowl of room temperature water or slightly warmer tap water.
3. The idea here is to help the sugar melt more easily.
4. Check out Bakeaway with me and her picture of the batter she took for her madeleines (I forgot to take a photo of this step, I get carried away in the baking moment). When testing, don’t ever try to lift a still spinning beater!

5. My oven was too hot, so I turned my temperature down to 150 degrees and baked for 40minutes, but I still found that too long. Just test it at 30minutes and bake for longer if needed.