January 28, 2014

going green

Happy 2014! Well, it may be a tad late to say New Year's greetings this late into January, but it wouldn't feel right if I didn't to begin my first entry of the year without saying something of the sort, so there. And I wouldn't even go into the question of whether or not it should feel right to leave your humble little blog in a state of near abandonment for so long. Better not say a word, friends.

And it also feels a little funny when I think that my last entry here was about granola (and muesli), because it is precisely what I am going to write about today. Yes, granola. Not your usual granola though, it's matcha granola. Yes, us Japanese never cease to find a new, less exploited way of using our beloved matcha in.

The idea of using matcha in granola has been in my mind for some time, but I never had a chance to actually have a stab at it. Then over the New Year's, I was eating a slice or three of matcha stollen with candied chestnuts that a friend of mine had baked for me, and decided that it was about time I got down to this matcha granola business, perhaps with some chestnuts thrown in the mix.  It was partly because I was at my sister's in Tokyo, where I had hardly any baking supplies to use; granola would be one of the few things I could throw together there.

First I did a bit of research (i.e. googling 'matcha granola'), and found a couple of recipes both in Japanese and in English. I went for this one (in Japanese) for matcha chestnut granola as a starting point, adding a bit of tweaking here and there.

The recipe makes a point that you should cook your oats and nuts at a very low temp so the matcha would not lose too much of its striking flavor and color, and that you add your dried fruits after the oats etc. have been cooked and removed from the oven, which is something I tend to do with any granola recipe. I stuck to these points, then brought it a bit further by sort of dry-frying my oats first, before I throw in other ingredients and add powdered matcha. This way, you can reduce the time for the matcha to be heated in the oven, which should help preserve its bright color and flavor in the finished granola.

As other ingredients, I used white sesame seeds (included in the original recipe - good match for matcha), macadamia nuts (because I preferred mild-tasting nuts for this), pistachios (for the color), pumpkin seeds (ditto), green sultanas (ditto), and a mixture of berries - dried cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, and red raisins.

When the granola mixture has cooled to  room temperature, I added Tenshin Amaguri, or 'Tianjin-style' sweet roasted chestnuts which we have in common in Japan as a snack, as suggested in the recipe.  Along came a good handful of chunks or matcha chocolate, which was my idea - or more precisely, my riff on the lovely Kerrin's idea; you see, once you have started adding chocolate chunks to your granola, it's hard to go back.

My first batch came out fine, not too bad for a first try - but not excellent, either. I tasted a bitterness, which I guessed was due to the fact that I had, rather foolishly, used pre-toasted sesame seeds. And I didn't like the noticeable tartness of cranberries in this particular mix; I found it clash the flavor of matcha. I also found the taste of honey, my choice of sweetener, slightly off too. The addition of matcha chocolate, meanwhile, was a huge hit and well made up for all the other shortcomings of the whole thing.
And it was still tasty as I had it with some fresh strawberries (a good match for matcha), and soy milk which would take on a gentle shade of green.

On my next try, I made sure I used raw sesame seeds to begin with, ditched dried cranberries, and replaced honey with maple syrup, as the original recipe does so. I didn't change the part of par-baking the oats first.

This time the granola came out beautifully, just as bright in color and flavor as the first batch, not a hint of distracting bitterness or tartness.
For my second batch, I got a few more Japanese-y ingredients in addition to the chestnuts: candied kuromame (black soy beans) and candied sweet potato cubes, both a dry-finish kind like marrons glacé.

Both the kuromame and sweet potato cubes are fairly sweet, but they worked nicely in the not-too-sweet granola. They are probably both hard to find outside of Japan, though, but I assure you that the granola tasted great without kuromame, sweet potato, or even chestnuts.
Speaking of hard-to-find, I suspect matcha chocolate might also be a bit of pain in the back to hunt down unless you are in Japan. So I took some of the finished granola aside, divided in two portions, and added dark chocolate to one and white chocolate to the other, both chopped. White chocolate and matcha are a natural, and they indeed went very well together, while I was pleased to find that dark chocolate wasn't bad at all either. But again, you can go without any chocolate at all, and the matcha granola will taste great on its own.

I tried and throw some crashed freeze-dried raspberries into the white choc batch, and loved it too. They added such an electric touch to the otherwise mild-colored and -flavored granola I think.
And since I had quite a few people asking me for the recipe when I posted a couple of photos of my matcha granola on Instagram, I'm writing it up here.  I've only made it twice and cannot say it's perfect, but perhaps you could start from here and adjust it to your liking.

+++ matcha granola (with chestnuts) +++

2 cups rolled oats
1 heaping cup mixed nuts and seeds (I used macadamias, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds), roughly chopped
1/3 cup white sesame seeds, untoasted
2 Tbs powdered matcha, plus more for finishing
2-3 Tbs vegetable oil, preferably a neutral-tasting kind
4-5 Tbs maple syrup
a pinch of salt
1 heaping cup mixed dried fruits (I used green sultanas, dried raspberries, currants, blueberries, red raisins... not cranberries!)
1/2 cup matcha chocolate, chopped (optional, but highly recommended; substitute with white or dark chocolate if unavailable)
1 cup Tenshin amaguri roasted chestnuts, chopped (optional; may be substituted with candied chestnuts but in a smaller amount)

Preheat the oven to 120C/250F. Line the baking sheet with parchment.

Spread the rolled oats over the lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.

Tip the par-cooked oats into a large bowl, and mix in the chopped nuts and seeds. Add the matcha and toss, so that the whole thing is evenly covered with the powdered tea. Add the oil, then maple syrup and salt, and mix thoroughly.

Spread the mixture back onto the lined baking sheet, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until dry but not browned, stirring once or twice along the way.

Remove from oven. Add the dried fruits and a good sprinkle of matcha, and stir well. Let cool completely before adding the chopped chocolate. Add the chopped amaguri chestnuts just before serving if using. Serve with milk and fresh berries, if desired.

Recipe adapted loosely from this.


santos. said...

welcome back! maybe i should try this blogging thing again :) but i will definitely try your granola recipe!

Anonymous said...

certainly the most spectacular looking batch of granola i've ever seen. that top photo, wow ! and ooh that spoon, love. also love reading this post, a behind-the-scenes as you develop the recipe. really cool to see it come together, thank you so much for sharing. and for sharing your love for chocolate in granola, YAY :))

Poame said...


haru said...

Wonderful way to experiment. Try without fear, compare, beeing able to not choose. I've just discovered your blog and I love it for the care you put in what you do, and in what the reader may do with what you did. It's so lovely I could die. I love matcha very much, and I will surely try this granola recipe, starting from what I can find here (I am from Italy) and maybe discovering something special too...