Totoro Cookies

>>  Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This post is part of a larger series: An Asian Twist on a Traditional Holiday Meal. Other posts in this series include Chinese Oven Roasted Duck, and Keroppi Cookies.

I've always been a sucker for matcha (green tea) cookies.

Until now, I never even considered trying to make them myself. Instead, I would purchase them at specialty bakeries, usually Japanese or Taiwanese.

However, when Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program called for bloggers to participate in the GLAD Cookies for Kids Cancer cookie exchange, I decided it was time to challenge myself and try my hand at baking these cookies myself.

Of course, I couldn't just make any ordinary cookies.

Not if I'm going to give them away.

Alas, Totoro Matcha cookies were born.

Matcha is finely milled green tea often used in sweets such as green tea flavored ice cream, cakes, and cookies. Because matcha is made from high quality tea buds and requires more time for grinding, it is usually more expensive than other teas. For example, the little 1.0 oz tin that I bought costs $12.

I took a simple butter cookie recipe from The Joy of Cooking (my go-to basics book!) and modified it by adding matcha (Thanks Talida for the inspiration!).

In order to make Totoros, you need two different types of cookie dough: a green matcha one for his exterior, and a white one for his belly.
I did not have a Totoro cookie cutter, bit I found a rabbit egg mold that sort of resembled Totoro's shape. It wasn't perfect, so I still had to use a knife to cut out the ears. However, it was useful to have the mold as a guide, keeping all the Totoros roughly the same size.

Since I don't usually bake, I don't have a lot of the normal baking supplies that a baker would have. In order to cut out the belly, I found a plastic spray bottle cap to punch out a belly hole in the green Totoros. I also used the same cap to punch out the white belly, which I then inserted into the hole.

Frankly, a tiny circular cookie cutter would have been A LOT easier. The circular cut-out periodically got stuck inside the plastic cap, and I constantly found myself trying to pry it out with a chopstick. Overall, though, it made perfect circles that were just the right size for Totoro's belly.

Here they are, all ready to be baked! Before baking, I placed a large black sprinkle in the center as Totoro's nose (not pictured in this batch!).

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edge of the ears (the thinnest part!) start to brown. Though the cookies taste better when they are slightly browned, they look better if they are not browned because the ears stay green.

At this point, I was really wishing I had bought some candy eyes.  Since I had not, I melted some white chocolate chips over a boiling water bath. I then gingerly used a chopstick to dip tiny eyes onto each Totoro. Using tweezers, I put a black nonpareil on each chocolate piece as the eyeball. As a last step, I melted chocolate chips in the microwave and used a sharp object (toothpick is perfect), to "paint" his little belly markings.

It's painstakingly slow and takes a ton of patience, but the results are so worth it!
Aren't they super cute?

As a participating blogger in the Cookies for Kids' Cancer cookie exchange, I received a bunch of GLAD containers in which to give my lovely cookies away! They also sent other awesome baking supplies, such as a gorgeous nonstick cookie sheet (I don't own one, so I was thrilled!), various holiday themed cookie cutters and decorative elements, as well as other cool baking tools (frosting deco pen anyone?).

Having all this cool baking stuff makes me want to try my hand at baking some more!
I hosted the exchange at my house over Thanksgiving (where we also enjoyed lots of other yummy food). I sent my sister's family home with a GLAD container full of Totoros and Keroppis. In exchange, I was rewarded with these lovely whole wheat chocolate chip cookies.

If you want to help GLAD raise money for GLAD will donate $.10 to Cookies for Kids' Cancer for each virtual cookie sold, exchanged or given this November and December 2011 – up to $100,000! Check out their website here for more details.


Totoro Green Tea (Matcha) Cookies
dry ingredients
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

wet ingredients
20 T (2 1/2 sticks) butter (softened!)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 T milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 T matcha powder

1. whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar on medium speed until well blended. Add egg, milk, and vanilla to the "wet ingredients" bowl. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until everything is well blended and smooth.

3. Divide the dough in two sections, with one section roughly twice as large as the other section. Mix in matcha powder into the larger section. Place each section between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thickness. Refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes.

4. Position oven rack to the center and preheat oven to 375. Grease cookie sheets if they are not nonstick!

5. Peel away the wax paper for one portion and put the dough between fresh sheets of wax paper. [Note, since this is a labor intensive cookie, I would cut the chilled dough in half and leave the other half in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut that one too. The dough becomes harder to handle once it's warm]

6. Cut the cookies with a cookie cutter. Roll the dough scraps together and continue cutting out cookies. If it gets too soft, just re-roll it out, chill in the refrigerator, and cut once it's cold.

7. Make Totoros according to the detailed instructions above. Decorate accordingly.

8. Bake until cookies are slightly golden brown at the edges, around 10-15 minutes depending on how large the cookie is.


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