I am part of a cooking club affectionately called the "Hungry Chefs." Eight of us take turns planning the menu, shopping for ingredients, and then as a group we prepare and share the meal. This group has become the source of many of my favorite recipes.
Recently, we made a Japanese-themed menu that included the most delicious green tea ice cream I have ever eaten. It was rich in green tea flavor, not overly sweet and had a smooth creamy texture.
I've made green tea ice cream before by steeping green tea in hot cream, straining the liquid and then following a basic ice cream recipe, but I've never been happy with the results. My efforts resulted in bland ice cream that lacked the level of green tea flavor I desired.
But that ice cream served at cooking club was so satisfying. The recipe called for egg yolks, heavy cream and other traditional ice cream ingredients, but there was one ingredient I had never heard of and that ingredient made all the difference: matcha green tea powder.
I've since learned that matcha is a fine powder ground from special green tea leaves. You can use matcha to make tea for drinking or as an ingredient in sweet or savory recipes.
While green teas grow throughout the world, matcha is unique to Japan. Matcha has a unique rich taste, starting as grassy and astringent, followed by a lingering sweetness. Matcha made in the traditional Japanese style, whisked with water, is a full-bodied green tea. When added to recipes matcha becomes mild and smooth. It adds the flavor and color of green tea to whatever you are making, be it a smoothie, latte, or in my case, ice cream.
In addition to its distinctive green tea flavor, this recipe has another unique twist: the heavy cream is whipped before being folded into the custard made from egg yolks, milk and sugar. Most recipes simply call for adding the liquid heavy cream to the other custard ingredients.
I decided to try the recipe with and without whipping the cream and was surprised by the outcome. Both versions were equally tasty, but the recipe made with whipped cream yielded a light and creamy texture, even after chilling in the freezer overnight. The non-whipped version yielded a dense and crumbly ice cream. I never thought a recipe alteration as simple as this could make such a difference.
You can find matcha green tea powder at most Asian markets, through e-retailers and in some health food stores, as it is said to be high in antioxidants. It is sold in small canisters and a little goes a long way.
I used to think I could only enjoy green tea ice cream at a Japanese restaurant; thankfully I was wrong.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Cook of the Week Challenge.