Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tea For You: Green Tea Biscotti

(Pink Martini's version of Two for Tea playing in the background...)

For a long time, a friend of mine and I exchanged email with a wide variety of tea in the subject headers.   There's something about an invitation to tea--different from coffee, I think--that implies a sitting down and lingering, a commiserating, a communion of comfort.  It's luxurious to have tea, in a way that coffee, perhaps, isn't: I remember one year, as a teenager, giving my mother the Christmas gift of high tea with me at the Plaza in New York, and savoring the tea and scones and tiny savory sandwiches, thinking that I'd achieved the pinnacle of decadence.  It was, of course, a gift for both of us.

But I think you can savor tea alone, too: I've been pouring myself quite a bit of tea during these last few rainy days, and I find myself lingering over it in a way that I don't linger over my coffee in the morning (truth be told, I gulp it down, despite the fact that it's only decaf; I've often said that coffee makes milk drinkable).  Tea meditation is becoming a more popular practice in various sanghas, for reasons that are probably obvious. Thich Nhat Hanh says this about tea meditation:
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.
If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that.
If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.
You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.
It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.
When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment.
Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
The Japanese have been practicing tea meditation for a long time, it seems to me.  As I was preparing this post, I read a bit about the Japanese tea ceremony, to which harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility are central.

I made these biscotti, thinking of Japan (our online bake sale for Japan raised $8,269 so far ... and if you still want to donate, you can add your contribution here), and thinking of the meditative qualities of tea.

Don't adjust your computer screen.  These really are GREEN. 
The matcha and toasted nuts pair well, and made with a little whole-grain pastry flour and chock full of Omega-3 rich walnuts and canola oil these biscotti can be a healthful treat served up with ... more green tea.  :)  Make sure you stop to really taste it.

Tell us: what is your favorite everyday meditation, alone or with others?

Green Tea Biscotti (adapted from VCIYCJ)

1/4 c. non dairy milk (I prefer almond for this recipe)
3 to 4 t. matcha powder (I found that three was enough)
2 T. ground flax seed
1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz walnut halves (about 1 1/4 c.) or pistachios

Preheat oven to 350. Light grease or line with parchment paper a medium sized baking sheet.

In a large bowl pour non-dairy milk, add green tea powder and with a wire whisk beat till smooth and no lumps remain. Beat in ground flax seeds till smooth. Add canola oil, sugar and vanilla and beat till smooth.

Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Stir to form a smooth dough, then knead in walnut halves, pushing any nuts that pop out back into the dough.

Form a log about 10 inches long by 4 inches, using a rubber spatula to even edges and flatten end sides of log. Bake for 30 minutes until log is puffed and firm. Some cracking is okay. Place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack, turn off oven and allow log to cool for at least 45 minutes. If any edges of the log are too browned gently trim off with a sharp heavy knife.

Preheat oven to 325. Very carefully slide log off of baking sheet onto a cutting board. With a sharp, heavy knife slice log into 1/2 inch thick slices, using one quick and firm motion, pressing down into log. Very gently move slices to baking sheet, standing slices on bottom edge if possible. Bake slices for 30 minutes. Slices should appear dry and nuts should be lightly toasted. Allow to cool 10 minutes on baking sheet then carefully move to wire cooling racks to complete cooling (warm cookies may be fragile). Store in loosely covered container.
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  1. Those biscotti look amazing. As does the tea. I think I really, really need a tea break when I get home. Badly.

  2. Looks fantastic! I also LOVE tea, I find it so comforting to have a cup of tea! I'm a fan of coffee too, but I don't feel as relaxed or comforted as I do with tea.

  3. These sound superb! For the past year my husband and I have been obsessed with a rooibos chai - no caffiene and lots of yummy spices! We get it at a fantastic tea shop. It's beautiful and tranquil, has teas from all over the world, serves Japanese lunches, hosts events like gong meditation sessions and concerts with interesting Asian instruments. The fun bit of contrast in all this? It's run by one of the Violent Femmes & his wife.

  4. I'm sorry I missed those.

    There are places where it's normal to linger over a cup of coffee, even here in the US.

    I've been having a lot of meetings at coffee shops recently, and I've discovered that most of them work hard to look like they want you to linger without actually encouraging you to linger. There are comfy chairs and little tables, but things are just the wrong size and just the wrong place so you end up shouting or being afraid to disturb the person next to you. The only way to pull off the lingering conversation is to find a table that's hidden behind a pillar.

  5. I'm a coffee drinker but Jasmine and Green tea have come in to my life over the years. Particularly Green Tea for it's potency in anti-oxindants and apparently can help treat endometriosis which is what I had during my IF years. Herbal tea is also awesome in fibre and keeps you regular without the gut staining that coffee does. I also was given an amazing Chinese Tea set for my wedding and use it often whilst relaxing with a book!

  6. I love these biscotti! I think my favourite daily meditation is my evening cup of green tea, where my husband and I sit down and relax and enjoy a sweet treat as well as each other.

    I am going to make these at Easter. :)

  7. I love tea and am very much a tea-drinker. A bit strange, as most of the family are heavily into their coffee. But there's something so comforting about a cup of milky tea. (And dunking biscotti always makes it that much nicer).

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  9. I love your approach to blogging: a reflection on life followed by a new recipe to try. I always feel calm, peaceful and content when I read your posts. I have to be honest and admit that I don't like biscotti...but I loved this post! Thank you so much for sharing.

    (And I'm a tea-girl all the way!)

  10. I also love to linger over a lovely cup of tea. It can be so soothing and comforting. But I also like to linger over my coffee as well. :) Awesome that the bake sale has done so well!

  11. Hey lady, you gave my food blog a shout-out awhile back and now I am returning the favor on my own:

    :) Keep up the awesome work.


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