In high school, I worked at a coffee shop, and we got a free drink every shift. I had a few standards I would make for myself – mochas with three extra shots, hazelnut soy lattes, and pina colada green tea smoothies. I realize this last one sounds so odd, but I promise, it was delicious. The green tea aspect came from matcha, a Japanese green tea powder, blended into the smoothie.
When I graduated, I had two graduation parties, one a brunch for family and church friends, and then a sort of combo graduation/birthday/going away, end of the summer shebang with all my friends. For this mutt of a party, I decided a simple cake would not do. Cookies would be anti-climatic, and pie simply isn’t my favorite. No, only cheesecake would do for this occasion. And when it comes to baking, I cannot leave well enough alone. So I decided to make a decadent brownie mosaic cheesecake, but I wanted something else to balance out the all-capitals, no-holds-barred lavishness of CHEESECAKE and BROWNIES and RICH RICH CHOCOLATE GANACHE. While working one day, I thought, how good would this matcha powder be in cheesecake? I had to try it. And good it was – understated but not underwhelming, creamy and just the right amount of tangy sweetness.
Since then, I hadn’t made it because I had a hard time finding reasonably priced matcha. The coffee shop stopped selling it, and when I finally found some at World Market, it was much too pricey for my college-student-working-a-summer-internship budget. Then, a few weeks ago, I was traversing an Asian market, trying to find boba and not succeeding, probably due to my inability to comprehend the languages of the signs and packaging, and I stumbled upon a silver parcel with the magical words “green tea powder” and even more magical price of $1.99.
When you’re looking for matcha, I’d recommend your local Asian market, and if you have no luck there, try this. This cheesecake is a standard 1234 (1 cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 3 pkg of cream cheese, and 4 eggs) cheesecake with the matcha added. I think it’s the best cheesecake out there; if you don’t have matcha and just want to make a simple cheesecake, omit the matcha and you will still have an excellent dessert.
Before we dive into the recipe, I’d like to talk crust with you. I find most crusts on cheesecakes to be uninspiring, necessary as a way to contain the cheesecake, but just kind of…there, flavor-wise. However, there are two tricks to take your crust to a new level: brown sugar and cookies you’d actually want to eat by themselves. I often use Teddy Grahams, but today I used a vanilla wafer cookie from Trader Joe’s. You can experiment a bit here, but I’d suggest sticking to vanilla or plain flavors if you’re using the matcha.
Green Tea Cheesecake
2 cups cookies, run through a food processor until finely ground
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, melted
3 pkg of cream cheese (8oz each), softened
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
½ cup matcha powder (also known as powdered green tea)
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Mix together cookie crumbs, sugars, and salt in a medium bowl. Add melted butter, and stir until combined. Press into the springform pan, going about an inch up the sides.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium-high until fluffy, and then add the eggs one at a time. Turn the mixer to low, and add sugar, vanilla, and matcha. When thoroughly mixed, pour into pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the cake is completely set three inches in, but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Refrigerate until completely cool before serving.
When I made this a few years ago, I made a white chocolate ganache for the top. It was delicious, and if you’d like to do the same, here’s a recipe, although you might want to half it. Pour it on hot when the cake is at least room temperature, and cool until serving.