The walls are hung with magazines I folded page by page into a diamond shape and then draped with a paper and string garland. The tree is power-packed with bows made from magazines, colored lights which illuminate drink umbrellas leftover from a birthday party, and the bright ornaments are from 2008. The wreath hung over my old stop sign is done up with the paper garland, soy sauce packets, chop sticks and a takeout container overflowing with a glittery white string which looks like noodles and underneath is an origami nativity.
The fireplace is decked with a collection of things found in the house and a handmade banner, my homage to Tokyo streets. I even added Christmas related kanji and glow-in-the-dark paper for a special night effect.
Why am I mentioning all of this? Because I didn’t buy a single thing. This was the year of make. I made 100% of the decorations for the family room and I 100% enjoyed myself.
I found inspiration online, and recipes too. I made tea shortbread cookies and fruit-nut-chocolate crisps from Chow, although I modified the recipes of course.
I looked up matcha cookies and found this recipe. I was attracted to it because the name of her site is chocolateandzucchini so she must know what she’s doing. She does. I doubted the whole time but the proof was in the cookie. I made two batches, one with gunpowder green tea and another with jasmine. I also added vanilla extract to raw cane sugar and shook the cookies in a Ziplock before baking them.
- 7 tablespoons good-quality unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup flour
- 6 tablespoons finely ground almonds or almond meal
- 2 or 3 teaspoons of fine ground tea
- 2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, combined
- In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and confectioner’s sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix it in thoroughly.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds and tea, and mix to remove any lumps.
- Add to the first bowl and stir it in until the mixture comes together to form a ball; don’t overwork the dough. Roll it into a log with a circular or square section, about 1 1/2-inch diameter. (To form a log with a square section, place it on a work surface and press down uniformly with a cutting-board to flatten the top and bottom. Roll it by a quarter of a turn, and repeat. )
- Wrap in cling film and place in the freezer until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into slices and shake them in the sugar. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet; the cookies will spread just a touch.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to turn golden at the edges. Let rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Yields about 20 cookies.
I love looking through Chow, I find their gourmet recipes inspirational. I’d been eying these crisps for awhile but the cost of ingredients seemed daunting. So cherries became cranberries, I traded pistachios for toasted almonds but kept the white chocolate and gave myself the green light. They were easy to make, quick to bake and just as delicious as I’d hoped. I’ve written the generalized version of the recipe it so you can make any variety you’d like.
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt (I used sea salt, no big deal)
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted and unsalted nuts
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped chocolate
- Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes; scrape down the bowl sides and bottom.
- Add egg yolk, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Add cherries, pistachios, and chocolate and mix until they are uniformly distributed.
- Lay 2 (15-inch) pieces of plastic wrap on a clean work surface and place half the dough along the center of each piece. Shape the dough into 2 logs measuring about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 11 inches long. Roll the logs up in the plastic and secure tightly. Place in the freezer until firm.
- When ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350ºF and arrange a rack in the middle. Remove 1 log from the freezer and unwrap. Cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange them at least 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Return any remaining dough to the freezer in between batches.
- Bake until the cookie edges are light golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Yields about 5 dozen.