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Matcha bars with strawberry jam filling

Somehow it’s always the simplest recipes that manage to throw me for a loop.

Remember this line from my recent post on the photo shoot where I first made these supposedly simple matcha bars?..

“The bars were based on a similar recipe that I’ve made countless times, so I knew they’d turn out. The only thing I was really trying to figure out with this test was how much matcha to use and how long to bake them.”

Yeah, well, I ended up needing to make these 4 times to get them right. It cannot be said that I don’t care about you guys. I guess tasting 4 different versions of matcha bars wasn’t too bad though. 😉

Matcha bars

When I made them for Jimi at the photo shoot, they really did taste incredible. But it was clear that I’d over-baked them and I wondered if maybe omitting the almond meal would help the green tea flavor to stand out more. On my second attempt I replaced the almond meal with more flour and was pretty pleased with how the dough looked before baking. But then…I over-baked them again.

Matcha bars

Matcha bars

No matter! I’ll try again! And so I did with the same all-flour recipe and this time I managed to bake them correctly. Hooray!

But wait…this all-flour version is so dry. And the crumbles are the texture of sand, and the whole thing crumbles into a sandy mess when you try to take a forkful of it. On top of that, I hated the photos I had taken of it. The bars looked brown and drab, not bright and green and springy.

Matcha bars

And here we are, come round full circle to the original recipe, just not over-baked. Finally. I swear they really are easy to make, I totally made it hard on myself for no reason.

I hope you try them. The subtle grassy tea note is mellowed perfectly by the sweet jam. I love to eat them warm while the jam is still all molten and melty. They would be excellent as an Easter dessert or brunch pastry.

Matcha bars

Matcha bars

Matcha bars with strawberry jam filling

The springy green flavor of fine matcha tea contrasts with the sweetness of strawberries in this simple but stunning dessert.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almond meal
  • 2 tbsp. matcha powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam

Cooking Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, cream together room temperature butter with brown and white sugars.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  3. Add half of the dry mixture to the wet and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and mix through.
  4. Pour in the last of the dry mix and mix until just combined.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape all excess dough off the sides and bottom with a spatula. Use your hands to finish mixing the dough.
  6. Add half of the dough to a buttered and floured 9-inch round or square baking dish and pat down with your hands until it covers the bottom. Add jam and spread across the surface with the back of a spoon. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the jam in small pieces.
  7. Bake at 350F degrees for 40 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. Serve warm or cooled and store covered at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I’ve had a hard time finding matcha in regular grocery stores that isn’t either of terrible quality or terribly expensive. I saw a single ounce being sold at Whole foods for $28. I don’t care how organic or artisan or made of magic it was, that’s a sucker price. I’ve been buying the 4oz. bag of this matcha from Amazon(full disclosure: this is an affiliate link) for less than $10 and have been really pleased with it. It may not be high quality enough for drinking, but it’s plenty nice for baking. I store it in the freezer between uses to keep it fresh and it’s been just as good as the day I bought it for several months now.

Matcha bars


Have you ever baked with matcha (green tea powder) before?



Date night at The Spence

I know I’ve been absent for a while. Jeff and I both got the flu last month so we’ve both been generally tired and “off” for quite some time now. After an entire month spent indoors eating dry toast for dinner and never seeing the light of day, it was finally time we got out into the world again.

This past weekend we took a date night to The Spence, one of Richard Blais’s newish restaurants in Atlanta. We decided to do our usual thing and order a bajillion small plates in lieu of entrees so that we could try more of the menu, which sounded incredible.

Started off with buffalo sweetbreads garnished with both creamed and powdered bleu cheese and a few sprigs of celery leaf. These were extraordinarily spicy, but still really soft and delicious.

Buffalo sweetbreads

Next was the porcini mushroom and shortrib pasta. It was pretty good, with chewy pasta and a runny egg. There was very little shortrib though, and I think the mushrooms were added as a powder because the flavor was there but they were nowhere to be seen.

Porcini and shortrib pasta

Then harissa spiced beef tartare with fried quail eggs and tater tots. This one was so yummy! I loved the tater tots standing in for the requisite toast, but there really should have been a lot more of them. We ended up just eating several spoonfuls of raw beef towards the end there.

Harissa beef tartare with tater tots

Another delicious dish suffering from a lack of sufficient toast: foie gras with Japanese green peaches. There was other stuff on it too that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. Some shallot slices that tasted like they were marinated in the peach juice, something that looked like yuzu gel but tasted like nothing, possibly crushed hazelnuts, and a pickled olive that took me by surprise. It was really tasty, but again there wasn’t enough toast to pile it all on so we ended up eating almost half of it straight up, which was not my favorite thing ever. Those little green peaches were incredible though.

Foie with green peaches and brioche

Jeff was full so we opted to skip to dessert. I could’ve eaten one more dish but I just hadn’t been too impressed by anything so far so I chose to skip it. We got the yuzu semifreddo with peach sorbet and chili oil….

Yuzu semifreddo and peach sorbet with chili oil

It was gross.

The semifreddo had almost no discernable flavor and the chili oil was CRAZY overpowering. The menu also didn’t mention that there would be flavorless cracker crumbs and bitter cacao nibs, which is strange because chocolate is a common allergen and should always be mentioned up front. There was also one lone sprig of cilantro that completely freaked me out when I wasn’t expecting it. None of the flavors in this dessert went together at all, it was really bizarre and easily the worst dessert I’ve ever had.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with The Spence. It was incredibly noisy, so noisy that you kind of have to just give up on talking to each other until you leave. Our waiter kind of sucked too, he acted like he had just decided that we weren’t going to order much from the beginning and that we were wasting his time. Maybe he was just having a bad night but his mood really seemed targeted at us. And maybe this is a weird thing to critique, but I hated the off-center plating of most of the dishes. I know it was intentional, but it didn’t appear intentional. It always just looked like the food had slid to one side of the plate in between the kitchen and the table, made me feel like I was eating rejects.

So, not my favorite Atlanta restaurant. Sucks because there were so many yummy-sounding things on the menu that I wanted to come back and try, but now not so much.

Moving on…

We parked the car at home after dinner and walked into Decatur looking for a place to grab a nice cocktail or two and ended up at The Pinewood. We basically had the whole bar to ourselves, so we really were able to relax and talk and enjoy our drinks leisurely.

I started with the Pinewood cup. It’s white whiskey, mint, sugar, bitter lemon soda, rhubarb bitters, and seasonal fruit. It was fruity and delicious with just enough booze.

Pinewood cup

Jeff got a Brown Derby which includes bourbon, honey, and fresh grapefruit juice. He always orders well, I liked his better than mine!

Brown derby

We were there long enough to try two more cocktails. He had a Dark and Stormy and I had a Porch Punch. The punch had peach and anise flavors; I really enjoyed it. Jeff’s cocktail was extra gingery from its house made ginger beer.

We’ve actually been to The Pinewood once before with some friends, and I even took photos but never got around to blogging about it. The food we had on that occasion was all excellent. I remember some really stand-out fried green tomatoes and the creamiest broad bean hummus.

So if you’re ever in Decatur, definitely give The Pinewood a try. The Spence though, I’m not sure if I would recommend as much.

It was a really nice date night though. I’m glad we’re both feeling better and getting out and about again!

For my fellow Atlantans: What restaurant do you recommend we try next?

For Everyone: What’s the worst dessert you’ve ever had?


Bar Exam: Good n’ natural lemon bar

I haven’t done a bar exam in a long time! Truthfully, I haven’t been sampling many new bars lately because I’ve been having a Clif Builder protein bar almost every day while I’ve been doing the LiveFit trainer. I haven’t exactly wanted a second bar on any given day so there’s rarely a time for me to try any.

I did give this Good n’ Natural lemon bar a shot though, because as you may know, I LOVE lemon flavored sweets.

Good n' natural lemon bar

This bar is packed with real whole foods and is both vegan and dairy-free.

Good n' natural lemon bar ingredients

At 230 calories, it’s the right size for a satisfying snack. 9 grams of sugar is not that bad, and as a bonus there’s 10 whole grams of protein too.

Good n' natural lemon bar stats

Appearance: Has the smooth pasty look of a larabar but is completely filled with obvious oats and nuts. I tend to love these bars that are essentially just fruit and nut paste, so I was already excited about this one as soon as I unwrapped it.

Good n' natural lemon bar unwrapped

Texture: Delightfully chewey. The oats provide a nice textural element without being too much to chomp through. I always hated the Quaker granola bars as a kid because my jaw would ache from chewing all those oats like a pony. Not a problem with this bar, the oats are softer and the fruit and nut paste that holds them together is smooth and homogenous.

Good n' natural lemon bar unwrapped 2

Taste: Sigh. This bar was so promising. Looks good, chews good, but it tastes like wood chips and cardboard held together by wax. There is a faint floral lemon zest aroma and flavor right as you swallow, but it’s very light and tastes more like the kind of lemon you’d expect to find in soap or perfume than in food. Sad, really.

Good n' natural lemon bar bite

It was so gross that I’m not sure I can trust any other flavor from this brand. If they use the same stale nuts, flavorless dried fruit, and fake-tasting “natural flavors” as this one, I’m sure to be disappointed as well.

That’s it. I have had so many negative Bar Exams that I’m gonna just review one that I know is excellent so I can have something nice to say again. Maybe a Kind bar or a Larabar in a fun flavor I haven’t tried.

Have you ever bought something that sounded like it was made for you only for it to end up tasting gross?