Riding my bike has always been a part of my life. My family relocated to the Netherlands when I was fairly young, and I think that might have influenced me. Bicycles are very prominent in the Netherlands; I’d say it’s actually most people’s primary mode of transportation, even despite the country’s great public transportation infrastructure and walkable cities. It was there that I really learned the independence and freedom that riding your bike could give you. Since the Hague was a very safe and sleepy city, my mom let me ride my bike by myself anywhere. As a little kid, I would explore the woods across from my house, sometimes riding up to 10km on my own. No video game, TV show, or toy could match the feeling of the wind in my hair as I biked by mossy streams, fields of flowers and centuries-old trees.
Years later, after I had let my health waste away from too much inactivity and poor eating in college, I decided to reset myself by biking across the country. At that point, I hadn’t ridden my bicycle since high school, so I think it’s telling that my first inclination was to ride my bike. So for almost three and a half months, I rode almost 70 miles per day, conquering the Catskills in New York, the Continental Divide in Montana and the Cascades in Washington state. I came back 10 pounds lighter, 20 times stronger, and with a brand new attitude: anyone could travel anywhere by bike.
I’ve pretty much lived by that philosophy since then. Back in 2010, when I lived in San Francisco, I rode my bike to work every day. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because San Francisco is known as a big bicycling town these days — but a few years ago, it was just starting up. Often times I felt like I was the only female bicycle commuter on the road, my everyday clothes standing out amongst the other testosterone-driven, very aggressive, spandex-clad male cyclists. I rode my bike in Denver, and I ride my bike almost every day in Portland.
And while it all sounds very idyllic on paper, can I admit something to you guys? I hate it.
Gone is the feeling of the wind in my hair and the smile on my face. My bicycle ride is now just part of the daily grind to get to work, the gym, wherever. And in a city where it rains almost every friggin’ day, I feel like I make sacrifices of femininity and comfort to ride my bike to work. I never buy nice clothes because I know that my 25-minute ride in the rain will just ruin any cute shoes, be it leather or suede. And blouses made of fabrics like silk? Nope, not breathable enough! I will be a sweaty, smelly mess by the time I finish my 5 mile (one-way!) commute. Or what about the prospect of doing my hair and makeup? I actually laughed out loud at the idea as I typed it. What a luxury! To arrive to work completely dry and not sopping wet from a combination of rain, sweat, and mud? What a dream.
And let me tell you something else: I think I literally fear for my life every time I ride my bike. Maybe not as much as I did in San Francisco or Denver (because Portland is a big cycling city after all), but it’s definitely a big concern of mine. As a fairly defensive cyclist, one who stops at all red lights and signals with her arms, I have near-misses almost every other week — whether it’s somebody opening the driver’s door on a parked car, or a person texting while driving and drifting slowly into my bike lane, or somebody who just flat-out thinks cyclists are a nuisance and refuses to give us the space we deserve.
And you’d think that other cyclists would be on your team, but the fact of the matter is, they are not. It’s similar to driving — it seems that when people get behind any sort of vehicle, all basic etiquette disappears. At worst, I’ve had other cyclists yell at me for stopping at a red light (like we’re supposed to). But most of the time, many of them overtake violently and recklessly, putting the two of us in danger. Because the fact of the matter is, cycling is still very much a male-dominated activity and almost every male I know treats cycling (whether it be for fun or for a commute) like a race and sees the rare girl on her pink-and-white bike as another nuisance to get ahead of.
So all of this begs the question… why do I keep riding my bike?
Because of desserts like these matcha, white chocolate, and macadamia cookies:
What is matcha? A powder made from incredibly compressed green tea leaves. I know that they’re a bit of an odd color, but that green tint comes from the addition of matcha powder to a traditional white chocolate and macadamia cookie recipe. So if you’re a fan of green tea, this cookie recipe is for you! The matcha adds a very subtle tea flavor to the cookies, and reminds me of the delicate green tea-flavored patisserie desserts you can find in Japanese restaurants. It’s an absolutely delightful cookie, made even more wonderful with a cup of complimentary green tea.
And as stressful as bike riding can be, I won’t be the first to point out that eating a large number of desserts is equally as perilous. I’ve not one to diet since my philosophy is that I can balance out the sugar with exercise. Admittedly, this belief is already starting to turn on me — my metabolism isn’t what it once was. But for right now, it works and I’m sticking to it. I’ll continue biking my treacherous 10 mile commute every day so long as I can eat all the cookies I want.
Some baker’s notes:
- Matcha is available online, specialty Asian stores or specialty tea shops (Oregonians — I got mine at Townshend’s Tea, which is a really awesome local tea store. Check it out!). Matcha is traditionally available in different “grades”: a ceremonial versus a culinary grade. Go with the culinary grade — it’s significantly cheaper and has a stronger flavor that will hold up against the white chocolate. Ceremonial matcha is made from younger tea leaves and is traditionally used for special occasions like Japanese tea ceremonies.
- The secret behind good cookies is to not skimp on the creaming process. Be sure to cream the butter and sugar together for at least 5 minutes — this is what gives all the best cookies their perfectly buttery and chewy middles.
- There’s a step in the recipe where I ask you to chill the batter before baking. Although it may seem unnecessary, this step allows the butter to fully absorb the flavors from the matcha powder. Don’t skip this step! Again, it’s one of the secrets behind a great cookie.
- Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until golden at the edges — DO NOT OVERBAKE, or you will have a crunchy and hard cookie and I will be sad. They will seem waayyy too soft and underbaked when you pull them out the oven, but they will harden as they cool. Leave them on the cookie sheet for at least 10 minutes after you pull the cookie sheet out of the oven. This is what gets you a cookie that is soft and chewy in the middle, but with crunchy edges.
For the Matcha, White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies:
(makes around forty 3-inch cookies)
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups white chocolate chips
- 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, and 2/3 cup granulated sugar. Beat on low speed for a minute or so until just combined, before turning the mixer up to medium-high. Continue beating until light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a liquid measuring cup, gently whisk together 2 large eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Lower the mixer to medium speed and alternately add the dry ingredients (from the 1st step) and the egg and vanilla mixture in batches. Continue beating until the batter is smooth, before stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Turn the mixer back on to its lowest speed. Add 2 cups white chocolate chips one cup at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Add 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts and mix until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 (F). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
- Use a 3 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to scoop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden on the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, before using an offset spatula to transfer the cookies on to a wire rack to cool completely.