Matcha adds a unique flavor to a creamy buttercream in these Bittersweet Brownies with Matcha Frosting.
“Never give someone a reason not to hire you” – a well-meaning friend.
Frozen. How many times have I used that word to describe myself in the past few months? I’ve lost count. I recently wrote about how sad I am about the state of things in the US right now. I turned off commenting on that post because it felt like the right thing to do. Maybe I should have done that here as well, but at some point it seems counter-intuitive. I’d hate to stifle anyone’s thoughts, especially if they connect with what I write.
For the most part, I’ve always been a private person, and I’m not sure how I feel about people commenting on my life. Also, I know that some folks will skim directly to the recipe and only comment that the brownies look yummy. Or that matcha is gross. Or delicious. Whatever, that’s fine. Most of the time, I only write about food; this is not one of those times. If you’re not into it, scroll to the recipe. This is a no judgment zone.
“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.”
-Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
A few weeks ago, Jeff and I watched a documentary on Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, released in 2016. The filmmakers followed them, had quite a bit of unrestricted access, and were given old family footage. When Carrie’s struggle with bipolar depression was addressed, I became emotional. Surprisingly, I think that was the first time I listened to someone describe their experience.
I have bipolar II disorder. I wrote about it in the intro to my cookbook, but I’ve never put the words down here, or anywhere publicly online. I wanted to write about it a few years ago, but a friend talked me out of it. When I asked around, others agreed with her. It could hurt my business. Companies might not want to work with me. Bipolar is a loaded word. It evokes fear and uncertainty.
“That person is acting so bipolar.”
Why is there so much stigma attached to bipolar disorder? In my opinion, it has to do with a lack of understanding and Hollywood dramatization. For the most part, people’s entire understanding of bipolar comes from the media. Images of Brittany Spears shaving her head or Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook.
Did you notice I said I have Bipolar II? Did you know there’s Bipolar I and Bipolar II? Most people don’t even realize that Bipolar II exists. It’s not nearly as exciting and it gets less attention. Those who suffer from clinical depression are often comfortable discussing it openly because the stigma has been mostly removed in our society. The stigma of bipolar disorder will never be removed unless people talk about it. I was moved by Carrie Fisher’s willingness to speak so openly.
If I’m told not to talk about this because I could lose work, the implication is that I’m somehow defective. I’m not. This isn’t some shameful secret. In fact, the more I speak up, the more empowered I feel. People are usually surprised to learn about my diagnosis, because I seem so “normal.” Yeah, I’ve gotten that reaction. You know, modern medicine is a glorious thing. But I’ve struggled a lot over the years. I’m not going there right now.
The world can be a scary place and this is a frightening time. I live in a suburb of Washington DC, and you can cut the tension here with a knife. There are constant calls to action. Not to get completely off track here, but I feel very strongly about this and it’s relevant to the topic at hand. If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, remember to take especially good care of yourself right now.
It’s important to step away from social media and the news sometimes. Disabling Facebook was incredibly helpful to me. I have a feeling there will be calls to action for a very long time, and it’s ok if now is not the right time for you. That’s not privilege. That’s listening to your mind and your body, and taking care of yourself. There is no shame in stepping away if that’s what’s best for you. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
A few brief words about the recipe. Chocolate and tea are very soothing to me, which is why I chose these brownies to accompany this topic. I’m extremely late to the matcha baking party, though I’ve been drinking it for years. Some blogger friends surprised me with a gift of hot chocolate mix + matcha marshmallows for Christmas, and I was immediately hooked. Culinary grade matcha is a bit pricy, but a little goes a long way. It pairs incredibly well with the chocolate.
Bittersweet Brownies with Matcha Frosting
For the brownies:
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 1/3 cup)
For the frosting:
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 - 2 1/2 teaspoons culinary grade matcha powder
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and grease an 8x8-inch pan with baking spray or butter. Optionally, line the pan with parchment paper, allowing two sides to hang over the edges (this will make the brownies easier to remove from the pan).
- In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stir the bittersweet chocolate and butter until evenly combined and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until smooth, followed by the eggs, vanilla, and salt. Add in the flour and stir until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then scrape down the sides. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar, 2 teaspoons of matcha and salt. Mix until the dry ingredients have incorporated (add another 1/2 teaspoon matcha to amp up the flavor if desired). Scrape down the sides and turn the speed up to medium-high, allowing the frosting to mix for another 30-60 seconds, until light and smooth.
- Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan and place them on a cutting board. Use a spatula to evenly frost the brownies. Cut into 16 squares and serve.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
For immediate help troubleshooting a recipe, please email me using the form on my contact page. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! For all general questions, please leave a comment here :)
Kat Kinsman wrote a memoir (Hi Anxiety, 2016) about living with anxiety disorder. David Leite wrote a memoir about living with manic depression (Notes on a Banana, April 2017). Here’s the thing your story is yours. Thanks for sharing some of it and entrusting it to your readers. Kat went on to start a forum called Chefs with Issues with the intention of trying to help destigmatize mental health issues in the restaurant industry. (And, you must know, I’m a sucker for matcha and chocolate any day of the week.)
Thanks so much. I’m currently going through a diagnosis process and I already know I will be diagnosed, it’s just a matter of accepting it. Reading experiences like this are so so important and incredibly helpful. So big thank you from the bottom of my heart. Once I get this thing sorted in my head I will join you and do my share in talking about this loud. All the best!
P.S. I just found the delicious looking photo in Pinterest and then saw the bipolar connection, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic says
I think you are brave for your honesty, thank you for sharing. The recipe and beautiful pictures are just an added bonus.
We all need to take care of ourselves, and I wish you well!
Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes says
I baffles me too, because it is a mental illness. Not like people choose their condition. It is awesome and brave and excellent that you shared your story Jennifer. I love knowing that doing so makes you feel stronger. Brava! Oh, and the brownies do look good. ;) xoxox
Tessa | Salted Plains says
Thank you for sharing, Jennifer! The more people share, the more they understand. It is so hard to decide how vulnerable to be in these spaces. But ultimately, I feel like we are here because of the connection we make with each other, whether that be food, personal stories, or all of the above. Knowing we aren’t alone in our own struggles is huge. Hugs to you. xo
all the more power to you jennifer. in all honesty, i’ve experienced a mental illness in the past too – mine was the type that i could fight and it doesn’t control my actions anymore. i’ve spoken about it publicly, it’s made my work what it is and turned my blog into something that i’m extremely proud of. i view myself in a different light since sharing my story too, and i’ve never received a harsh reaction. the word ‘normal’ gets me all the time too! what is normal? other than another meaningless label society coined. i don’t believe anyone is ‘normal’. i love reading honest stories like this, it makes the other person on the side of the screen all the more human and endearing. oh, and gorgeous brownies too Xx
Claudia | The Brick Kitchen says
looove that beautiful matcha frosting! I’ve never used matcha in baking and feel like I need to make that happen…sooner rather than later.
And thank you for opening up here – I’m actually currently on my psychiatry rotation at medical school, and it has been really eye-opening as to how devastating the stigma associated with mental illness can be. Take care of yourself <3
You are brave. Thank you for sharing. I have my own “stuff” and I agree with you completely, sometimes cutting out social media is important. It’s scary, sometimes I fear that these “timeouts” will be a waste of my life. Hope you are going strong!
Kristine Klaerner says
These brownies look incredible. I’ve made matcha with white chocolate chip cookies – love them!
More importantly, thank you for sharing that you have bi-polar II. I’m a veteran with PTSD and honestly, baking really helps when I’m having a yucky day. Your gorgeous recipes will definitely come in handy :-)
Hey.. Hi Jen, I just found your gorgeous recipe when I was researching the benefits of drinking matcha tea to help with manic/bipolar disorder. First of all, beautiful photography! I love, love the indigo scarf with all the other beautiful color happening there. It all looks so yummy and I’m going to make these brownies! I have to make them egg and gluten free. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I also wanted to comment on the stigma of mental illness. I have two kids with mental illnesses. They both have Schizophrenia and a list of other things and one is SMI…talk about stigma. So, since they are my children, I fought for them, I advocated for them and was fighting stigma by talking about mental illness whenever the opportunity arose and then…. I discovered I too have mental illness. ADHD, dyslexia, manic/bipolar and then…oh, well, let’s just say denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. So difficult to face and even more difficult to talk about. But we must. And I will. Thank you so much for your beautiful recipe/stigma discussion.
Or is it not a scarf? Just thought of that, probably a towel. I dye scarves indigo so I made the assumption. :)
Jennifer Farley says
I didn’t know matcha had benefits for bipolar. Maybe I should try drinking it! I appreciate your comment, thank you for taking the time to tell me your story. We have a long way to go but the more people who speak up, the better. The scarf is actually dyed cheesecloth :)
My whole family loved these! Also, thank you for sharing your story.