These cookies almost didn’t get made. Again. Not because I don’t like them or because I didn’t want to or because I didn’t have time… They almost didn’t happen because, well, the dough is SO DAMN GOOD that I was tempted to forgo that whole “baking” part and just eat the dough on its own… again. I made the dough for these fabulous Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies from Baked Explorations once before, and the dough was so soft and sticky that I put it in the freezer in the hope that it would make it easier to work with. Well, I didn’t back to the project for a while, but one night I was out of ice cream and had no other dessert available (*gasp*)… so I decided to nibble on a little malted cookie dough. I clearly recall that my eyes rolled into the back of my head as I experienced a little slice of confectionary ecstasy. I managed to limit myself to just a few bites that time, but I knew I would have to go back for more. And I did, the next night. And the night after that. And the night after that. After several such illicit freezer visits, I realized that there really wasn’t enough dough left to bother rolling it out and baking just a few cookies… Clearly, there was only one reasonable, sane thing to do– I had *no choice* (no choice, I tell you!) but to eat the rest of the dough. I’m sure any other logical person would have done the, uh, same thing, right?!
Anywho, since then I’ve often pondered what the finished sandwich cookies would taste like, with their thick layer of vanilla creme filling nestled between two malty cookies… And with just a handful of Baked Explorations recipes left for Baked Sunday Mornings, it was finally time to make this dough again and realize the dream! The cover of the book features these cookies stacked playfully with BAKED‘s amazing Salt & Pepper Sandwich Cookies– that’s how pretty and luscious-looking they are. Both cookies use the same filling, which is similar to Oreo cookie filling, minus a whole lot of chemicals. I was coincidentally planning to adapt the Salt & Pepper cookies for an upcoming St. Patrick’s Day blog post, so essentially, my whole cookie world fell into place this week with both of these recipes happening at the same time in my kitchen!
I have a love-hate relationship with this dough. If you like malt, you will find its aroma and flavor absolutely heavenly! When I inhale the essence of this dough, it fills my soul with malt-tastic goodness, like an old-fashioned malt shake in doughy form. For me, there is probably nothing more intoxicating in the world than the scent of good vanilla, and when you throw in malt to boot, well, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. *sigh*
However… there’s a dark side. These cookies are a bit of a “labor of love” situation; as I mentioned, the dough is extremely soft and sticky; it requires extra TLC and bountiful patience. Why? I suspect that it’s a result of the key ingredient: malt powder. If you’ve worked with malt powder before, you may have noticed that it gets sticky/gummy/clumpy when it comes into contact with certain substances. The dough has a soft consistency anyway, but after gathering and re-rolling my scraps once I had cut out a bunch of cookies, the dough practically melted in my hands. It was nearly impossible to form it into a ball and re-roll into any sort of coherent form, so I had to wrap the scraps and put them in the freezer to firm up after each dough roll-out. At room temperature, the malt powder starts to do that whole melty thing when combined with the other dough ingredients, causing the dough to lose its malleable consistency.
On a related note, I forgot that malt powder hardens quickly when sitting out, due to the exposure to moisture in the air. I measured out my dry ingredients first, and by the time I was ready to add the flour/malt mixture to the wet ingredients, the flour was laced with small clumps of malt, and therefore, there were small clumps of malt in my finished dough. It ended up being fairly inconsequential by the time the dough was rolled out and baked, but when I make these cookies in the future, I will measure out the malt powder just before adding it to the mixer bowl.
One more thing about malt powder: There are two types, malted milk powder and non-diastatic malt powder. Malted milk powder is fairly easy to locate at your local grocery store (think Carnation or Ovaltine) and is a milder source of malt flavor. The recipe calls for this tamer version, but if you want a deeper, more sumptuous maltiness in your baked goods, I strongly suggest procuring some of the non-diastatic variety. It can generally be substituted cup-for-cup. You will likely need to order it online (I recommend King Arthur Flour), unless you have a well-stocked baking supply store nearby. (You lucky, lucky person!) Trust me, it will be worth your effort and money. Either way, malt powder seems to be particularly sensitive to the elements.
Despite the drama-queen nature of this dough, I have to say that these cookies are damn delicious, and every bit worth the effort! Once they are rolled out and baked, you will have the makings for a unique, pretty, and melt-in-your-mouth yummy sandwich cookie. The second element is, of course, the filling. The recipe calls for an unsettling amount of vegetable shortening, which is necessary to achieve a firm, yet creamy, consistency similar to Oreo creme filling (but thankfully, a lot less bad for you). I made two small modifications, the first of which was substituting vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract, because I like the speckled look of the vanilla beans. Secondly, as St. Patrick’s Day is rapidly approaching, I subbed Bailey’s Irish Cream for the small amount of rum in the recipe. However, the mere 1 teaspoon was not remotely perceptible, so I ended up adding a full tablespoon. Even this increased quantity imparted just a light essence of Bailey’s flavor, but I didn’t want to dilute the firm texture of the filling. Next time, I would bump up the Bailey’s to 2 tablespoons and add a little more confectioners’ sugar to offset the extra liquid.
The Bailey’s filling variation was a delicious twist on the already-tasty standard vanilla recipe. There are many other variations that I think would be most excellent sandwiched between two malted cookies, and which I would like to try in the future: malted milk chocolate, peanut butter, maybe even strawberry malt?? I love experiments!
To fill the cookies, you can either transfer the filling into a pastry bag for piping, or simply spread it with an offset spatula. I chose to use a pastry bag because I like a neat, decorative edge peeking out from between the cookies. If you prefer a more rustic look, a spatula will do the job nicely. Whichever method you prefer, I recommend making an “assembly line” to expedite the cookie filling process.
Tips for success with this recipe:
- When you mix together the dry ingredients, hold off on the malt powder until just before you’re ready to add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Whisk it into the dry ingredients, then proceed to add the dry stuff to the wet. This should prevent the small malt clumps from forming.
- Put the wrapped dough disks in the freezer for about 45 minutes before rolling them out. (The prescribed fridge chilling was not enough in my experience.) This will firm up the dough to the *perfect* consistency… for the first roll-out. As mentioned above, the dough practically melts on your hands after that; gather the scraps into a ball (as best you can), wrap, and freeze again before re-rolling. Although this is tedious, I assure you that it is totally worth it!
- Once you fill a cookie sheet with malted cookie cutouts, stick the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the cookies right before baking. This will help them keep their shape and minimize spreading.
- I tried both fluted and plain biscuit cutters, and I found that the fluted ridges mostly disappeared by the time the cookies were baked. It still adds a slightly elegant touch, but the downside is that the dough sticks to the ridges of the cutter, making it hard to cut and release the dough circles!
So, how did the finished sandwich masterpieces taste? Let’s just say, these are little disks of malty paradise… *sighhhhhhhh* I chose to underbake the cookies slightly (9 minutes) because I wanted them to be on the chewy side; they were perfectly chewy and toothsome in the middle, with crisper edges.
I cannot get the amazing malty aroma of the dough out of my sensory memory– it was very powerful. The finished cookies were not quite as potent in their malty punch, but certainly not lacking in flavor by any means. The filling had a smooth, creamy texture that held up well when biting into the cookie sandwich– it didn’t ooze out of the sides. Also, I made two cookie sizes (2-inch and 2 ½-inch), and while the smaller size was perfectly adequate, I loved the size of the bigger cookie in my hand. It filled my entire palm and felt like a good, hearty snack, whereas the smaller one felt like a diminutive dessert. And hey, who doesn’t like a big, fat cookie?!
These special cookies are truly a wonderful treat– probably one of my favorite cookie recipes ever, BAKED or otherwise. They are lovely on their own, and even better paired with their contrasting chocolate sandwich cousins. They can easily serve as a kid-friendly after-school snack or an elegant “retro” dessert. Personally, I would like to eat them alongside a vanilla malt shake for maximum malt effect!
You can find the recipe for Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies at Baked Sunday Mornings, and check out the other bakers’ malted magic while you’re at it!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.