August 2, 2012

Malted milk chocolate cookies (make a mighty ice cream sandwich)

I want to talk to you about a very delicious ice cream sandwich I made recently.  The ice cream is anchored by two thin malted milk chocolate cookies.  The fresh cookies themselves are slightly crisp and caramelized around the edges but soft and chewy in the center.  They sound delicious on their own but I confess that it was the idea of the ice cream sandwich that drew me in.  Happily, they turned out even better than I envisioned.
If you like to read cookbooks and visit food sites and blogs like I do, you'll have heard about using malt powder in baked goods.  The smell of malted milk powder vaguely reminds me of childhood - of Ovaltine, Horlicks type drinks.  I don't know how I re-stumbled upon this recipe for malted milk chocolate cookies from The Pioneer Woman but this last time really peaked my interest.  I'm sure you know The Pioneer Woman...I love her show and she strikes me as a woman with good taste but I've never tried one of her recipes until now.
And this idea of malt, milk chocolate, and ice cream wouldn't leave my brain.  It just sounded like a great match, like a milk shake from the old soda shops.  I kept thinking my husband would love it.  But I had some reservations; I wasn't sure I could trust a thin cookie to be soft and chewy, the way my family and I like it.  I don't think I'd ever made a truly thin chocolate chip cookie before and it didn't sound like there would be a whole lot of room for error.  But I really like the idea of thin cookies for an ice cream sandwich.  Before making them, I predictably considered using semisweet instead of milk chocolate, wondering if these cookies would be too sweet.  In the end, I used a little less sugar but stuck with milk chocolate because I wanted to trust the recipe and because milk chocolate, malt, and ice cream just sound right together.
You have to keep a watchful eye on these cookies to make sure they don't over-bake and go beyond soft and chewy to crisp.  On the other hand, if you like crisp cookies, all you need to do is bake them a few extra minutes.  They came out a bit greasy straight from the oven (that could've been my doing - maybe the butter was a bit too warm) but otherwise, the texture was spot on and the flavor delicious.  Just so you know, the malt flavor is subtle.  It's more a lingering hint of something rather than a distinct malt flavor and I'm okay with that.
I'm no ice cream sandwich expert but these are some mighty good ice cream sandwiches!  The cookies are soft and easy to eat even frozen and they're the perfect thinness to share the limelight with the ice cream.  I made both coffee and vanilla ice cream sandwiches with these cookies.  Both were terrific but I have to say that we really adored the coffee ice cream combination here (and I'm generally not a coffee ice cream person unlike the little guy).  My husband did indeed love this ice cream sandwich; we all did, and this is definitely something I'll be making again.  

Now let's talk about these malted milk chocolate cookies.  The dough is not all that unusual, with the exception of the malted milk powder.  A little less flour than usual and baking soda creates a thin cookie (I think).  The recipe doesn't require rest time in the refrigerator but you can chill it in the fridge and bake fresh cookies over the course of a few days if you want to.
When I went to rotate the baking sheet during baking, it was interesting to see the cookies puff slightly in the center but plop and settle down into a thin, flat disc of a cookie when I moved the sheets.  The key is to watch the cookies carefully if you want them soft and chewy in the center.  The recipe says 10 to 12 minutes but mine were done between 7-8 minutes.  The sides are brown and the center looks paler and is still soft when I take it out of the oven.  As it cools, the cookies brown up and set further. 

I'm glad I decided to stick with milk chocolate.  I think it works well with the malt and ice cream combination.  I dialed down the sugar a bit and it worked really well.  Instead of using chips, I chopped milk chocolate from a block.  I think cookies are generally better with chopped chocolate as opposed to chips that largely retain their shape.  In this case, I was motivated by just the right amount of leftover milk chocolate in the pantry.  Of course, now that I've done it this way, I'll have to stick with it. 

I also want to talk about quantity in this recipe.  I made half a recipe, scooping the dough with a small ice cream scoop (#50, which I think is about a tablespoon) and made 28 cookies.  This is very different from the recipe, which says a full recipe makes only 36 and instructs you to drop "teaspoonfuls" or use a scoop.  I can only attest to what I did and I think the small scoop I used made perfect size cookies, about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.  The recipe I listed below is for half the original recipe. 

The basic batter starts with creaming room temperature butter with brown and granulated sugar.  Mix in an egg and a bit of vanilla extract before incorporating a rounded 1/4 cup (again, for half a recipe) of malt powder.  "Rounded" quarter cup means be generous and add a little extra.  The malt flavor is subtle so don't be shy about adding an extra tablespoon or so.
At this point, the dry ingredients (sifted flour, baking soda and salt) are added and mixed in just enough to combine.  I then gently stirred in a cup of milk chocolate chunks that I chopped into roughly 1/4 inch pieces (I figured they shouldn't be too large since the cookies are thin). 
The cookie dough can be baked immediately.  Alternatively, you can store the dough, covered in the refrigerator, to bake over the next few (2-3) days.
Using a small ice cream scoop, I dropped six cookie rounds onto a baking sheet to bake in a 375 degree oven.  These thin cookies spread so make sure to leave plenty of space between them.
For me, the cookies were ready in 7 to 8 minutes.  The edges will be brown while the center should still be soft and not totally set if you want a soft cookie.  The cookies also continue to set up a bit more out of the oven so make sure to take it out before they brown completely.
I am very happy I tried making thin soft chocolate chip cookies!  If you make them, please give the cookies a try with ice cream.  Sandwich them between coffee, vanilla, or whatever ice cream flavor you fancy.  Coffee ice cream was simply divine.  Vanilla ice cream lets the flavors of the cookies shine.
You can embellish the sides of the ice cream sandwiches with sprinkles or nonpareils, or even chopped malted milk balls like maltesers or whoppers to emphasis the malt factor if you like.  Wrap the ice cream sandwiches in plastic wrap and place it back in the freezer so the ice cream firms back up.  It makes things a lot less messy.  When you're ready to eat one, just take it out, unwrap and let sit at room temperature a few short minutes before digging in!


Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

(This recipe below is half the original.  I made a couple of small changes, including using a little less sugar and chopped milk chocolate instead of chips)

- Makes approximately 26 cookies -

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup rounded malted milk powder
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped roughly into 1/4 inch chunks (or 1 cup milk chocolate chips)

Ice cream (optional, to make ice cream sandwiches)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks positioned in the upper and lower third of the oven.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.

In a standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy.  Add egg and incorporate, then add vanilla and beat until combined.  Scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.  Mix in malted milk powder.  On low speed, add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  Remove the bowl from the standmixer and stir in the chocolate pieces with a rubber spatula.

Using a small ice cream scoop, drop level scoops of dough onto baking sheets, about 6 per sheet, leaving plenty of room for the cookies to spread.  Bake for 7-8 minutes (rotating the sheets between the racks midway), until edges are brown but the center is still soft.  This will ensure soft cookies; baking them a few minutes longer will give you crispy cookies.  The cookies will continue to set once removed from the oven.  Wait a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Repeat with the remaining cookie dough or store leftover dough, covered, in the refrigerator to bake later.

To make ice cream sandwiches: Place a generous scoop of slightly softened ice cream on the underside of a completely cooled cookie.  Top with another cookie and press down gently.  If desired, you could add sprinkles, nonpareils, chopped malted milk balls, mini chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, etc. to the sides of the ice cream.  Wrap ice cream sandwiches individually, placing them in the freezer so the ice cream firms back up.  Remove the ice cream sandwiches from the freezer and let sit at room temperature a couple of minutes before serving.  If you like coffee ice cream, I highly recommend it here.

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