Lacy crispy nutty chocolatey malt cookies and malted chocolate chip ice cream

Lacy chocolate-nut-malt cookie

I bought some malted milk powder on a whim the other week, and for a few days I put it in everything I made. I’ve always liked malted milk. I’m fond of mild, distinctive flavors. We have a small brewery in our town, and some days the air is full of malt and hops, which I find lovely! And, of course, the words “malted milk” made me think of Robert Johnson! King of the Delta Blues. Such a fascinating figure, as everybody knows. I can’t get my mind around his story, somehow. It’s so shadowy and full of myth, so full of beautiful, odd details that make him the legend that he is. He sold his soul to the devil; he learned to play guitar on dark nights in graveyards, aided by ghosts; he played facing the wall, away from the other musicians; he died young, in mysterious circumstances; he used a different name everywhere he travelled. It’s the real, human details of his life that kill me, somehow – if they’re true, and that we’ll never know. His mother was born into slavery. He was sent from home to home, as a child, and given a different name each time. His sixteen-year-old wife died in childbirth. And he travelled – he went from town to town, staying with a different, frequently older, woman everywhere he went. They must have cared for him, and taken care of him, in so many different ways. I’m fascinated by the idea of a rambler – of a person who can’t stay in one place for too long, who needs to be rootless and wandering. I just can’t imagine a life like that, which is what makes songs on the subject so appealing.

And Robert Johnson’s voice touches a nerve. It’s so plaintive, and somehow both human and haunting all at once. He uses it so beautifully – it’s wild but controlled. But it’s his lyrics which really throw me for a loop. Dark, mysterious, elemental, sexual, violent, cryptic, and oddly touching, all at once. I always feel like I know what they’re all about, but I have no idea what he’s saying. And, as with all great poetry, it’s that feeling of the words slipping in my brain that makes me want to hear more.

One of my favorites is Phonograph Blues, which starts

Beatrice, she got a phonograph, and it won’t say a lonesome word
Beatrice, she got a phonograph, but it won’t say a lonesome word
What evil have I done, what evil has the poor girl heard

And then, of course, there’s Malted Milk.

I keep drinkin’ malted milk, try’n to drive my blues away
I keep drinkin’ malted milk, try’n to drive my blues away
Baby, you just as welcome to my lovin’, as the flowers is in May

Malted milk, malted milk, keep rushin’ to my head
Malted milk, malted milk, keep rushin’ to my head
And I have a funny, funny feelin’, and I’m talkin’ all out my head

Baby, fix me one more drink, and hug your daddy one more time
Baby, fix me one more drink, and hug your daddy one more time
Keep on stirrin’ my malted milk mama, until I change my mind

My door knob keeps on turnin’, it must be spooks around my bed
My door knob keeps on turnin’, must be spooks around my bed
I have a warm, old feelin’, and the hair risin’ on my head

Malt chocolate chip ice cream

Which brings us back to malt powder. These cookies have almonds, hazelnuts, spices, chocolate chips and malt powder. They are very very crispy. The day I made them was extremely humid, and within an hour they melted. I’ve never seen anything like it! I put them in a warm oven for about 10 minutes, and they came out as crispy as can be. Both the ice cream and the cookies have chocolate chips that I processed for a minute or two, so they’re a little crumbly. Some chips stay whole, some turn to dust, and I like the contrasting textures.


6 T butter, very soft
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup mixed hazelnuts and almonds – processed till quite fine
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips – processed till crumbly
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add everything else and mix well.

Drop by scant teaspoonfuls on buttered baking sheet – leaving several inches between cookies – they spread out. Cook three or four minutes on the bottom rack. When they start to puff up, and the bottom looks brown, move them up to the top rack for three or four minutes. The should deflate and look lacy. When they’re brown on top, take them out of the oven.

Leave them to sit a minute, but try to move them to a cooling rack before they’re completely cool or they’ll chip when you try to get your spatula under them.


1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 & 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1/2 t cinnamon
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
1 T flour
pinch salt

1 cup chocolate chips – processed till crumbly
1 cup heavy cream

Warm the milk, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the vanilla over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Combine the eggs, flour, malt powder, cinnamon, salt and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl, and whisk till light and frothy. Once the milk has tiny bubbles all around the rim, pour half of it in a thin stream into the eggs, whisking furiously the whole time. Then return everything to the pan, still whisking furiously. Keep cooking and whisking 5 – 10 minutes, till it gets nice and thick. You know it’s done when you tilt the pan and the mixture comes away cleanly from the bottom in patches.

Take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl.

Once it’s chilled, add one cup heavy cream.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, adding the chocolate chips once it’s partially frozen.


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