I have a wonderful friend and neighbor whose name is Julie. Her house is almost exactly the same as mine, just everything is flip flopped. (They were built by the same person.) She is a foodie extraordinaire. She is totally up on all the new restaurants in our city and beyond. She does incredible amounts of research when she travels and is the type of person who will go way out of her way to find the perfect baguette in Paris. (I am the same way.) Julie is an enthusiastic and tremendous cook. Our kitchens complement each other well. It seems that whatever I don’t have, she does and vice versa. Our texts to each other are not, “Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” but “Do you have an extra mini muffin pan?” or “What size pastry tips do you have?”
On top of all that fun stuff, Julie is a very kind and generous person. She is incredibly quick to offer her help whether it is with cooking classes, catering, or just getting Graham off the bus now and then. I deeply deeply appreciate her. A few months ago, she borrowed my Baked cookbook and found a lot of inspiration there. As a thank you to her for help with a recent party, I bought her the new one, Baked Explorations. Very soon after, she made these malted cookies. She brought a few over for us to try one morning. I left them on the counter, went about my day, and came home only to find that my husband had eaten them. All of them. And then he had the nerve to rave about them. They have been on my mind ever since.
I have a good relationship with the flavor of malt. When I was a kid my mom would sometimes make us a chocolate malted in the blender. I loved them. To this day, the smell that comes from my blender, even if I am puréeing soup, reminds me of those malteds. (Side note: What is that smell and why does the same smell come from every blender?) One of my very favorite candies, the one I cannot resist, is the candy coated chocolate malt balls that the Easter bunny brings.
So, you would think I would have made these Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies the very next day. But theses are roll-out-and-cut cookies which are not my favorite. Just the added fuss of pulling out the rolling pin, flouring the board, refrigerating the dough can feel like too much in my already busy kitchen. I am happy to tell you that this dough is very well behaved and the cookies are super easy to make. The dough is quite sticky, even after a good rest in the refrigerator, but with enough flour I was able to shape these easily. Much more so than Christmas cookies.
For the cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup malt powder
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the vanilla filling
5 ounces vegetable shortening, at room temperature
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, at room temperature
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. light rum
Make the cookies
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, malt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at at time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Add half of the dry ingredients all at once and beat for 15 seconds. Again scrape down the bowl, then add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. The mixture should come together almost in a ball.
Loosely shape the dough into two balls, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide each dough ball in half, to make four portions. Place on portion on a lightly flour-dusted work surface and return the other three to the refrigerator.
Roll out the dough so that it is ¼-inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so you may have to flip and lightly flour it a few times while you work. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to create the sandwich tops and bottoms, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space around each cookie. Extra dough scraps can be refrigerated and rerolled once more, if desired.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just slightly browned. Place the baking sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely. While the cookies cool, prepare the filling.
Make the vanilla filling
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and butter until lump free and smooth. Add the sugar in three parts, mixing each part until just combined. Add the salt, vanilla, and rum and beat again for 10 seconds. The filling should be thick but spreadable (like the inside of an Oreo). If it is too thick, add a drop or two of water as needed. Keep adding water to reach desired consistency, but do not add too much or the filling will be too thin.
Alternatively, if the mixture is too thin, add a few tablespoons of confectioners sugar.
Assemble the Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies
Use a pastry bag or a small spoon to apply about 2 tablespoons of filling to the flat side of a cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the sandwich cookies are made. Let them set up for about 15 minutes before serving. Store the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.