“I keep drinking malted milk, trying to drive my blues away…”
–Robert Johnson, Delta Blues Guitar Legend,1937
Although malted milk powder has been a staple in my pantry for many years, I didn’t actually know what it was until recently. I was making a batch of chocolate malted pudding and suddenly wondered what this homely, delicious stuff was that I had taken for granted for so long. I stopped midway and Googled it.
While I listened to Robert Johnson sing “Malted Milk” on YouTube (click here to listen while you read), I learned that malt powder was developed by William and James Horlick in Racine Wisconsin in 1873. It’s made from dried milk, wheat flour and malted barley – barley seeds that are that are soaked, sprouted, dried and ground, a process that converts their starch into uniquely flavored “malty” sugars. Originally promoted as a drink for invalids and children, malt powder began to appeal to other tastes and needs. Admiral Richard E. Byrd took it on an Antarctic expedition and eventually, it became a popular drink at soda fountains. After the Horlick brothers had the brilliant idea of combining malt powder with chocolate, it became an iconic American flavor, in chocolate-malted shakes and malted-milk balls. (Check out our Alt-Malted Milk Ball recipe.)
Years ago, when I started monkeying around with classic chocolate pudding, adding malted milk powder seemed like a perfect embellishment.This revisionist pudding is intensely chocolaty and denser than classic pudding due to the addition of semi-sweet chocolate; it has a surprising undercurrent of malted milk that will definitely drive your blues away. You can buy malted milk powder here or at many supermarkets; it makes a great gift.
Recipe: Chocolate Malted Pudding
This pudding is intensely chocolaty and denser than classic pudding due to the addition of semi-sweet chocolate; it has a surprising undercurrent of malted milk.
Leave out the malted milk, and you have an essential chocolate pudding that can be flavored in endless ways; with ground Mexican cinnamon or black pepper; with orange or tangerine zest; sweet, smoky paprika, a few drops of Cognac or Grand Marnier or a splash of Kahlua…a tablespoon or two of rendered bacon fat stirred in to taste will give a subtle and compelling hint of smoky pig.
¼ to 1/3 cup cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
¼ cup cornstarch
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups malted milk powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt or a scant 1/8th teaspoon table salt
4 ounces (2 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or creme fraiche (optional)
Sift the cocoa through a strainer into a medium, heavy saucepan; add the cornstarch. With a whisk, slowly blend in enough milk to make a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk, then the malted milk powder, sugar, salt; add the chocolate. Heat over a medium-low flame, stirring, until chocolate is melted and the pudding is very thick and just beginning to boil, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the pudding is warm.
Pour into individual 1/2-cup custard cups or small bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm. Pass whipped cream or creme fraiche on the side.
Related post: Homemade Food Gift: Alt-Malted Milk Balls