Ingredient Intelligence

The $4 Ingredient That Makes Homemade Ice Cream (and Everything Else It Touches) So Much Better

updated Jul 2, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Every so often I discover a game-changing ingredient that completely shakes up my baking routine — an ingredient that’s often hiding in plain sight that I overlooked simply because I didn’t know any better. My current obsession? Malted milk powder, the unassuming carton of powdery milk found in the dried dairy section of most grocery stores. I use it to make my cookies, cakes, homemade ice creams, and brownies infinitely better. Here’s how to use it.

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So What Exactly Is Malt Powder?

Malted milk powder is a dry, yelllow-ish powder that can be found in unassuming plastic cartons in the baking or dried dairy sections of most well-stocked grocery stores. It’s usually made with a combination of malted barley (meaning that the barley has been sprouted and dried), wheat flour, and dried milk — although some brands add additional ingredients like salt, flavorings, and sweeteners to the mix. The powder has a complex flavor that tastes nutty, caramelized, buttery, and slightly savory all at the same time. If you’ve ever had a malted milkshake before, chances are you’ve tasted malted milk powder without even knowing it.

Carnation malted milk powder is the most common variety sold in grocery stores, and because it doesn’t contain any additional flavorings (like chocolate) it’s the perfect thing to amp up baked goods without changing their flavor profile. Some products labeled “malted milk” are actually instant drink mixes, such as Ovaltine. While these mixes do contain malted barley, they are more suited to being mixed with water or milk and consumed as a beverage, so don’t get confused. Stick to the plain varieties or simply order them online.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

My Favorite Ways to Use Malt Powder

  • Add a few tablespoons to your favorite cookie recipe. When preparing your cookie dough, add a tablespoon or two to the dry ingredients for an added boost of flavor. It’s especially good in chocolate chip cookies, brownie cookies, and anything else made with chocolate.
  • Boost the flavor of your cakes. Malted milk powder amplifies the flavor of chocolate (much like espresso powder) and adds an added layer of flavor that takes classic chocolate cake from good to great. Add a few tablespoons to your flour mixture the next time you make a cake and taste the difference for yourself.
  • Amp up your hot cocoa. Adding a tablespoon of malted milk powder to your hot cocoa gives it a rich caramel-y flavor.
  • Make perfect diner-style pancakes at home. The reason diner-style pancakes are so delicious? They have malted milk powder in them! Try swapping out the sugar in your favorite pancake recipe for malted milk powder. It’ll give them the perfect amount of sweetness with an added layer of buttery flavor.
  • Add it to brownie batter. Because malted milk goes so well with the flavor of chocolate, brownie recipes are prime for adding it to. Add a tablespoon or two to your favorite brownie recipe (adding it to the dry ingredients) for an extra pop of flavor.