Paul is a former musical theater performer, a fellow native Missourian, who actually starred in Meet Me in St. Louis at the Muny Theater in Forest Park. If you’re not currently holding a Budweiser, you may not know that’s a big hairy St. Louis deal. I knew I liked Paul even before I discovered he sang and danced at the Muny—and owned jazz shoes in three different kinds of exotic leathers.
Paul is also a great home cook and a baker of sorts. I begged him to test some of my recipes for this book. Not just because I trusted his and his partner Terrence’s palates, but because I selfishly dreamed of singing on stage with him. I would allow him to choreograph our number, of course, but we would have to fight for the Judy Garland role.
This cookie—one of my favorites—had a different name until Paul tested it. His notes on the recipe that came back to me said “I LOVE this cookie! It was like a side-slap and a tickle all packed into one.” Paul, my Midwestern thespian friend, this cookie is for you and every ingenue who ever stood on the Muny stage.
Side-Slap and Tickle Cookies
(chocolate, malt, crackle)
What you need:
1 2⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1⁄2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
6 tablespoons malted milk powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla paste
24 malted milk balls, crushed
1⁄3 cup confectioners’ sugar
What to do:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of the malted milk powder, the baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla paste and beat until just combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the malted milk balls. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 4 tablespoons malted milk powder and the confectioners’ sugar. Use a 1-tablespoon measure to scoop the dough, then roll each portion into a ball. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Roll each dough ball in the confectioners’ sugar mixture until it is uniformly coated, then place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies begin to crackle on top (they look kind of like the surface of the moon).
Let the cookies cool for 15 minutes before the slapping and tickling commences.