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Chocolate Malts

November 12, 2009

Here is something I have never understood.  Why would someone have a chocolate milkshake when they could have a chocolate malt?

And let’s put aside the regional specifications of milkshakes, frappes, and the like.  I’m talking about ice cream and milk, blended with malt powder.  A chocolate milkshake is fine and dandy, but it never really goes the extra mile.  Let’s be honest.  It’s really just plain ice cream that’s been thinned out so it can be sipped through a straw.  But put in a few scoops of malt powder, and it is transformed into something else entirely.

I learned about chocolate malts as a boy at the elbow of my grandfather Pop-Pop.  He took the creation of chocolate malts seriously, even going so far as to buy a soda-fountain-style blender with a metal tin to ensure a proper consistency.

There were two big lessons I took with me.
1)    Chocolate malts are only as good as the ice cream you use.  And Pop-Pop insisted on Häagen-Dazs.
2)    Chocolate malts are made with chocolate ice cream.  Vanilla ice cream is for vanilla malts.

To this day, I am shocked and amazed at how many establishments try to pass off a beverage made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup as a chocolate malt (or heaven forbid should malt powder be unavailable, a chocolate milkshake).

Chocolate syrup has its own unique and distinctive flavor profile that is completely different from that of chocolate ice cream.  This is the kind of nonsense that is perpetrated at McDonalds, but should not be tolerated at a place that actually scoops ice cream and crafts drinks by hand.  Come on.

The problem has become so widespread that I am compelled whenever I go out to confirm that indeed the chocolate malts are made with chocolate ice cream.

It turns out that there are some establishments that want to sell these frozen treats, but do not have the storage capacity for different flavors of ice cream.  So they only stock vanilla, and doll it up to accommodate patron preferences.  Sure, in Providence, Rhode Island they drink coffee milk, which is sweetened coffee syrup added to cold milk.  But if I want a coffee milkshake, it better be made with coffee ice cream, dammit.

There is a lot of ice cream in upstate New York.  But much of it is soft serve.  Stewart’s would be equipped to make a good malt if their ice cream was just better.

But it’s not.  It’s gummy, with a lot of overrun.  But it is similar to Häagen-Dazs in that both would seem to contain rBGH (neither makes the claim that their milk is devoid of growth hormone).

On the other hand, Ben & Jerry’s, which is free of rBGH, adds gums to their ice cream.  Gums, just to be clear, are different from bubble gum.  Gums are food additives that give the impression of fattiness, and aid in a creamy mouthfeel, without all that expensive (but irreplaceable) milk fat.  I am pretty sure this change at Ben & Jerry’s happened after the original founders left the company.

It’s all about tradeoffs.

Pop-Pop has seen better days.  He can’t really eat solid food.  Recently my mother picked him up some chocolate ice cream.  I dutifully asked her, “What kind?”  And she wasn’t sure.  Mom bought whatever kind they had downstairs at the hospital. “But he loved it,” she told me.

I just wish I could bring him a good chocolate malt.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2009 9:48 am

    I don’t get chocolate malts because I’m allergic to the malt. (Because it’s made from barley…)

  2. Jennifer permalink
    November 12, 2009 10:49 am

    I am a malted purist and they must be made with vanilla. Chocolate and malt flavor just tastes wrong to me. I like my chocolate shakes to taste purely of chocolate. Vanilla allows the malt to shine.

    I do agree with Pop-Pop on Haagen -Daaz, it’s the best supermarket ice cream. I hate Ben & Jerry’s. Except for when I am pregnant and need to remove all of the cookie dough from a carton of their cookie dough ice cream and then dump out the actual ice cream.

  3. Mel permalink
    November 12, 2009 10:52 am

    Try Tollgate Ice Cream on New Scotland Avenue in Slingerlands. Their malts are the real deal.

  4. brownie permalink
    November 12, 2009 2:04 pm

    Ah, Stewart’s. Coffee milkshake, extra thick, hold the Coffee syrup (blecch). It’s definitely not a malt but it hits the spot for me.

    Of my few reasons to <3 NY, Stewart's is easily in the top five. And while I respectfully disagree on gumminess (you haven't tasted gummy until you've chewed on some dreck like Edy's), I will agree that it's got more overrun than the more expensive supermarket brands like Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's, etc. To me, this makes for a light, airy ice cream that's easy to stir into ice cream soup, that wonderful bridge between soft serve and a hard scoop that is part of my ice cream ritual. And if you know of an ice cream to beat Stewart's for the price, point me to it.

    Perhaps a letter to Stewart's regarding rBGH would get you a more satisfying response than the one you got from Dannon. My guess is that the hormone content isn't a big issue for most Stewart's shoppers, but if they get enough feedback it might be.

    I've never had a malt, so now I'll have to go ahead and try one. Coffee's my fave flav, is it sacrilegeous to ask for a coffee ice cream malt?

  5. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 12, 2009 5:01 pm

    Haven’t had one for quite a while, but the chocolate malt at Ben & Jerry’s was the stuff dreams are made of.

  6. phairhead permalink
    November 12, 2009 6:20 pm

    blah!!! malts, blech! and that goes for Whoppers too!

  7. Ellen Whitby permalink
    November 12, 2009 9:57 pm

    Sorry, you lost me at Haagen Dazs.

  8. November 13, 2009 9:36 am

    On the subject of malt, anyone here have a love for Carnation Malted Milk powder? I love the stuff, a couple table spoons in a glass of skim when I am in a bad mood and I am all set. I too, have a weird fascination with malt-y flavors. You should come over when I am mashing grain for home brew one day to savor all of the delightful barley malt smells that waft around.

    Oh yeah, don’t be talking smack about Stewart’s, it ain’t much, but its all we got.

  9. Jennifer permalink
    November 13, 2009 10:57 am

    Mr. Dave, I have been trying to find malted milk powder in the supermarket for a while now. Where do you get yours? There’s a malted milk layer cake in the Baked cookbook that I am dying to make.

  10. November 13, 2009 5:23 pm

    I believe that I have bought it at the Guilderland Hannaford, I will have to check on that though. I tend to pick it up whenever I see it in my travels.

  11. Scotty permalink
    November 13, 2009 8:11 pm

    I’m with you all the way on this one. The lack of proper malts is rampant in upstate NY. I get my carnation malted milk powder whenever I’m in Michigan. Along with dried SOUR cherries and Coney Island sauce it’s a part of my regular care package

  12. November 15, 2009 5:03 pm

    Malted milk, malted shakes… it seems the majority of us really love the stuff.

    I find it off and on up here, but whenever I hit up a ShopRite – it’s on! They’ve always got delicious powdered malt.

  13. Mel permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:15 pm

    Where can you find a chocolate malt around here? I guess I am hitting up the wrong diners. Where I grew up they were an automatic, with matzo ball soup…

  14. Jennifer permalink
    November 17, 2009 10:02 am

    Looks like I will be ordering it online. I found it on the King Arthur Flour website. It’s also on Amazon but they have some weirdly high prices on it.

    Mel, most of the local ice cream places have malts. The Ice Cream Man in Greenwich definitely has them, and their ice cream is all home made.

  15. October 23, 2010 2:23 pm

    This is an old post by now, but I’ll add for posterity that powdered malt extract is easier to find than it seems: go to a home-brewing supply place. It’s not exactly the same as the Carnation product, which contains powdered milk and wheat flour in addition to malted barley extract, but it turns a boring milk shake into a malted milk shake in the same way. Use less than you’d expect, and adjust up to desired maltiness.

    In homebrew-supply lingo it’s called dry malt extract. Get the “light” variety (light-colored). BTW, this is a blender operation: you’re not gonna get this stuff to dissolve using a spoon.


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