malted milk sandwich cookies.

I finally had the dream I've been expecting for weeks and weeks now, ever since my life went from pretty busy to really freaking busy. The dream where you've forgotten to do everything and you're behind on all your responsiblities and you wake up in a cold sweat frantically searching for your planner. I dreamed that I came in to work and there was a line of people outside my cubicle all frowning at me and demanding to know why I hadn't done this or that yet; then Justin called me and said he moved the wedding up to the day after Christmas and insisted it was still doable. Strangely enough, my next concern was not if we could still get lilies at that time but rather if we would be spending Christmas day together or not since we technically weren't married yet.

And no frantic dream would be complete without showing up to class unprepared and having everyone laugh at me over how lousy my required 120-page movie script is as if it doesn't cause me enough strife already! (Breathing into a paper bag.) So I layed in bed, furious as ever that it's pouring rain on a Monday morning again and I still have to get up and go to work where said line of people wait outside my cube, running over all the other things that are piling up on my plate. I thought about where Justin and I will live, what time we need to leave for our engagement pictures, why he hates those gorgeous Alice in Wonderland cereal bowls I picked out in the district last week when something nudged into my little head that hasn't in a while.

I didn't pray.

I always pray in the morning, usually in that place between sleep and awake as Tinkerbell would say, where my face is still scrunched from sleep and I'm not really awake yet but when I finally come to I realize I've been chattering away to God in my head for a few minutes now and that's the best way to start the day. But instead of prayers this morning it was a random jumble of useless thoughts and I forgot for a while there that God is not at all impressed with my busyness and if anything I am now less capable of handling it all for not taking time to rest.

It's incredible how I've learned this lesson a thousand times over and it's just a fresh the next time I get it. Sheesh.

I've been craving some liturgy lately (I know, not a food, but stay with me here, Jimbo) and it delights Friar Matt to no end as we've been bickering over the merits of Calvin and St. Francis and Augustine for many years now, but as a dedicated Protestant it's been very awkward and funny feeling but I'm going forward with it anyway. Because as much as I deny it, as much as the bulk of my personality begs to fly and be free, I like a little structure every now and again. So Friar Matt sent me a book, the Shorter Book of Christian Prayer, which, as I understand it, is a condensed version of a larger set of prayers that he offers up every day.

I used to be adamently against pre-written prayers for fear they would be canned and thoughtless and I didn't like the idea of someone else putting words into my mouth, and at some level I think I still might be, but after swallowing up two Lauren Winner books in a few short weeks, my interest in liturgy is at an all time high. There's a certain unity to it, the communion of thousands having said that prayer before me, I can't help but lean toward it. So I am. And I know I am softening to it because I watched Justin's friend and his tiny son be baptized this weekend in a Lutheran church and I was teary the whole time thinking about how many others have been baptized from that bowl.

These cookies are my attempt to convince the Church that communion wafers should be made of malted milk cookies instead of the Styrofoam-esque nibs they pass out nowadays.

Just kidding.

These cookies - a toasty, buttery wafer cookie, chewy with malted milk powder with that unmistakable taste of an old fashioned soda fountain with a dollop of cream filling smooshed in between - are a good way to break open your new Baked NYC cookbook. They're also a good thing to send to your friar friend who is learning how to cook all sorts of good things like tomato sauce with pasta but is a little lost in the dessert department.

Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Baked Explorations

For the cookies

4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup malted milk powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the vanilla filling

5 ounces vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
3 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon light rum (optional)

Make the cookie dough

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 a 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. (This didn't happen for me, it stuck together when pressed, but not on its own.)

Loosely shape the dough into two balls, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide each dough ball in half, to make four portions. Place on portion on a lightly floured work surface and return the other three portions to the refrigerator.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. 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 cookies cutter (or the top of a drinking glass if you're without one, I did) to create the sandwich tops and bottoms, transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space around each cookie. Extra dough scraps can be refrigerated and re-rolled, if desired.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes or until they are slightly browned. (12 minutes for a crispy cookie, 9-10 minutes for a chewy one.) Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, make the vanilla filling.

Make the filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter until lump-free and smooth. Add the sugar in three parts mixing after each addition. Add the salt, vanilla and rum, if you're using it, and beat for 10 seconds. The filling should be thick but spreadable. You can add a few drops of water here and there if it's too thick.

Using a small spoon or a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, spoon the filling onto the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top and press down slightly so the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie.

Makes about 25 sandwiches, give or take a few, and will keep at room temperature for about 3 days.

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