Artisanal Malt Balls from Askinosie

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Amazing offering from the folks at Askinosie Chocolate

A photo of a bag of Askinosie Malt Balls opened on a white surface, with many malt balls pouring out. The bag is a dark matte orange.

One of the things I love about our food is that we’ve found ways to take popular but not necessarily particularly good food and, by using great ingredients, turn them into wonderments! The Zzang! Bar, the Creamery’s handmade Cream Cheese, our Big O oatmeal raisin cookies, and the fried chicken at the Roadhouse are just a few of the many examples that come quickly to mind. Allison Schraf, long-time manager at our Candy Store (inside the Coffee Company, out on Plaza Drive) says it’s “when your inner little kid gets together with your grown-up palate and everybody has a good time.”

My good friend Shawn Askinosie is making the same sort of magic happen by turning an industrial offering into a world-class confection. If you’ve been a lifelong fan of malt balls, try these! If you never really liked them, try these! They’re so much more flavorful than what one would find at a movie theater!

Malted milk, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t), was invented by an Englishman named James Horlick in 1873. He created it originally as a nutritional supplement for infants but failed to make much of an impression on new mothers. Frustrated, he went west all the way to Wisconsin to join his brother who’d already emigrated. In 1887, they began selling malted milk in the American Midwest, which, as you do probably know, turned out to have a wholly different market than the one they’d sought. Fame and fortune followed but only after many, many years of hard work. 

Malted milk balls have a center of malted milk—dried milk with wheat and malt formed into a powder. The balls are then coated with a crisp chocolate outer layer so that when you eat them, they have that sort of magical textural contrast of soft, milky, and crumbly with crisp and chocolatey. Askinosie’s are amazing. Making them requires eight hours of spinning the malted milk centers in dark, direct-sourced-by-Askinosie, Tanzania chocolate so that thin layer after thin layer of cacao covers the soft, crumbly, off-white colored centers. Unlike commercial versions, Askinosie’s have none of that all-too-common stuff added to give that shiny smooth look. The aroma is fantastic—when you open the package, you’ll immediately be hit with the smell of good chocolate (not industrial additives). Crisp and light. Not at all too sweet, with a really great flavor!

Aside from making crazy good confections, Shawn Askinosie does some amazing work with the farmers and communities who grow the cacao. He’s making a meaningful difference in the world every single day, and every one of us buying their products is helping to make that happen. I wrote a lot about his efforts in The Power of Beliefs in Business in Secret #45. The book he co-wrote with his daughter, Lawren Askinosie, entitled Meaningful Work, is wonderfully marvelous! Last month, on his 51st trip to cacao origin, Shawn went to Tanzania. Aside from the main point of the visit—buying the cacao, convening with the farmers of the cooperative, and returning annual profit-sharing payments (yes, Shawn pays profit-sharing from his Missouri-based business to farmers in East Africa)—Shawn also taught visioning to the local high schoolers! Over the last 10 years, he’s taught it to 7000 young people! Not to mention having taught it to the growers as well.