Monday, March 25, 2013

Homemade Samoas

It is that time of the year again when everyone on Facebook is talking about all the delicious Girl Scouts cookies they are selling, buying, and eating, and here I am, stuck in the UK, with none.  I got lucky last spring, when one of my friends sent me an amazing Easter box full of delicious treats including two boxes of cookies (which my lovely dog ate one of ..) but this year neither us were that lucky, and I was sad.

That is.. til I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade Samoas.  Usually I might scoff at the idea of spending hours in the kitchen slaving away over something I could buy (that would be easier, and probably cheaper!).  But as we can't buy them here, I figured I might as well try out the recipe.

I made half of the batch into the original "donut" shape, then made half into little rectangles to save on energy.  Making the original shape definitely requires a labor of love and lots of tedious time in the kitchen.  But it turns out if you are willing to accept rectangular Samaos, the recipe is surprisingly easy, and amazingly delicious!  They taste just like Samoas, and maybe even better.  My only complaint might be that the recipe is TOO easy, and thus I've made two batches this week, and need to start running again.

Homemade Samoas Girl Scout Cookies
adapted from: justataste
Yield: About 4 dozen (2-inch) cookies
Prep Time: 2 hours (includes chilling)
Cook Time: 15 minutes

For the cookies:
113 g of butter (1 stick) at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup flour
1or 2 tsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Make the cookies:
1.  In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar till fluffy.
2.  Mix in baking powder, salt, and half of flour.  Then add in the rest of the flour and mix well, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3.  Add one tsp of milk and vanilla and blend until combined and dough begins to clump together.  If it seems to dry, add additional tsp of milk.
4.  Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. (You may want to toast the coconut while this is chilling).
5.    When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 f or 176c.  Roll out chilled dough (between a layer of parchment paper and seran wrap) into ½ inch thick rectangle.  Place dough, on parchment paper, onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 14-16 minutes. Rotate cookies half way through, until the edges are pale golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.

Note: At ½ inch thick, my dough rolled into about a 9x9 rectangle.  However my “9x9” pyrex pan is actually only about 8x8 in the bottom, which makes the cookies a little thicker than I wanted them.  But if you prefer, you can press the dough into a 9x9 lined with parchment paper to bake in. 

For the coconut topping:
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut (US) or dessicated coconut in the UK
1/2 cup granulated sugar
56g or ½ a stick unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (US) or whipping cream (UK)
(Alternatively you can melt 7 ounces of soft caramels, if you don’t wish to make your own, but it is not too hard to make and doesn’t even require a thermometer!!)

Toast the coconut:
Preheat oven to 350f or 176c
Spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 8 minutes, stirring frequently (about every 2 minutes) to prevent burning.  Remove from the oven, and place in a medium bowl for later.

Make the caramel:
1.    In a medium dry sauce pan over medium high heat, melt the sugar.  I usually agitate it just by swishing around the pot, this takes about 5 minutes for it to fully melt.  Once it is mostly melted, you may aid with a spoon to break up any clumps if needed.  If the pot is not high quality, watch it carefully and mix it around (shake the pot) to keep the caramel even, and to prevent patches from burning.  Once it is melted it will be a dark copper color (see picture).
2.    Remove from heat and stir in butter, then add cream and salt and return to medium-high heat.  Note it will look separated but this is fine, it comes together once it boils.  Stir and bring it back to a boil, then continue to cook it a few more minutes till it’s a little darker in color (I cooked it about 3 minutes at the boil).  It should look like a lovely thick caramel now!
3.    Pour ¾ of the caramel into the coconut mixture, and stir it with a wooden spoon.  Pour the remaining ¼ onto the shortbread and rapidly spread it to cover all the surfaces - this part will cool fast, so spread right away.  (Do not scrape the bottom of your pot! This caramel tends to be burnt and bitter)
4.    Press the caramel/coconut mixture onto the shortbread, and let it cool.

8 ounces of chocolate - whatever kind you like eating.

1.    Using a sharp large knife, cut up the cookies as desired.
2.    Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until its smooth (don’t burn!).
3.    Dip the bottom of each cookie into the chocolate, then place on a sheet of parchment paper.
4.    Place remaining chocolate into a zip lock bag, cut off small corner, then pipe diagonal pretty   lines across your cookies.  (make sure no cookie crumbs get in your zip lock, or they will block the piping hole)
5.    Either chill in the fridge to harden the chocolate, or let sit out overnight.

NOTE: if you have extra coconut/caramel, miniature bon bons are delicious!  I made little balls of them, then dipped the bottom in chocolate.  Yum.

If you do want to make the Samoa shape, roll your dough out to 1/2 thickness, then use a 2inch and 1 inch round cookie cutter to make the cookies.  Bake for 8-10 minutes till the edges are slightly golden.  When the caramel is ready, pour 1/4 of it into a parchment lined bowl, and the rest into the coconut.  Now spread caramel onto each Samoa cookie (watch out, its hot!), then press coconut on top of it.
Dip bottom in chocolate and drizzle chocolate on top, as specified above.

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