Monday, March 4, 2013
Let's start this post off by me saying that I was never a Girl Scout when I was little, and I could probably count my experiences with actual, real-life Girl Scout cookies on one hand. Yep. I'm a deprived human being, I know. I think Thin Mints and Samoas are the only Girl Scout cookies I've ever tried, but from what I've gathered, they're also the most popular, so I guess what counts is that I can vouch for the two most popular cookies. They are deeeeliiiciouss.
Given that I have little first-hand experience with eating Girl Scout cookies, it's pretty obvious that I also have little experience with the actual selling of the cookies too. This is actually just fine, because if there was one thing I HATED having to do when I was little/in high school was go around selling things for fundraisers. I was a shy and awkward kid, and I transitioned into an equally shy and awkward teenager, so going up to people, even if I knew them, to ask if they wanted to buy whatever I was selling seemed like some sort of really cruel punishment. Funny story time- the symphonic band I was in in high school always had one thing or another to fundraise for (the two biggest fundraisers we held were for a commission by a Juliard-trained composer and for a performance we were playing in at Carnegie Hall...big stuff!), and the method of choice for raising money was selling chocolate bars. This was a terrible thing for me, because not only was I a shy and awkward teen at the time, but I was (and obviously still am) a major chocolate fiend. Guess who ended up buying most of the chocolate bars I was in charge of selling? If you guessed me, you are correct! But anyway, I digress. Back to TOTALLY DIY, HOMEMADE SAMOAS.
This is exciting stuff, so get ready.
These cookies actually almost didn't make it to the blog. I was very leisurely browsing through Bakers Royale (I love all the photos and styling on this blog!), when I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade Samoas. I knew I had to make it, so I went off to it. I made the shortbread cookies without any sort of trouble, and they were delicious! I actually had to tell my mom to stop eating all the shortbread cookies (she kept trying to sneak a cookie as she walked through the kitchen, thinking I wouldn't notice). Then, when I went to make the caramel-coconut mixture to top off the cookies, things just turned all kinds of bad. Maybe my good baking streak had run out for that day, but the caramel and coconut just turned into a giant mess. I was determined to get these cookies to work though, especially since I had so many shortbread cookies already cut out and baked. I found a new recipe, and went to the supermarket to pick up some more caramel and coconut...and guess who I saw right outside the supermarket entrance?
A table with four Girl Scouts. Yup. I could have just placed an order for a box of Samoas and called it a day, but seeing them just reinvigorated me, and I was more determined than ever. "I'm gonna get you right, you Samoas cookie." And boy, did I get the Samoas right.
These cookies, finished off with the second recipe, came out PERFECTLY. That's not an exaggeration. They were just THAT good. I was very impressed with them, as were all of my friends, with some of them even going as far as to say that they were better than the Girl Scout originals. Now that's a compliment! Now, time for some technical words of advice, as always. Because I used two different recipes in making these Samoas, the quantities are a bit off, meaning that you're just going to have some extra shortbread cookies that will be left plain. The recipe for the shortbread cookies is great on its own, and makes about 60 cookies, and the topping recipe that I've provided below makes enough to cover about 40-45 of them. As for what to do with the leftover shortbread cookies? Snacking on them as they are is a great idea, or maybe sandwiching them together with some Nutella (my mom's preferred alternative) is also a wonderful idea. However you decide to spend your leftover shortbread cookies, I'm sure you won't be too upset that you have that additional task! In any case, these homemade Samoas are a perfect knockoff of the real Girl Scout cookies, which is great for when Girl Scout cookie season is over. Access to Samoas year round? It's a dream come true! Enjoy!
shortbread cookie recipe from Baker's Royale, topping recipe adapted from Cooking Classy
For the Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
For the Coconut-Caramel Sauce
11 oz soft caramels, unwrapped (I used 2 bags of Werther's caramels)
5 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt
1 7-oz bag sweetened coconut, toasted
For the Chocolate Coating
10 tablespoons shortening
7 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
To prepare the shortbread cookies, place the butter and confectioner's sugar into the bowl of a standard electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until light and creamy. Add the vanilla extract, and beat until well combined. Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a surface and shape into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. With a two-inch round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. To cut out the center hole, I just used the wide end of a piping tip. Re-roll the scraps of cookie dough and continue to cut out cookies. Place all the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets, and then bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. The cookies should be just barely golden brown.
Prepare a double boiler and set over medium heat. Heat the caramels, milk, and salt in the double boiler, stirring constantly until the the caramels have melted and become completely smooth.
Lower the temperature to low, and add 1/2 cup of the toasted coconut to the caramel sauce and stir to combine. Place the remaining toasted coconut in a shallow bowl or plate. Leave the caramel sauce over low heat as you prepare the cookies, going back to stir the caramel sauce every once in a while.
Working with one cookie at a time, spread about one tablespoon of the caramel-coconut sauce around the top of the cookie, and then immediately dip the cookie, caramel-side down, into the bowl of toasted coconut. Turn the cookie right side up, and then place onto a wire rack or parchment paper to allow the cookie to set. Repeat with all the cookies.
Once the cookies have been coated in caramel and coconut, prepare the chocolate coating. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the shortening and cocoa powder with a fork. Microwave the mixture in 15-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the shortening has completely melted. Add the powdered sugar, and mix until well-combined. The mixture might have come together into a ball at this point, but that's ok. Simply reheat the mixture in the microwave in 15-second intervals as needed, stirring the mixture after each interval, until it is smooth and glossy. Dip the bottoms of the cookies (aka the sides without the caramel-coconut mixture) in the chocolate coating, scraping any excess coating off the bottom of the cookie along the side of the bowl. Place the dipped cookie with the chocolate coating facing up on a wire rack or parchment paper to allow it to set. Repeat with the remaining cookies. If at any point the chocolate coating begins to solidify, simply reheat it in the microwave for 15 seconds and stir until it becomes smooth and glossy once again. Once the chocolate coating on all the cookies has set, flip the cookies over so that the caramel-coconut side is facing up. Pour the remaining chocolate coating into a plastic bag, seal it, and cut a very tiny tip off one corner of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate coating in stripes over the cookies (this is my favorite part). Allow the drizzle to set, and store the cookies in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Makes about 45 fully assembled Samoas (with plain shortbread cookies left over)