Monday, May 12, 2014

Homemade Samoas

Want to know one of the biggest regrets of my life? I was a girl scout from third through sixth grade and my parents would let me buy one box for myself each year and I would buy... ahem... Trefoils. If you're unfamiliar with Girl Scout Cookies, Trefoils are the most boring cookie that they sell. It's just a simple shortbread cookie and there's hardly anything special about it. I still can't believe I'd waste my single cookie box allowance on those dumb shortbread cookies. It's embarrassing.

I blame that huge mistake on the fact that I didn't have much a sweet tooth as a kid. My mom wasn't big on giving us sugar or salt so the chocolate-covered cookies weren't super enticing to me. Fast forward several years: my sweet tooth is still on the smaller side (despite how it might seem, considering I'm constantly posting desserts on this blog) but I have a greater appreciation for chocolate and caramel and coconut and butterscotch and artificial fruit flavoring and rainbow sprinkles.

Once I started making money a few years ago, I started buying cookies for myself (independent woman, yeah!) but even now, I'll only buy one box a year; it's just habit, I suppose. And, every time I buy my one box, I'll gobble them up and then I'll think, why didn't I buy more than one box? And by that time, the girls have finished selling cookies so I'm just left wanting. This year I thought, well, why can't I just make the cookies myself?
Ingredients [yields 2 dozen cookies]:
butter cookies
1 stick room temperature butter
¼ cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cream or milk

samoas
2 dozen butter cookies (recipe above)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
4 oz. chocolate
⅔ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Before I get into the recipe, let me say that my version of Samoas don't taste exactly like the Girl Scout version. I think the Girl Scout version tastes really artificial, which is admittedly part of their charm. Mine taste a little less sugary and a little more flavorful, especially because of the homemade salted caramel and the dark chocolate. Also, let me warn you that this is a somewhat labor intensive recipe but if you manage your time and work on the components while the dough is chilling and then again while the cookies are baking, the cookies can be made within 2 hours.

Okay, so we'll start with the butter cookie recipe. This is an easy recipe and you can use it to make normal butter cookies. You know, like the type of cookies that come in the blue tin; do you know what I'm talking about?
Cream the butter and sugar together. I like to whip up the butter a little before pouring in the sugar, just to make sure it's workable. Whip together until light and fluffy.
Add the baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and whip together. Then, add in the flour 1/4 cup at a time, beating the batter in between each addition. The batter will be somewhat crumbly.
Pour in the milk and mix until the dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Dust your working surface with flour and roll out the dough to 1/8" thick. Cut the dough out into 1.5" rounds and cut out the centers as well. I used a biscuit cutter and a piping tip. I actually matched up my cutters to the one Samoa I had left, just so they'd be the same size.
Bake the butter cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper in a 350F oven. They should bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until they're nice and golden.
Here's a "Two-Face" style photo to show the before and after. Wow, would you look at my photo editing skills? I am some kind of genius (kidding).
Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.
Now, let's get to the other components that are needed to complete the Samoas: the coconut, the caramel, and the chocolate.

Spread the coconut out onto a sheet pan and toast in a 350F oven just until they're golden brown. You'll want to give the pan a jiggle and toss the coconut around every once in a while to make sure it browns evenly and so it doesn't burn.
Let the coconut cool and then use your hands to crush the coconut to break the pieces up into smaller crumbs.
Onto the caramel sauce! I've actually shared this caramel sauce previously but I'm going to go over the instructions again.
Start by pouring the sugar into a clean saucepan. Heat over a low flame until the sugar melts and forms a lovely amber-colored sauce. This is the dry method (of caramel making) and it's great because it's pretty difficult to mess up. There's little risk of crystallization and you can see exactly what's happening, which is nice.
Once the sugar is completely melted and smooth, add in the salt and the cream. Watch out because it will bubble up and steam. Whisk together until a smooth sauce forms. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool down.
The last component is chocolate. I used a dark 60% cacao (Ghiradelli brand) but if you prefer milk chocolate, by all means, use milk chocolate. Use a double boiler to gently melt the chocolate until it's smooth and then let it cool.
Once you have all of the components, it's time to assemble the cookies. Dip the cookies in the caramel sauce - both sides - and then coat in the toasted coconut. Repeat until all of the cookies are coated. Leave the cookies alone so that the caramel can set up a bit - for about 15 minutes. Make sure your sheet pan is lined with a Silpat or parchment because it will make clean up much easier.
Dip the bottom of the cookies in chocolate and then drizzle the tops with more chocolate. I just used my spoon to flick lines of chocolate across the tops of the cookies. If you're uncomfortable with that, you can certainly pour some chocolate into a piping bag or zip-top bag, snip the tip, and pipe the chocolate on. Then, let the cookies set up in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate and caramel are completely hardened.
One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong. Do you see the lone non-homemade Samoa?
All that's left to do is pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk and tuck in. In case you were worried about my bikini body - I mean, why would you be but if you were, don't you worry. I didn't eat this whole plate of cookies in one sitting, even though I was tempted. But, let's say you vacuum these babies right up, it wouldn't be too hard to make sa-mo-a. HA!
Here are the recipe pages:

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