Samoas Bars

Homemade Samoas Bars

It’s Girl Scout cookie season!  I think we can all agree that there are two varieties of Girl Scout cookies worth buying (though Tagalongs are okay if you’re into peanut butter).  While some of you may reasonably claim Thin Mints as your favorite, Somoas are the ones that do it for me.  Unfortunately, the availability of Girl Scout cookies is fleeting, the price is a bit steep for what you get, and they are made with some ingredients (like hydrogenated oils) that you might prefer to avoid.  So why not roll your own?  This recipe for homemade Samoas bars comes from Nicole Weston’s The Baking Bites Cookbook, which Kristin gave me for Christmas (thanks, Kristin!).  We tried them last night, and they were (to quote U2) “even better than the real thing.”

While you could certainly cut these into round cookies with a hole in the middle for more authenticity, making them as bar cookies saves a lot of work while giving you the same winning combination of flavors and textures.  The cookie base is a buttery shortbread that tastes similar (better) to the Samoa cookie, but is softer and slightly crumbly (a good thing in my opinion).  I substituted white whole wheat flour for half of the flour called for by the recipe.  This gives it a bit more flavor and texture, and also makes them healthy 🙂

We used semi-sweet chocolate, but a good dark chocolate would be really nice.  Do not use milk chocolate, as it does not melt well.  Toasting the coconut is optional, but highly recommended, and very easy to do.  Also, this recipe melts down regular soft caramels to make the caramel topping, but if you are feeling ambitious you could of course make caramel from scratch (Mom’s recipe would probably work well).  These take some time due to the several steps, and waiting for things to cool, but each step is easy and the actual working time is pretty short.  Try them, and let us know how they turned out!

Cookie Base:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached, and sub in some whole wheat if you like)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil (which you will use to lift the cookie out of the pan after baking) and lightly grease it.  Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Then, at low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until you get a crumbly mixture like wet sand.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press down into an even layer.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the shortbread is set and lightly browned around the edges.  After a couple of minutes, carefully lift it out by the edges of the aluminum foil and set it on a rack to cool completely (you don’t have to use the foil and lift it out of the pan, but it makes it a lot easier to cleanly cut up the bars).

Topping:

  • 3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 12-oz good quality caramels
  • 1/4 tsp salt (preferably sea salt)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 10-oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 300F.  Spread out the coconut onto a large baking sheet (with sides!) and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the coconut is evenly browned.  Set the pan aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

Place unwrapped caramels in a large bowl with salt and milk and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the caramel is melted and smooth, fold in the toasted coconut until well-coated with the caramel.  Spoon the caramel-coconut mixture onto the cookie base and spread it evenly across the entire surface.

Once the caramel has cooled and set, cut into 30 bars.  I used a pizza cutter, which worked well for getting through the caramel.  Melt the chocolate in a small bowl, microwaving for no more that 45 seconds at a time and stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching.  Dip the bottom of each bar into the chocolate (I found it easier to just spread some chocolate onto the bottom with the back of a spoon, since the chocolate was still quite thick), and place it onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Once the dipping is done, spoon the rest of the melted chocolate (melt more if needed) into a ziploc bag and snip the corner.  Drizzle the remaining chocolate onto the top of the bars, then stick them in the fridge until the chocolate sets (it will take forever at room temperature but sets quickly in the fridge).  Store in an airtight container once the chocolate is completely set.

Serves 30

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