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Making your own cookies allows you to control what’s inside the cookie. You can avoid food additives and adjust the sweetness to your liking. Photo by Jason Shriner.

Homemade Samoa Cookies

By Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef

With the weather warming up, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the iconic young ladies donning their green vests and selling their classic cookies. If you’re anything like me you’ll stock up on 4 to 5 boxes of your favorites and eat them in about 4 to 5 days. With Girl Scout cookies being seasonal, what’s a cookie addict like me supposed to do off-season?

That’s when I decided to research how to make my favorite Girl Scout cookies. Samoas (also called Caramel deLites) combine buttery shortbread, sweet yet complex caramel, toasted coconut, and dark chocolate into what can only be described as perfection. When I was a kid I used to steal all the coconut bonbons from my mother’s boxes of chocolates, even her treasured Valentine’s box. That’s how much I love coconut.

Initially I planned to find an existing recipe online, but every recipe was a disappointment. Most recipes improperly used chocolate and every recipe used caramel candies instead of homemade caramel. Making homemade caramel is one of life’s simple pleasures! So I ended up redesigning the most acceptable recipe.

For the chocolate dipped portion, it’s important to remember that real chocolate must be tempered before using. Tempering is a process of manipulating melted chocolate to ensure it sets up correctly. If you’ve ever left a chocolate bar in your car on a hot summer day and opened it up the next morning, you know what an improper temper looks like: Brittle, dull, with whitish streaks. Tempering is not difficult but most home bakers prefer to avoid it. Instead, use coating chocolate – chocolate with the cocoa butter removed and replaced with another fat like hydrogenated vegetable oil, as it will set up correctly even when it isn’t tempered. Coating chocolate has a bit of a reputation for tasting like cheap candy but if you purchase a high quality coating chocolate, like Merckens dark coating, the flavor will be almost indistinguishable from real chocolate.

Some of you may wonder why I still buy Girl Scout cookies even if I know how to make my own. I like supporting the Girl Scout organization because they emphasize community service. I’ll be honest though: I can be really lazy about baking and these homemade Samoas are a half day project. For as long as they don’t last in my house, these cookies are a time investment I’m not really interested in making on a regular basis.

Jason Shriner owns the baking & pastry blog The Aubergine Chef, which contains free tutorial videos and recipes. He also teaches baking classes at the Manassas Park Community Center. You can visit his blog at www.TheAubergineChef.com.

Homemade Samoas

Makes about 5 dozen

Making your own cookies allows you to control what’s inside the cookie.  You can avoid food additives and adjust the sweetness to your liking. Photo by Jason Shriner.
Making your own cookies allows you to control what’s inside the cookie. You can avoid food additives and adjust the sweetness to your liking. Photo by Jason Shriner.

Shortbread Cookie
4 ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature (about 1 stick)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Up to 1 tablespoon whole milk

Caramel Topping
1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups shredded coconut (sweetened)*
2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)*
*Adjust the sweetness of the topping by using more or less sweetened coconut, but make sure the total 4 cups of coconut remains roughly the same. This is a flexible topping and can often hold a little more coconut that the recipe actually uses.

Assembly
12 – 16 ounces melted tempered chocolate or coating chocolate

Shortbread Cookie
1. Place the butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl and cream together using the paddle attachment until light in color and airy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and mix together.

2. Add in the dry ingredients and mix together on low speed. Pinch a piece of dough off the mixer and roll it into a ball. Press your finger into the ball. The dough shouldn’t crack. If the dough is cracked when pushing a dent into the dough it is too dry. Try adding a tablespoon of whole milk and mixing it on low speed again. Check for dryness again. Continue to add milk until the ball of dough is sufficiently wet. The dough should not be sticky either. If the dough is sticky feel free to add some flour to help dry it out.

3. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a ¼ inch thickness. (If the dough is difficult to roll out, chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes and try again). Use a round cookie cutter and cut out cookies – 1 ¾ inch diameter works well (#4 cutter in the Ateco set). Place your cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Using an 808 ateco round piping tip or ¼ inch cookie cutter, cut a hole in the center of each cookie. The cookies will not spread very much at all so you can place them close together, but give them about an inch so they bake evenly and completely.

4. Bake cookies at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. They should be lightly browned on the edges and on the bottom. Remember to remove the cookies from the oven a little early as the cookies will continue to darken due to carry over cooking (the sheet pan still being hot even out of the oven). Allow the cookies to cool completely.

Caramel Topping
1. Place granulated sugar in a pot with a pinch of cream of tartar (optional) and enough water so that when you run your hands through the sugar there aren’t any clumps.

2. With the lid on the pot, bring the sugar water mixture to a bowl. Allow to boil for a minute with the lid on and then remove the lid. Meanwhile, place the coconut into a large heat resistant bowl.

3. Allow to boil without stirring until it begins to caramelize. If you notice one side is browning faster than the rest feel free to swirl the pot around but do not stir it with a tool. Physically pick up the pot and swirl it around.

4. After it reaches the desired color remove from the pot and stir in, using a wooden spoon, the heavy cream and butter until the butter is completely melted. A lighter caramel will be sweeter and is good when you are using lots of unsweetened coconut. A dark caramel will have a more complex flavor but may taste bitter and is good when you are using lots of sweetened coconut.

5. Pour the caramel into the bowl of coconut and stir thoroughly. Allow to sit and cool completely. Some caramel may settle to the bottom of the bowl. You can stir it back into the coconut or leave it out.

Assembly
1. Remove the cookies and place them on a clean piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. This will help make them easier to remove after applying caramel and will make the chocolate cleaner on the bottom.

2. After the cookies and caramel topping have cooled completely, place some of the caramel topping around the cookie. After all the cookies have been topped place in the refrigerate and allow to set up completely – about 1 hour.

4. After the caramel has set up, dip the cookies in the melted chocolate until the cookie is completely hidden (you should still be able to see the caramel topping).

5. Take a butter knife or offset spatula and dip it in the melted chocolate. Using a brisk motion with your wrist, drizzle the chocolate on the cookies. Alternatively, you can also pipe the chocolate using a piping bag.

 

 

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