Camping? Love it. Patches? Who doesn't love flair! The Girl Scouts are good people. During my pregnancy last year, they singlehandedly contributed to at least 10 pounds of my total gain, purely through the abuse of Do-Si-Do Peanut Butter cookies. En masse. I do my part. You should too. Support your scouts or the terrorists win.
Okay, NOW. I must also say that it is incredibly unfair of said Scouts to set up their booths and peddle crack-laced cookies to the public, and then disappear for another 51 weeks while we all throw ourselves into Thin Mint comas and begin turning on each other in fits of peanut butter withdrawal rage.
So between those magical annual festivals of Girl Scout glory, I want to offer you a substitute to help keep you sated until the Scouts return once again to distribute their wares.
I happened to receive two fresh, whole coconuts in my co-op produce bag this week. I wanted to do something really fabulous with them, and the cookie idea struck.
So let's start there.
Of course, to make things easier on yourself, you can always use pre-shredded coconut. (And honestly? For a recipe like this where there are so many rich flavors, I recommend it. They're a LOT of work, and the goodness of fresh coconut is better suited for a dish where the coconut flavor is the star)
I stuck a stubby short flathead screwdriver into the coconut shell and whacked it with a hammer. A lot. I created a hole and drained the juice. Then, I used the flat side of the screwdriver to pry apart the shell like a crowbar. Pop! Those suckers are strong! Using a couple different knives, I peeled the meat from the shell. This is a LOT harder than it sounds. My arms were tired and I was sweating by the time it was done. Those coconuts don't go down without a fight, let me tell you.
Anyway, I stuck the flesh in my food processor, fitted with the shredding blade. I toasted it at 200 degrees for an hour, and let air dry overnight. By morning, it was perfect.
The Samoa cookie is made up of three parts.
I used a simple, standard shortbread dough.
Recipe is kosher dairy, vegetarian, and can be easily made gluten free
1 cup (two sticks) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
(You can also use gluten free flour and make these cookies totally G.F.)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half
Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until super light and fluffy. It should be pretty in the bottom of your mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt. I hate sifting. I'm lazy like that.
With your mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour until the dough is crumbly and well mixed. Add your milk and stir with a spoon until the dough holds together. Turn it out onto a clean surface and knead until smooth and supple. Separate the dough into two balls. Squish 'em flat and wrap in plastic. (This is a family show, folks.)
We want to chill these babies in the fridge until they're relatively solid again. Otherwise, your rolling pin will make a nasty mess of everything.
Once your dough is well chilled, flour your work surface and unwrap one of the dough packages. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a bit of flour to keep the pin from sticking, and roll flat to 1/4" thickness. Cut out your cookie shapes. I used a 1 3/4" round biscuit cutter, and the open end of a piping tip for the center hole. Re-roll the scraps and go again. Then, if you want to use your second dough packet, go for it. If not, it will keep for a week or two in the fridge. Longer in the freezer.
My good friend Kara lent me her daughter for the day, and she was
Pop your shortbread rounds into a preheated oven (350 degrees F) and let them bake until firm, but not browned. About 10 minutes maybe, but it will vary from oven to oven. Keep an eye on them. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Now for the caramel coconutty goodness.
I eyeballed this, so my measurements are....well, frankly, I'm totally making them up. Sometimes ya just gotta freestyle.
The same friend, Kara, (isn't she awesome?) made me a lovely jar of homemade caramel sauce for my birthday a few weeks ago. It's been sitting in my fridge singing to me ever since, and I needed to put it to good use before I found myself on the kitchen floor at 3:00am with the jar and a spoon. That's not pretty. Nobody wants to see that.
You can use caramel sauce, or use your microwave to melt storebought soft caramel with a few spoonfuls of milk and a pinch of salt. Maybe if we all ask really nicely, Kara will post her caramel recipe in the comments. :D Pleeaase?
So I spooned a good cup of chilled caramel into a heatproof bowl and nuked it for a minute until it liquefied. I then stirred THAT into about 2 cups of my fresh shredded coconut. The coconut should be coated, but not drippy or oozy. You want it to resemble a raw macaroon.
I stuck my finger through a cooled shortbread round and used my other hand to press the coconut mixture onto the cookie. Be gentle. Treat it like a lady. I won't lie--this process sucks. It's tedious and time consuming and messy as hell. But the results are worth it, I promise.
(Of course, if you wanted to take the Lazy Man method, you could just press the shortbread dough into a 9x13 pan, bake, cool, schmear with caramel coconut mix, and drizzle in chocolate. Cut into squares and call 'em Samoa bars. But not today.)
Once your cookies are coated, stick them back into the fridge to firm up a bit. And wash your hands. Goodness, they're sticky!
When the cookies are chilled, you can make them neat. Press them caramel-side down on waxed paper to flatten them out, roll them on edge to smooth out the rough coconut flyaways. Make 'em pretty if you want.
Now. In a heat-safe bowl, melt 12oz dark chocolate, chopped or chips. Stir to make it smooth.
You can use a fork, your fingers, a toothpick, whatever you like. We're going to dip those cookies, cookie-side down, into the chocolate. I started with my fingers, but that got messy. I then tried chopsticks, but that wasn't working. I ended up using toothpicks. Lay dipped cookies on parchment or waxed paper.
I found that I had so much excess chocolate on these cookies, that I had to set them down on paper, let them puddle a little, then pick them back up out of the choco-pool and transfer them to a clean sheet of parchment. Too much chocolate! (I know, there's no such thing, right? But for aesthetics, sacrifices must be made.)
Once they're dipped, transfer the rest of the melted chocolate into a baggie. Zip it tight and snip a hole in the tip. Drizzle chocolate over the cookies, and let them set until firm.
Voila! There you have it, lovelies. Homemade Samoas.
So next time a cute little girl in a beret knocks on your door with a wagon full of cookie boxes, you can stick out your tongue and say, "Nope, not gonna do it. I can make my own!" But really...don't. Buy a box. She wants to go to Happy Fun PlayWorld. Have a heart.
And while you're at it, have a Samoa, too!
Enjoy, and happy eating!