Thursday, January 21, 2010

Samoa Cookie Bars


It's that time of year again - Girl Scout Cookie time! I find it ironic that these cookies become available for ordering (at least where I live) in January. Isn't that when most people start to make diet changes? No wonder folks fall off the weight loss wagon... the Girl Scouts tempt you with these delicious cookies when you're vulnerable!

I gave up on new year's resolutions, especially those involving weight loss. I guess you could say I fall in the 'if I haven't learned by now, I won't ever learn at all' camp - at least when it comes to dieting, healthier eating habits, etc. In my mind, everything can be enjoyed in moderation. Who's with me?

Well, perhaps I do indulge here and there and Girl Scout cookies are one of my weaknesses. My absolute favorite are the Samoas (also known as Caramel deLites.) These cookies start off with a buttery shortbread base that's topped with caramel and a sprinkling of toasted coconut. The cookie is then carefully dipped in dark chocolate, just enough to cover the bottom. If that wasn't decadent enough, a drizzle of dark chocolate on top of the cookie finishes it off. But there is a downside. A box of these Girl Scout cookies will run you $4 in my area. I do have a way you can still enjoy the taste of these specific cookies without breaking your bank. Why not make them at home instead... and maybe donate the $4 to the Girl Scouts for being so cute? I came across the following recipe from Baking Bites and now I can have my fill anytime of year... pure genius!

Homemade Samoas Bars
recipe adapted from Baking Bites
yields 20 bar cookies

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350F.

Make the crust first by lightly greasing a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together.

Pour crumbly dough into prepapred pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.


Topping:
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
10 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

In a dry non stick skillet over medium heat, add the coconut and toast on the stovetop. Be careful as they can toast up pretty quickly! Once toasted, set aside and allow to cool.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.

Put dollops of the coconut and caramel topping all over the cooled shortbread base. Using a small spatula, spread the topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled. When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping).

Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper.

Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish.

Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.