I listened to a little Joy Division and made Samoa cookies last night, a la Girl Scouts. It allowed me to reminisce of the days when I was just a girl trying to sell as many boxes of cookies as I could. It also reminded me of the movie Troop Beverly Hills, and what a classic that is. I know my friends Brooke and Lindsay will agree.
Samoa cookies are by far my favorite, but that isn’t to say I would shun a good Thin Mint or Tagalong. I was saddened when I was about to buy some ice cream (low-fat!) with Samoas mixed in, and saw partially hydrogenated fat on the ingredients list. I know food can be made without it, which led me to wonder why couldn’t I make Samoas myself? Which has brought us to this; a fabulous homemade Samoa cookie with all-natural ingredients.
This seriously should have earned an awesome Girl Scout patch.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
for the topping
- 2 cups shredded coconut (I used unsweetened but sweetened will also work)
- 12 ounces chewy caramels (you can also make your own caramel, which I’ve detailed below)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 8 to 12 ounces chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to butter and sugar mixture at a low speed. Add vanilla and gradually incorporate milk, adding only as much as needed to make the dough come together. If it looks grainy, just use your hands to pull it together. If it still won’t come together, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. The dough should not be extremely sticky. Once your dough has formed a ball, its ready to roll out.
On a floured surface (and with a floured rolling pin), roll out dough in batches to 1/4 inch. Use a round (suggested – 1 1/2-inch) cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place rounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. I used a toothpick to hand draw inner circles, but you could use a smaller cookie cutter if you have one, or a wide straw. The cookies don’t expand so don’t worry that the hole is going to disappear.
Bake cookies for about 12 minutes; the bottoms will be lightly browned and the tops still pale, but set. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely.
For the topping, preheat oven to 300. Spread the shredded coconut evenly on a baking sheet with sides. Toast for 20 minutes in the oven, stirring every 5 minutes until coconut is golden. Cool on the baking sheet.
Unwrap the caramels and place in a medium saucepan with milk and salt (or follow how-to-make caramel instructions below). Heat over medium-low until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Using a dinner knife or a small offset spatula, spread coconut topping on cooled cookies, using about 2 teaspoons per cookie. You can reheat the caramel if it becomes difficult to work with by microwaving it for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
The topping will set quickly so you can get to work on the chocolate right away. Place chocolate in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Take out and stir. Heat again for 30 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. Most bits will melt just by mixing.
Dip the bottom of each cookie into the chocolate and smooth over with the back of a spoon, also getting off any excess chocolate (yep, just said excess chocolate- I know some of you are cringing). Place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Once finished, place in refrigerator or freezer to finish setting (about 10 minutes).
Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt more chocolate if necessary) into a ziplock bag set in a small glass. This will help you so you can use both hands to get the chocolate into the bag. Snip a bottom corner of the bag and drizzle cookies with chocolate. Allow to set for another several minutes in the refrigerator or freezer, and enjoy! These cookies are also great frozen.
To make your own caramel (which I highly recommend! It’s like a science project):
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
Place cream, butter, and fleur de sel or kosher salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (everything should be melted together), then remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, swirl sugar, corn syrup, and water together without stirring. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil without stirring until the mixture is a light golden caramel. Take care as mixture will burn very fast after it has reached the golden point, so remove from heat promptly.
Carefully stir in cream mixture- it will bubble up and continue to do so for several minutes, especially with stirring which you can now do. Place back on heat and let simmer (low to medium-low heat) with a close eye, stirring frequently until caramel registers 255 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 15-20 minutes. Let the caramel cool slightly, then pour into a heat-safe bowl and add coconut. Continue with steps above to top cookies.