Samoas / Caramel deLites
Please excuse me if I start to trail off during this post. It’s been a long day.
All I wanted was these samoas I’ve been seeing around the internet. I’d been dreaming of those glorious purple boxes lately, and, seeing as it’s highly unlikely a Girl Scout will come knocking on my door in Sydney anytime soon, I decided to make them. This is where things get tricky.
But first of all, let me explain what I’m talking about for any non-American readers out there.
The mighty Samoa is the second most popular (after Thin Mints, natch) of the Girl Scout Cookie repertoire. Available for only a few months every year (T minus 88 days!!) after the Girl Scouts make their much-anticipated rounds of your neighborhood, they are comprised of a doughnut-shaped shortbread cookie covered in a mixture of coconut and caramel, then dipped in and sprinkled with chocolate. Depending on which part of the States you live in, they’re called Samoas or Caramel deLites. Apparently, the versions – each a product of one of the two bakeries that supplies the Girl Scouts with their goods – are not exactly the same (Samoas are round, have more caramel and use dark chocolate; Caramel deLites are hexagonal, thinner and use milk chocolate). The differences – which you can see here and here – are the cause of much discussion in the States because, let’s face it, we take things like cookies and the Girl Scouts very seriously.
To be honest, I can’t remember which version we had growing up (though I suspect it was Caramel deLites). Probably because I only got them at my best friend’s house (my mom only bought Thin Mints and, if much begging ensued, the lemon-sandwich ones). And besides, Thin Mints were far and away my favorite. I remember eating an entire box once because it was the first time I noticed how gross your teeth look right after eating chocolate cookies. Wait, where was I going with this? Right!
Girl Scout Cookies are to most Americans a fixture of their youth, perhaps of their days going door-to-door as a Scout, or begging their parents to get Peanut Butter Patties pleeeeeeeeease. And by all the internet warfare over which cookie reigns supreme I found while looking up the recipe below, adults take them pretty seriously, too.
In any case, my craving, as usual, was totally nostalgia-based, and so I set to work making a batch of Samoas (I used dark chocolate, so I’m going with Samoas as the more appropriate name. Not that I’m worried about pissing off any die hard Caramel deLiter; everyone out there seems to be on Team Samoa).
This is when I realized that this is not an easy or quick recipe. In fact, making these cookies was more harrying than making Francesco’s favorite cake, which I reserve for only the specialest of occasions. There are so many steps, so much cutting and rolling and mixing and dipping. You’ve got to make and cut and bake the cookies, then toast the coconut, make the caramel, top each cookie, melt the chocolate, dip each cookie, sprinkle each cookie, then, finally, wait for them to harden.
Because I don’t have round cookie cutters, I shaped my cookies with a champagne flute (classy!) and then hand-cut each little doughnut-hole out of the middle with a knife. I also had to use homemade dulce de leche (by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for a couple hours) because I couldn’t find caramels. And, since we don’t have a microwave, I had to temper everything on the stove.
And so here I am, 24 hours later, covered in bits of dried up dough and melted chocolate.
So was it worth it? I should mention that there is a much easier way, which involves no cutting or shaping, which I think I’ll do next time the craving hits. But all in all, I’m glad I made the real things. My using dulce de leche instead of melted caramel probably made a difference in the genuineness of the taste, but I can hardly tell. They are extremely rich and very pretty if I do say so myself.
And after all, I have two containers full of samoas on my counter and the Girls Scouts haven’t even made their rounds.
That alone is worth all the effort.
SAMOAS / CARAMEL deLITES
Below you’ll find the exact recipe I found on BakingBites.com with my many changes in italics. You can do what I did and use homemade dulce de leche or go ahead and buy a bag of caramels. You’ll want to set aside an entire afternoon to make these, complete with sticky fingers and lots of dishes, but remember, you’ll have about 36 delicious rewards for dessert…
1 cup (225 grams) butter, soft (I melted mine [no microwave, no patience])
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk (I didn’t use this, see: melted butter)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. (I did this first step with a handheld mixer, seeing as I don’t have a standing mixer. The rest I mixed with a wooden spoon.) Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. (Note: DO NOT ignore the instructions to use wax paper. You can’t roll the dough without it.) Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife (like me!), or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set.
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels (I used 1 small can sweetened condensed milk, boiled for 2 hours)
1/4 tsp salt (I upped this to 1/2 tsp and would add even more next time)
3 tbsp milk (If you use dulce de leche, this is not necessary)
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok) (I think you’ll need more. I used at least 12 oz/250 grams)
Preheat oven to 300°F/160°C. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes (or, in my case, 10), stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
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.
(Alternatively, place an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk on its side in a small pot and fill with water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. Drain and cool before opening. Inside you’ll find dulce de leche. Mix with toasted coconut in a small pot on the stove over very low heat. Keep heated slightly as you follow the next instructions.)
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.
While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. (Alternatively, melt chocolate in a bain maire on the stove.) Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate (I used tongs to do this) and place on a clean piece of parchment paper (on a baking tray). Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate. (I didn’t bother, I just dipped a spoon into the chocolate and wagged it back and forth over each cookie.)
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies (mine made about 45 bare cookies and 36 samoas).
Note: These cookies are fairly time consuming to make, but if you take your time and have fun with them, the results will be worth it. That said, if you want something a little bit quicker, try baking a batch of Samoas Bars instead, which require no rolling and cutting of the dough!