Monday, April 27, 2009

Perfection in a Bar: Samoa Bars

So Girlscout season came and went, and all I was left with was one box of Samoas, my all time favorite girl scout cookies. Sure, tag-a-longs are good, and thin mints are a close runners-up, but be serious. Samoas are the best. Coconut, caramel and chocolate is possibly the most awesome flavor combination there is. While perusing Tastespotting, as I do almost daily these days, I kept noticing gorgeous pictures of homemade samoas, and then samoa bars. Samoa bars...yum. All the flavors of samoas without having to use two completely different sized cookie cutters and rolling pins and other kitchen equipment I was simply not inspired to use at the time. Sometimes I love a good complex recipe that allows me to show off my creative genius. Other times I just want something quick, relatively easy, and oh so fulfilling. This recipe definitely fits into the latter. I used a homemade Samoa cookie recipe by Baking Bites.
While these bar cookies aren't that hard to make, I will definitely offer some suggestions on issues I ran into while making and eating these cookies.
  1. Keep the dough as thin as possible while maintaining some structural integrity. I know this is a tough line to navigate, but I did feel like the shortbread was a bit thick on my cookies. Also, I may use the shortbread recipe on the actual Samoa Bar recipe Baking Bites has, and not the recipe for the cookies. The shortbread recipes are a little bit different, and I think using the bar version will lead to a shortbread that sticks together better when cut and dipped, as mine had a tendency to fall apart, especially when dipped in the chocolate. (Still tasted great though, once you chew it a couple times it all gets to the same state of destruction.) The dough will puff slightly as it cooks, so I would even recommend erring on the thinner side than the thicker one.
  2. Pour the coconut mixture on while the shortbread is still rather hot, and while the caramels are still hot and melted. Mine started to cool just a bit too much and it made it difficult to spread evenly. I ended up with a thick part in the center. Reheat the caramel/coconut mixture if necessary to ensure easy spreadability. The thicker this layer, the harder to cut- leading to fragmented shortbread, and the harder to chew, leading to sore jaws.
  3. Keep the chocolate as hot as possible. I'm not sure if there's a way to thin out chocolate, but if you know the secret, please, let me know and use it to dip the cookies in. The chocolate was so heavy (for lack of a better word) that the cookie would stick to the chocolate and fall apart instead of sticking to the coconut.
  4. Be careful. Once you eat one, you'll want to eat the whole batch. They're THAT good.

Homemade Samoas Bars
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

First, make the crust.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, 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.

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)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, 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.
Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread 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.

Makes 30 bar cookies.


Marta said...

Is that chocolate oozing out of the bars?!?!?! WOW, I think I must make these tonight! They look great, thanks for sharing this recipe :)

A & W said...

Just made these and blogged about them! Thanks for the great recipes!