Tuesday 29 October 2013

Samoas...in the shape of pumpkins...sort of...

Continuing on with the theme of American grocery store items, let me express my great fondness for shredded coconut.  Not desiccated coconut, as you find in virtually every store here, but the saturated kind that they recommend you keep in the fridge after opening.  It is ideal for making macaroons and also for the king of all girl scout cookies, the Samoa.

Why the cookies have that name I have no idea, but I grew up in an area that called them Samoas and not "Caramel Delights" as some regions did.  If you are not from the USA, they are shortbread rings covered with caramel, coconut, and chocolate.

I have made Samoas before in the ring shape, but was not ready to go through that process again.  I briefly entertained the idea of making bars, but I also felt I should be doing something with a Halloween theme for the kids.  Upon remembering I was in possession of a pumpkin cookie cutter, I realized I was set.

I lined my baking trays in preparation.  I used to feel holy about avoiding silicon trays, opting instead to line baking trays with paper.  Then I read the packet of baking paper and saw that it's lined with silicon.  Oops.  Still prefer it to floppy trays and weird floppy liners.

I also like to roll out cookie dough between sheets of paper to prevent adding too much flour to the dough and so nothing gets stuck to surfaces or rolling pins.  I did take photos of me making the dough, but I lost them. It's just a basic shortbread, nothing fancy.

I was all excited and sure they would be an amazing success when I put them in...

And then they came out looking like this.  Oh.  Vaguely pumpkin shaped, but not really what I'd had in mind.  Next time I should just do the Joy of Cooking recipe for rich roll cookies.  Thanks, Liz, for reminding me how wonderful it is!

I then spread out the glorious coconut and started to toast it.

Then comes the part that fills me with fear: caramel.  I really have no clue what I'm doing when it comes to caramel.  I get all panicky and don't like to attempt it if there are any kids nearby.  I only had one with me this time, and he was well out of the way on my back, so nervously I set to work getting everything ready: sugar, butter, and cream.

Ok, into the pan goes the sugar.

Ooh - coconut looks good, better take that out before I burn it.

Ack!  Ridges!  Some parts are clear, some are deep amber (what I want all of it to be) and some haven't even melted yet...WHAT IS GOING ON!

Ok, that's kind of better, but will someone make that big lump go away?!!


And into a sinkful of water it went to stop it getting any hotter.

So I added butter and the caramel all solidified around the whisk.  Great.  Still, I kept stirring and eventually it all melted.

Then I added cream until it looked like this.

This was my end result.  It tasted kind of like a soft version of the inside of a Heath bar or Daim bar.  So not utterly like the caramel of Samoas, but not bad either.

After setting about a third of a cup or so aside, in went the coconut

And it was stirred until it was a big, gloopy mess.  Now onto assembly.

Some pure caramel gets smeared onto each cookie...

Which helps the gloopy mess to stick.

Mmmm...but don't eat any yet!

Then you flip them over and paint some melted chocolate on with a pastry brush (or dip them - it's up to you).  I am a big fan of melting chocolate in the microwave on a very slow heat.  This way, if you get summoned out of the room on some parenting emergency, you do not need to worry about it being left on the heat; the timer on the microwave will run out, and the chocolate will patiently wait until you have time for it again.  Just don't try to do it on high heat or in one long blast - regular stirrings are kind of important.

Once that's hardened, turn them back over

And carefully pipe decorations onto them.  At this point, everyone was home and in the kitchen, and Robert was on my back now awake and kicking.  I was under pressure as a couple had already been stolen by my husband who didn't realize I was going to decorate them even further.  Precision was never going to happen with all this going on, so while I tried at first to make some vaguely jack'o'lantern type piping decorations, eventually I gave in and just went with the quick zigzag drizzle.  

At least my kids recognized them for what they were meant to be.

But my husband just shrugged and said, it's not how they look that matters.

And they do taste pretty pretty good.

Recipe from the Little Epicurean


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp whole milk

1.  Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of a stand mixer.
2.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3.  All flour mixture to butter mixture.  Add milk and mix until dough has formed.
4.  Divide the dough into two disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes.
5.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare parchment lined sheet trays.
6.  Roll out chilled dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out circles using a floured 2 1/2 inch cutter.  Punch out an inner with a smaller cutter of your choice.
7.  Lay the cookie cutouts on the parchment lined sheet trays and bake for 12-15 minutes until firm and lightly golden.  Let rest on sheet tray until cool to the touch and then transfer to cooling racks.


1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 cups sweetened dried shredded coconut, toasted

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line sheet tray with parchment paper.
2.  Spread coconut into a thin and even layer on prepared sheet tray.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate pan and stir coconut.  Continue to bake at 5 minute intervals, rotating the pan and stirring the coconut until golden in color.  Once toasted, let cool to room temperature.
3.  In a medium sauce pan, add sugar.  Cook over medium high heat until sugar begins to melt.  Once sugar begins in liquefy, reduce heat to medium or medium-low.  Do not over agitate the sugar, but swirl the pan once in a while to make sure sugar melts evenly.  Continue to melt the sugar until liquid is amber brown and aromatic.
4.  Add butter to sauce pan. Whisk until all the butter has melted.
5.  Remove sauce pan from heat and slowly add the heavy cream.  Continue to whisk until cream and sugar mixture are homogeneous.  Be careful, once you add the cream, the sugar mixture will bubble and rise quite a bit.  Be sure the sauce pan is away from heat before you add the cream.
6.  Continue to whisk until caramel is thick and smooth.  Let cool until slightly warm to the touch.  Reserve about 1/4-1/3 cup of the caramel in a separate bowl.  Then add the salt and toasted coconut.  Fold into the coconut until thoroughly distributed.
Dipping Chocolate


10 oz dark chocolate, chopped

1. Slowly melt chocolate in the microwave.  Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds on full power.  Stir chocolate and continue to heat at 30 second intervals at half power until chocolate is melted.  Make sure not to overheat the chocolate which will bring it out of temper.

1.  Once shortbread cookies are cool, dip one side into reserved caramel sauce.  Then spread about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of coconut caramel mixture on top of cookie.  Dipping the cookie first into the reserved caramel sauce helps the coconut mixture to adhere to the cookie.  Let cool on rack.
2.  Dip the bottoms of the cookies into the melted chocolate.  Let cool on rack upside down (coconut mixture side down) until chocolate has hardened and set.
3.  Once chocolate is set, turn cookie right side up.  Transfer remaining dipping chocolate into a small parchment bag or piping bag.  Cut a small tip and drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cookies.  Let cookies sit out until drizzled chocolate has set and then enjoy!
4.  Keep cookies in an airtight container for up to three days.

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