|See? A heart, for Valentine's Day. Precious, huh?|
Growing up, I never got to be a girl scout. My dad got me started in 4-H (the more rural, science-y, co-ed youth development organization that displays all kinds of things at fairs--someday, I'll have to tell you the tragic story of the rhubarb cake that never made it to judging at the Hennepin County Fair...) because he had very fond memories of showing calves at fairs through his 4-H club. I digress... I don't know if Scouts do fairs...I think they might be too busy earning badges.
Sadly, being in 4-H meant not getting to wear cute berets and sashes and have darling names like "Brownies" (makes me hungry every time...). Despite any competition between Scouts and Clovers (I think that's what 4-H kids are called, and no, I don't think there's any animosity), whenever our neighbors who were Girl Scouts came around with those cookie orders, I loved the Samoas (or Caramel DeLites, depending on where you are, right?) so much, that I would raid my own piggy bank just to make sure I got a box to myself. Then, I would hide the box in some remote place just to ensure that no little sibling (or chocolate and coconut-loving dad) would get a hold of my twelve precious caramel-coconutty treasures. No wonder I was a pudgy kid, I had some serious gluttony issues...
Well, I do still love Samoas cookies and since it will be a couple weeks still before our order will be delivered (along with the requisite box of Thin Mints), I thought I would give this recipe a try. Variations of Samoas bars are all over the blogosphere and not wanting to be outdone, I came up with my own take on them. Many of the recipes call for melting chocolate to replicate the chocolate-coated bottom and drizzle on the top. Please feel free to do that. I am lazy so I just sprinkled mini chocolate chips and that worked great for me!
1/2 cup (an 8 oz stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Caramel Coconut layer:
3 cups grated sweetened coconut
1 14 oz. bag caramel candies (like Kraft brand)
3 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt
miniature chocolate chips
To assemble: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. On a baking sheet (easier if it has sides) covered with parchment paper, spread coconut in a single layer. Toast in 300 degree oven, checking on it and stirring it every 3-5 minutes to prevent from burning until golden brown (about 20 minutes total and I'm sorry, you can not go far during this part because it can go from golden to burned too quickly!). Remove from oven and allow to fully cool. This step can also be done in advance and then just store the cooled coconut in an airtight container until ready to use.
To prepare the cookie base, grease a 9x13 glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix to thoroughly combine. Stir in salt and flour until the mass comes together in a dough. Spread dough in a thin, even layer in the bottom of the baking pan (it might be a bit sticky, just do your best). Bake for about 25 minutes or until cookie base is light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool.
Unwrap caramels and place in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Add milk and salt. Microwave on high power, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until caramels are melted and almost smooth (it should take between 3-4 minutes). Once caramels are melted, stir in toasted coconut. Immediately spread melted caramel-coconut mixture over cookie base. While the caramel is still warm, sprinkle miniature chocolate chips over top in an even layer, pressing gently into the caramel so they stick.
Allow bars to fully cool before cutting (a pizza cutter works nicely) into bars. I do not recommend using cookie cutters to cut into heart shapes for photographs, it's just plain wasteful for all those edges. These were even better the second day!