Samoa Cookie Bars

Samoa Cookie Bars

A long, long time ago, waaaaay back in the early days of Words to Eat By, I made homemade Samoas, everybody’s favorite Girl Scout cookie. Now, I’m not going to swear that I was the first food blogger to do this, but, well. Ahem.

Anyhoosie, I first made them six years ago. And I haven’t made them since. Crazy, isn’t it, that something so good should be ignored for so long? Especially since it would seem that Girl Scout cookies bought from an actual Girl Scout are so unhealthy, you might as well just suck on a tailpipe.

But, y’know, I’m on Weight Watchers. Having homemade Samoas—possibly my favorite cookie of all time—around isn’t the best idea. (In case you’re wondering: The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World come a close second). I needed an excuse to make them. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Got a little tired of waiting, frankly, so when I finally did have an excuse in the form of a food swap, I took the opportunity to reinvent them. You do realize “reinvent” is code for “make multiple batches until you get it right”?

Where last time I made individual cookies, this time I made bars. Last time I melted packaged caramel candies, this time I made my own, using Cook’s Illustrated’s near-miraculous microwave technique. (Perre over at The Runaway Spoon just made pralines using a very similar method.) Last time I used sweetened shredded coconut, this time I went a wee bit healthier (and, dare I say, more sophisticated) with unsweetened. My friends, it took me three batches to get it right. The first two were delicious, make no mistake, but they weren’t quite there. But with batch number three, I hit it out of the park.

“Real” Samoas have their cute little bottoms dipped in chocolate, but the neat freak hidden deep inside me just couldn’t face the prospect of doing that. Which meant that the chocolate balance was off—there wasn’t enough of it with just a drizzle on top. The secret, it turns out, is to put a layer of bittersweet chocolate between the cookie base and the coconut-caramel mixture. Then top the whole thing with a Jackson Pollock-esque splatter of semi-sweet chocolate.

Oh, my. Yes. Mm-hm.

Samoa Bars
Makes 9 large or 16 small bars
Weight Watchers: 9 bars are 13 PointsPlus each; 16 bars are 7 PointsPlus each

Note: This is kind of an all-day affair. There’s refrigeration pre-baking, and a few bouts of waiting for things to cool. If you want to break things up for Naptime Cooking, make the shortbread dough during nap 1 and refrigerate. Bake it during nap 2; make & add the topping just before your baby wakes. Drizzle on the chocolate whenever you can grab a few minutes later on.

For the shortbread base:
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
pinch of salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (chips are fine, too)

For the topping:
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (like Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chips

  1. Grease an 8 x 8 square baking dish and set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth, around 3 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and salt and mix on low until it’s nearly combined. Finish the mixing with a spatula or wooden spoon—you want it to be sandy, but clumping together. If it feels too dry, add a small splash of ice water.
  4. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and pat it down with the spatula. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325°F. When it’s ready, remove the dish from the fridge, uncover, and bake for 15-18 minutes, until it’s a deep golden color—you don’t want it to brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
  6. Sprinkle the chocolate on top of the cookie and walk away for a few minutes. When you come back, it should be quite melty. Spread the chocolate all over the base with your spatula; move the baking dish to the coolest spot you can find.
  7. Time to move on to the topping: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil, and spread the coconut evenly on top. Toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so. Watch carefully and remove when it’s uniformly pale brown—it’ll go from toasted to burnt in a flash. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  8. Now take a break until the cookie base has completely cooled and the chocolate is set.
  9. Ready to resume? OK, let’s make the caramel. (Look here for more detailed instructions.) In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice. Microwave on high for 5 to 8 minutes, until it’s barely beginning to color—if you wait until it’s truly brown it’ll burn. Remove from the microwave and set aside on a dry surface for 5 minutes. In that time it will continue to darken.
  10. When the caramel is nearly as brown as you want it to get, heat the cream in a one-cup glass measure. Pour it into the caramel slowly, whisking to keep it from bubbling over. When it’s all combined, stir in the butter.
  11. Pour this over the coconut and stir well. Spread the mixture over the chocolate-shortbread base and, again, let it cool completely.
  12. When the bars are absolutely, thoroughly cooled, melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a gently simmering pot of water. Transfer to a zipper-lock plastic bag, seal, and cut the tiniest bit off one corner. Instant pastry bag! Drizzle the chocolate all over the tops of the bars, in whatever pattern you like.
  13. Cool again before cutting into bars. Lift carefully, as the shortbread base will be fairly crumbly.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Um, no. A stolen taste won’t hurt a baby, but I wouldn’t feed something this sugary to anyone under a year old, at least.