Monday, June 10, 2013

Samoas Cookie Bars

(Concise ingredient list is at the bottom of post)

I hated coconut for the first 40 years of my life. I didn't like the mouth-feel of shredded, untoasted coconut, and I hated anything with coconut oil in it - or so I thought. As it turns out (with the coconut oil), what I was really disliking was the taste of artificial coconut flavor. Last year I decided to give coconut another chance.  Lee frequently uses organic, expeller-pressed coconut oil and home-toasted coconut in his cooking. I discovered that coconut oil has a very mild and pleasant taste, quite unlike coconut flavoring. And when toasted, shredded coconut is perfectly palatable. I will, however, still spit out anything that has, in my opinion, the horrid fake flavor of coconut. 

What a new world this has opened up (not that I really *needed* to broaden my dessert palate)! In March I tried Girl Scout Samoas for the first time ever. Yeah, ya' heard me: I was 41 before I had my first Samoa. And I like 'em. I like 'em so much, I decided to make them. Or something like them. I didn't have time to make cookies, so I went with a Samoas bar cookie recipe

Samoas bar recipes abound online, and they instruct you to cut the bars and then dip the bottoms in chocolate. A frequent complaint from reviewers, however, was that the cookie crust was too crumbly and would fall apart when dipping. I remedied this by painting the chocolate onto the bottom of the entire pan of cookie bars before cutting (I'm so clever, ya know). The chocolate coating kept the cookie bottom from crumbling. 

I also used an extra egg and a healthier dose of vanilla than most recipes call for. 

Also, most sites say to use a pizza cutter to cut the bars, and that worked really well.

One other note, I used Baker's Bittersweet Baking Chocolate because it's what I had on hand. I usually use chocolate candy coating from a local candy shop because it hardens super fast. Baker's chocolate takes a LONG time to set, so I ended up putting the bars in our chest freezer to speed up the process.

OK, so those are some of my initial tips; now here's the recipe:

First toast three cups shredded coconut: Spread shredded coconut on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 275 degrees F for 10 or 15 minutes, making sure to stir every 5 minutes to avoid burning. (It can burn very quickly). Let cool.

Next, make the cookie crust:

Cream together 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup softened butter. Add 2 eggs and 1 TBS vanilla. I used my rum vanilla, because what goes better with coconut than rum? That was my thought anyway.

Now add 2 cups flour and a dash of salt. Mix well.

Cut a piece of wax or parchment paper to size for a 9 by 13-inch pan. Spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray. Press the parchment paper down inside the pan and spray the top of it with more cooking spray.

Spread the cookie batter smoothly in the pan. I used my hands. See my finger grooves?

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookie dough is firm and the edges are lightly browned. Let completely cool before making the coconut-caramel topping. 

Next, do NOT do your grocery shopping at Target, because if you do, instead of coming out with a 12-oz bag of "high quality" caramels, you will come out with an 11-oz bag of caramel pellets that will make you hang your head in shame. I mean, c'mon, at this point, between the Walmart brand coconut and this little bag of silliness, I might as well have just flagged down a Girl Scout, bought the cookies, and called it a day. I do solemnly swear to make the caramels from scratch next time. I've made caramels before, so I know I can manage it.

Anyway, add 3 TBS of milk to 12 oz of caramel candy. Microwave for 45 seconds at a time. Take the bowl out, and stir. Continue to do this until the caramel is melted.

Now add 3 cups toasted coconut to the caramel. Work fast because it will soon start to set.

Do NOT put the whole glob of coconut-caramel in the center, like I did. All the gooey caramel will stay put in the center, making it hard to spread out. Drop it on by spoonfuls so it's easier to spread.

Repeat after me, "Your (clean) hands make the best tools," while spreading the caramel-coconut around. 

Let set for about 30 minutes. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper over top the pan. (I used foil-lined parchment paper.) Flip the pan over. The cookie bar should come out in one piece.

Now you're going to heat up the chocolate and paint it on the bottom. Follow the instructions for whatever type of chocolate you're using. I melted the Baker's chocolate in the microwave using the same process I used with the caramel. 

I used a silicon pastry brush to paint on the melted chocolate. I like to paint. I painted houses a long time ago, in another life. Actually, I think it was about three lives ago. But at any rate, I feel at peace when painting, so I enjoyed this next step:

If you used chocolate candy coating, it will be set before you can even clean the chocolate off your hands. But if you use chocolate chips or Baker's chocolate, it will take FOREVER. So pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Now you're ready to cut it into bars with a pizza cutter.

Once they're cut, you'll need to flip them all back over. Here's where thin, flexible cutting boards come in really handy. The red and the green cutting boards are from IKEA, and they're durable, easy to clean, and great for stuff like this. I placed the parchment paper on top of the bars and then placed the cutting board over that. Then I flipped it all over.

Now it's time to drizzle chocolate on the top of the bars. Most sites say to fill an icing bag with melted chocolate, or put the chocolate in a plastic sandwich bag and snip a hole in one of the corners. That's too much work. I had success with simply flinging the chocolate on with a fork. OK, so I'm still cleaning chocolate off the kitchen cupboards, but hey, it worked...

I put these in the freezer for 10 minutes to set. Then they're ready to go! Enjoy!

Ingredient List:

Cookie crust:
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 TBS vanilla 
2 eggs
2 cups flour
Dash salt

Coconut-caramel layer:
3 cups toasted coconut flakes
12 oz good quality caramels
3 TBS milk

Chocolate for bottom and top of bars:
10 oz of dark chocolate (chocolate chips, chocolate candy coating, or Baker's Chocolate)


  1. I'll have to try these - those are my husband's favorite Girl Scout Cookies. I love those IKEA cutting sheets. Since there are no IKEA's in Oklahoma, I have to bring them back with me when I travel. I always wonder what the TSA guys think of my strange luggage.

    1. Hi Beryl,

      Thanks for stopping by our blog.

      You could also try getting the IKEA cutting boards online:

      When I make these cookie bars next time, I'm going to make the caramel myself and use a little bit more than this recipe calls for. Everyone liked them, but I think I'll make the topping thicker next time.