Do you have a favorite Girl Scout cookie? Samoas have always been number 1 in my book. For years I’ve been wanting to replicate them in one form or another, be it Samoas Cupcakes (eek these are so adorable), a Samoas Cake (which looks like a giant samoa – bonus!) or actually trying to make the cookies themselves (so much work but so very awesome). But for one reason or another, I have never gotten around to it. Probably because I knew that I’d get all crazy about it and have to make my own caramels first (totally worth it, btw), and that the process would be super fun but long, and that I’d need a large block of time to do it. Then, when Annie posted these cookie bars, I knew it was time to stop messing around. Cookies in bar form felt like a sweet shortcut, and I haven’t been baking all that much lately so I was dying to get into the kitchen. These were totally AMAZING, and I’m so glad I did – and yes, I did make homemade caramels for the topping, and I would HIGHLY recommend it! I actually bought store-bought candies assuming that I wouldn’t have the time/energy to make the homemade ones, and then when I tasted them I thought yuck, no way. So glad I went with the homemade ones. Even Daren, who usually teases me about overcomplicating things, said he couldn’t believe I would even consider using store-bought, haha! So even if you’ve never made caramels, give it a shot – I promise it isn’t that difficult!!
For the shortbread base:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (3 ½ ounces) sugar
- 2 cups (8 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the topping:
- 11½ oz. soft caramels (store bought or homemade)
- 2 ½ tablespoons milk
- Pinch of coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon coconut extract
- 2¼ cups sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
To make the shortbread base, preheat the oven to 350˚ F and line an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy – about 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until just combined. Add in the milk and vanilla extract, and beat on low until the dough comes together in a ball. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press down into an even layer. Bake the shortbread for 20-24 minutes, or until it looks just set/dry. Try to avoid having the shortbread brown at all (maybe a teensy bit around the edges). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.
Remove the shortbread from the pan using the parchment as a sling. Line the pan with an additional piece of parchment. Meanwhile, melt the 4 ounces of chocolate for the base using a double boiler or by microwaving in brief (30-second) intervals. Pour the chocolate into the pan and use an offset spatula to spread it out evenly. Carefully remove the shortbread from the other parchment paper and place on top of the melted chocolate.
In another bowl, combine the caramels and the milk. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the mixture is fully melted and smooth. Stir in the salt, coconut extract and toasted coconut. Transfer the caramel mixture to the shortbread pan and spread out into an even layer. Melt the remaining 3 ounces of chocolate and drizzle over the top of the bars. Allow to set and cool completely before slicing and serving.
Yield: 1 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan; I cut into 20 pieces