Thursday, January 28, 2016

Julie Surprise: Homemade, Clean "Samoas" (Girl Scout Cookies)

Yesterday my sister posted this graphic on Facebook.

I confess, after looking at all the unnecessary additives and poor quality ingredients, I bragged in a comment that I could easily make my own and that they would be better in every way. Someone replied to that comment by saying, "Please hurry!"

I laughed at first, but it got the wheels turning for me. I looked at what the girl scout website said about their cookies and it just seemed like it would be all too easy.

I've been working with coconut flour for a few years now, and I've made very similar treats, like this to-live-for, caramel chocolate cheesecake that tasted like it had a crust made from twixt bars. (Yeah, I still need to post that one.)

Anyway, I figured, I might as well give it a shot. So I made a very small batch of half a dozen cookies last night and had to take the time to convert it to a larger batch for all of you here this morning.

The recipe does have a lot of steps, but it really isn't difficult. If you want to shave off some of the time it will take to make these, I would suggest not cutting out a center hole and just leaving them a solid circle. If you like the idea of the narrow strip that the wreath shape provides, you could even dispense with circles altogether and shape the cookies into little sticks instead. (Think twixt bar)

One reason I was able to do this so spontaneously last night was because I already had some leftover caramel in the freezer that I made a couple of months ago. Although, I could have made fresh caramel since I have dates in the fridge right now. It's a pretty simple recipe and if you can get someone else to help you make the cookies you could have one person working on the caramel while the other person mixes and shapes the cookies.

At first I felt sure that someone else must have already created a clean version of these cookies, and perhaps someone out there has, but a quick browse through pinterest only revealed "homemade" versions that consisted of store bought cookies covered with store bought caramels and melted chocolate chips. . . .
Yeah. I know.

Thus, I present to you:

Julie Surprise:Clean Caramel & Chocolate Covered Cookies ("Samoas")

Cookie Ingredients:

(Oven Preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.)

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients until you have a nice shape-able cookie dough consistency.

     Note: You might want to add the coconut milk one tablespoon at a time and test in between to gauge how much moisture you need to help the dough form into a circle without crumbling. I'm high altitude so you may need to add more or less milk to achieve the desired consistency. (See note for Step 3)

2. Cover a large cookie sheet with baking parchment and form about a teaspoon's worth of dough into circles using your fingers, directly onto the pan. You may flatten them with the underside of a cup.

    Note: if you are going to use cupcake liners for adding the toppings later, you may wish to have one handy so you can form the cookie into a size that will fit into the bottom of the liner. The cookies will not spread when baked.
3. If desired, cut circles out of the center of each cookie with a small cookie cutter or other small cylinder that will serve the same purpose.

     Note: You may need to use the tip of a knife to help you remove the circles from the cookies once cut. Seeing how your cookies react to this step will also give you a clue as to how crumbly the dough is. If cutting out the center makes your cookie fall apart, you may wish to return the dough to the mixing bowl and add a bit more coconut milk. Thus, you may wish to test one cookie in this way, before you transfer all your dough to the cookie sheet.

4. Once all your cookies are formed on your cookie sheet, bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom edges are starting to turn brown.

    Note: You will probably start smelling the cookies just as they reach this point.

5. Once baked, remove from oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

6. Once cooled, you can begin to coat the underside of each cookie with chocolate. (recipe below)
To do so, drizzle a small layer of chocolate into the bottom circle of a cupcake liner. Place cookie on top of chocolate taking care that the entire bottom surface is sitting on chocolate. Place the cookies in the freezer for a couple of minutes to quickly set the chocolate layer.

     Note: You can return the cupcake liners with cookies to a cooled baking sheet, or to a plate before transferring to the freezer, whatever best suits you.

7. Once hardened, remove cookies from freezer and carefully scoop your prepared date caramel onto the cookie; creating a nice thick layer. Top with coconut and return to freezer.

8. Once cooled, drizzle stripes of remaining chocolate onto cookie and return to freezer a final time.

9. Once set, remove the cookies from the papers and serve, or store in the freezer or fridge in an airtight container.

    Note: If you choose to make wreath shaped cookies, the center hole may become filled with a thin layer of chocolate. This is easily removed with a few pokes of a straw or knife, or you may leave it intact for extra chocolaty goodness.

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup liquid coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

Mix in a small dish until smooth, with no lumps remaining.

          Note: I did not think it was necessary to add any sweetener to the chocolate as the date caramel is already quite rich and sweet. I prefer the contrast between the dark unsweetened chocolate with the caramel. Plus the layer of chocolate is so thin, it is really not noticeable when you take a bite of the whole cookie that the chocolate has no sweetener. 

 Caramel Filling Ingredients:

  • 12-16 Dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 to 1/2 tablespoon Grass Fed Butter (optional, see note below.)
1. Soak dates and coconut oil in a small sauce pan over low heat until dates ate very soft.

2. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt. Blend directly in pan with an immersion blender, or if you prefer, transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. 
     Note: If the consistency is too thick to easily spread on the cookies, or simply thicker than you wish it to be, you may add additional butter and see if that helps. Another way to thin the caramel could be to add some warmed coconut milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. You want it somewhat thick, but spreadable, and not so thin that it drizzles off the cookie's surface once applied.

Overall, I thought they were delicious. Admittedly I did not try them in a side-by-side comparison to the girl scout version, (for obvious reasons) but to me they are awesome. My husband and three kids also approved of them, with my two year old begging for more, my six year old proclaiming them the best treats I've ever made, and my eight year old saying, "They literally melt in your mouth; they are really good!"

If, for some reason, you find them lacking, you are perfectly welcome to experiment with my experiment. My cookies turned out soft instead of crunchy. In order to achieve a crunchy texture I would probably go with more of a shortbread type recipe, dispensing with the eggs and adding coconut oil to the dough. I considered this at first, but wanted to be sure the cookies would hold together. Shortbread can be a bit of a trial and error at times, especially when working with coconut flour.
Adding more coconut sugar to the dough, or some liquid sweetener of choice to the chocolate coating may bring them closer to the original flavor. I also noticed that the original cookies have mixed the coconut with the caramel, instead of just sprinkling it on top. I will probably try this next time I make these, and you would be welcome to do the same.

Happy baking, and happier eating to you all!

~Julie :}