The other day I received my annual invitation to order Girl Scout cookies, and my pulse quickened at the thought of Samoas. I am a fool for toasted coconut. Unfortunately, those adorable little harbingers of transfat are not vegan, and they're full of ingredients that don't really qualify as food, like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil. I'm no health nut (I ate no fewer than five cookies yesterday), but I am trying to stop eating things that come from a lab instead of a farm. (My standards for food quality may be high, but I have no self-respect in regard to quantity.)
I knew I could not live the rest of my life without a chocolate-dipped coconut cookie, so I set about trying to find a recipe online. The most authentic-looking homemade Samoas were on bakingbites.com. I replaced the butter and milk with non-dairy ingredients, and substituted a souped-up version of this vegan caramel sauce for the store-bought caramels.
I cannot stop eating these. They're puffier and less oily than the originals, but with all the same flavors. So who needs a Girl Scout, anyway?
A word about the name: I grew up calling these Samoas, and then I started seeing them labeled Caramel de-Lites. The first thing I wondered was why the Girl Scouts spelled "delights" in such a stupid way. Why the lowercase d and capital L, and why hyphenate it and drop g and h? All those changes make it confusing to read and annoying to spell.
The second thing I wondered was if the name change was in response to a complaint by residents of the Samoan Islands. My only knowledge of Samoans (the people, not the cookies), came from their occasional appearance as contestants on The Price is Right. They were always enthusiastic Bob Barker fans, and always morbidly obese. I am not suggesting all Samoans are fat, or even that they all love game shows. But I thought maybe Samoan public health or tourism agencies, in hopes of discouraging that perception, decided to dissociate themselves from chocolate coconut cookies.
The mundane explanation is that Girl Scout cookies are made by two companies that use the same recipes but call them different things. I'm calling them Samoas, because I like to imagine a tropical paradise in the South Pacific where islanders lay on the beach in grass skirts, listening to the calls of monkeys and tucans, eating tray after tray of coconut cookies.
Step 1: Shortbread Cookies1 cup Earth Balance margarine, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c soy milk
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a cookie sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and soy milk. With a wooden spoon and your hands, form the dough into a ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Working in two or three batches, roll the dough out on a floured surface or wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or the top of a glass with a 1 1/2-inch diameter to make rounds. Place on greased baking sheet and use a drinking straw or the small end of a funnel to cut out center holes. (Disclaimer: the hole is not really necessary, but it's cute and makes these cookies look more like the originals. You can skip making center holes if you're not concerned with aesthetics.)
Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
These are delicious plain, too. I had five or six leftover after spreading the coconut topping, so I drizzled them with chocolate and served them with coffee.
Step 2: Caramel Coconut Topping1/4 cup + 1 TBSP Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP coconut milk
1 TBSP arrowroot
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBSP maple syrup
3 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened
Preheat oven to 300F. Spread coconut evenly on a baking sheet (use the one the cookies were on) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until coconut is uniformly golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Combine 2 TBSP coconut milk with the arrowroot. Set aside.
Melt 1/4 cup Earth Balance in a saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Add remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk. Bring liquid to a boil and boil for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Take the pan off the heat and immediately stir in arrowroot mixture. The liquid should thicken slightly. Add vanilla extract, maple syrup, and remaining tablespoon margarine, and stir until incorporated.
Combine caramel sauce with toasted coconut. While still warm, spread 2-3 tsp topping on each cookie. If topping becomes dry, stir in additional maple syrup.
Step 3: Chocolate Drizzle8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 TBSP soy milk
Melt chocolate in a small saucepan or the microwave, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. If desired (this is kind of a pain and I only did it for some of the cookies), spread melted chocolate on the base of each cookie and place on a clean piece of wax paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.