Samoa cookies and thoughtful contemplation: A labor of love or… just labor?


Girl Scout cookies
I just finished making my imitation Samoa cookies. These will probably be familiar to anyone who pays for the overpriced Samoa cookies sold by the Girl Scouts. Samoa cookies, formerly known as Caramel Delites, are basically a small round shortbread biscuit topped in a caramel-toasted coconut mixture. This is then dipped in chocolate (to cover the bottom) and chocolate is drizzled over the top (the actual cookie I think just has chocolate lines, but I just drizzled it). As you might have guessed, I was never a Girl Scout.

Imitation/flattery: A laborious process
You can find loads of recipes for imitations of this popular cookie, and I decided to have a go at it for the first time ever. Perhaps I hesitated because it is a somewhat laborious process that requires several steps to complete.

I had to make dulce de leche a few days ago and wait for it to cool (and I was going out of town so had to wait a week to get around to it). I also toasted the coconut in advance and stored it until I was ready. Then yesterday I made the shortbread dough for the cookie portion. It needs to be chilled for a while, so I stuck it in the fridge overnight. The dough has to be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters and then baked. These cookies need to cool before you can move on to the caramel-coconut step (and you will need to heat the caramel with milk and only then mix in the coconut). I then stood there laboring over the piles of cookies to spread just the right amount of the caramel-coconut mix onto each cookie before then spreading chocolate on the underside of each one. At the end of all of this, I drizzled chocolate on the tops of the cookies and refrigerated everything (which, of course, involved a bunch of fridge maneuvering to fit the pans in there).

“The interim is mine”
So yeah, it was an involved, multi-step process, which is probably why I did it incrementally (even if, as I wrote yesterday regarding all-or-nothing approaches, I am not an incremental type of woman). I baked and did other things in the interim. (On an entirely unrelated note, I cannot use the word “interim” without thinking of Jason Patric‘s lowlife character in the misanthropic (but nonetheless enjoyable) film Your Friends and Neighbors. He says something like, “The interim is mine.”)

This process gave me pause to think a lot about, of all things, the nature of love and/or care. I was wondering about whether it is frequent that a person loves what another person gives them and does for them as opposed to really loving the other person. Can they tell the difference? A person may do X, X and X, and these things are amazing and revelatory to the one who confuses love of the benefits with love of the person. (Kind of like… people love my cookies, but I am pretty sure they don’t love me.)

Samoa cookies: Recipe
1. Make the dulce de leche and toast the coconut (you can do this a few days in advance)
2. Make the cookie dough (it will need to chill for a few hours before you can roll it out and cut it)

Shortbread cookie dough
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (do not add if you have used salted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (you may not need this much – you are just looking to get the right consistency)

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in one bowl. Set aside briefly. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy at medium speed, about 3-4 minutes. (I did this by hand.) Mix in the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredient mixture, followed by the milk, one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together without being sticky. The dough should be a soft ball.

Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces and form each one into a rectangle. Wrap the pieces of dough in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze for about 45 minutes to an hour. (You could also just put it in the fridge, as I did. I left it overnight.)

When ready to roll out, cut and bake, take one of your dough rectangles out and set aside to soften slightly. Preheat your oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment.

When ready, put down a piece of parchment on your work surface. Lightly flour and put your dough on top. Lightly flour the top of the dough and add another sheet of parchment. Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter and cut the dough into rounds. Cut a center hole (I used the small round end of a frosting tip), and then transfer to your prepared cookie sheet. Gather the scrap dough and repeat the rolling out/cutting process.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then put on wire racks and allow them to cool completely. While cooling, make the topping.

Caramel-coconut topping:
3 cups toasted coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened and can use untoasted coconut if you prefer)
1 14oz can of of dulce de leche (I made this from a can of sweetened condensed milk – obviously you would save a step if you could get some premade stuff)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
a bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips (to melt)

Open the dulce de leche and stir it together with milk and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a couple of times to smooth the caramel. When smooth, add toasted coconut and stir completely. (And no, actually, it’s not pretty.)

Spread 2 to 3 teaspoons of the topping onto each cooled shortbread cookie. While the topping sets, melt the chocolate chips (either in a double boiler or in the microwave, whichever works best for you).

Once the chocolate is melted, spread chocolate onto the bottoms of each cookie and put them on a clean sheet of parchment.

You will then want to drizzle chocolate over the finished cookies — I just did this by dipping a fork into the remaining melted chocolate and drizzling it over the cookies. You can be more orderly about this by using a piping bag.

Refrigerate the cookies for a few minutes to let the chocolate firm up. Store the cookies between parchment sheets in airtight containers.

Soundtracks du jour
Thurston Moore – “Benediction

“With benediction in her eyes,
Our dearest gods are not surprised.
You better hold your lover down,
And tie her to the ground.
Simple pleasures strike like lightning,
Scratches cross her name.
Whisper, “I love you my darling, life is just a fling.”
But I know better than to let her go.

I know better than to let you go.
I know better than to her go.
I know better than to let you go.”

Gerald Collier – “Dark Days
“the dark days make you sad
they make you cry
you long for who you were
way before my time”

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