Ask and ye shall receive, my fellow coconut cookie lovers. Remember the Homemade Samoas Girl Scout Cookies from February? Remember their buttery shortbread base, caramel-coconut topping and dark chocolate drizzle? Well, they’re back, and in bar form, all thanks to your requests!
Over the past three months, I’ve received countless emails, Facebook messages, Tweets and Instagram pleas for an abridged version of the iconic cookie recipe. Long story short: While the homemade Samoas cookies are spot-on for taste and texture when compared to the real deal, I wouldn’t exactly put them in the “quick and easy” dessert category.
I’ve spent the past few weeks transforming the original recipe into a cookie bar recipe, eliminating the need to refrigerate and roll out the dough, as well as cut it into shapes. I’ve whipped up a basic shortbread base for a 13-by 9-inch baking pan, reworked the coconut-to-caramel ratio and upped the amount of dark chocolate. I dip the bottom of each cookie bar in chocolate, but you could just as easily skip this step and shave off even more time in your quest for homemade Samoas success.
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For the shortbread cookie base:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
For the coconut topping:
- 4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
- 20 ounces store-bought or homemade soft caramels
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 10 ounces dark chocolate (See Kelly's Notes)
Make the shortbread cookie base:
- Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a 13-by 9-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer to low, and then carefully add the flour mixture to the bowl, beating just until combined and scraping down the sides as needed. (Do not overmix the shortbread dough or it'll be too crumbly to cut once baked.) Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and press it into an even, flat layer.
- Bake the shortbread until barely golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely while you make the topping.
Make the coconut topping:
- Turn the oven up to 350ºF. Spread the coconut flakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the coconut for about 10 minutes until it's toasted, stirring frequently to ensure even browning and so that it does not burn. (See Kelly's Notes.) Remove the toasted coconut from the oven and set it aside.
- Melt the caramels, milk and salt in a double-boiler by placing the ingredients in a medium saucepot set over a large saucepot of simmering water. Cook, stirring, until the caramels are fully melted. Remove the saucepot from the heat and combine the caramel mixture with the toasted coconut in a large bowl. Immediately spread the coconut mixture over the cooled shortbread, pressing it to adhere to the shortbread base. Work quickly, as the caramel mixture will begin to firm up and won't adhere if it cools too much. Let the bars sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Using the parchment paper overhangs, lift the shortbread out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice the shortbread into bars by spacing your cuts to make 3 columns down and 10 rows across to form 30 roughly 2-inch by 1-inch cookie bars.
- Melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. Dip the bottoms of each of the cookie bars into the chocolate and place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to drizzle the tops with chocolate. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate hardens fully.
- If you're using dark chocolate chips, 10 ounces is equal to about 1 2/3 cups chocolate chips.
- Coconut burns very quickly, so keep an eye on it and stir often!
- For an even faster version, skip dipping the bottoms of the cookie bars in chocolate and just drizzle the tops.
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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste.
I made them today. I made homemade carmel. It did take longer than 2 hours to make. I did put chocolate layer between carmel coconut and shortbread layer. And my other half suggested putting carmel coconut spread on parchment paper then flip onto the cookies. They turned out very good though a touch sweet.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Michelle!
Would it taste good with milk chocolate?
I tried making these last year and ended up with at least 3 epic fails. But I’m nothing if not persistent for things this deliciously yummy. So this year I took all the lessons learned and came out with perfect little tastes of heaven. Here are my hacks:
Cookie. I made it a day ahead to give it plenty of time to cool (and also because the whole process takes a while). No matter what I did last year, the cookie barely stayed together and was very crumbly. So this year I added a little step which solved my problem. After mixing all the ingredients in the Kitchen Aid mixer, I experimented with putting it *very briefly* in the preheated oven to soften the dough–don’t walk away during this step because you don’t want the butter to melt at all. Now I was able to spread it evenly in the pan, make a consistently thick layer and actually stick together to make a layer that didn’t break into pieces after it was cooked.
The coconut. Kelly, the author, is not kidding when she says that coconut burns quickly. You need to watch this step more than you think.
The caramel. During the holidays you can sometimes find unwrapped Kraft caramel little balls–saves a lot of time on the unwrapping stage. (If you’re going to make these through the year, buy them up and hoard the packages!) You’ll need to use just under 2 bags for the recipe. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of milk, but I used just shy of 4 Tbs. and liked the results a little better. Don’t think you’re smart and use the microwave to melt them–I nearly broke a tooth before I figured that one out. I actually went out and bought a double boiler for the recipe this year.
As stated in the recipe, the melted caramel-coconut mixture cools quickly and needs to be hot to stick to the cookie. Pouring out of the pan and onto the cookie layer all at once didn’t work well, as it cooled before it spread well enough, and sticking to the cookie was a problem. So I did not remove the mixture from the heat, but instead, kept the double boiler on a very low simmer and spread it on the cookie a little at a time. This allowed me to make an even layer all the way to the edges.
The chocolate. You need more chocolate chips than the recipe calls for to do this well. I don’t know how Kelly got the perfect drizzle from a fork, but that wasn’t really an issue. After drizzling the top with the tines of the fork, I chilled the bars to let the chocolate set. Then came the part about dipping the bars into the melted chocolate. Don’t do that, as the cookie crumbs invariably make it into the chocolate and make a mess. Instead, I put parchment paper (you could also use wax paper) on the bottom of 2 large cookies sheets, picked up a cookie with tongs and spread a generous layer of chocolate onto the bottom of the bar with a knife, being careful to be thick enough that it doesn’t pick up the crumbs from the cut bars. This does take a while to do (another reason why I did this in stages this year) but is totally worth the effort. Without the chocolate base, the bars tend to bend when you pick them up, but the chocolate forms a firm base, so it’s worth the time to do this.
Now chill the bars again to set the chocolate base. At this point, the melted chocolate had spread a bit on the parchment or waxed paper, so you can keep it that way, but I broke those “wings” off to pack them into tins better.
These bars are awesome and well worth the time to make them! They will be the star of any dessert table….if they last long enough to get there.
Thanks for all your notes, Anne! Thrilled you enjoyed the recipe!
I made these and everything Anne says is very helpful. Next time, I will just put the caramel coconut topping onto a Lorna Doone if I am short on time. LOL. These are delicious and this recipe works, but it’s not a quick and simple cookie. It’s for people you have to really like a lot to share them with. LOL
I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Dee! And yes, they are a labor of love! :)
I know this is an older recipe… So hopefully Kelly is still with just a taste because I have a question I need answered
I am planning on making these, I found the link to (this) the bar recipe from the original somoa recipe. It seems the bars will be easier, so I am going to attempt these.
On to my questoon- the cookie recipe calls for milk & vanilla extract for the cookie part. But the bar recipe does not call for milke & vanilla… Is there a reason for this? Does it make a huge difference? I’m thinking I WILL include the milk and vanilla in the bars, if for nothing else than taste. Thoughts? Advice?
Again, hopefully Kelly is still with y’all (just a taste)… But if not, hopefully there is someone there with experience with these 2 recipies and can help me out – preferably ASAP because I was planning on making these like yesterday…
Hi there! It’s a totally different recipe so I wouldn’t recommend altering it. They have great flavor sans the milk and vanilla! :)
Super tasty bars. It’s hard to have any self-control around these!
Haha! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!
I made these yesterday and they came out great! Instead of dipping the bars in chocolate I would like to try to put a thin layer of melted choc. on TOP of the shortbread and chill then put the coconut caramel layer on top of the chocolate. This way the warm caramel/coconut mixture would adhere to the chocolate and avoid the dipping and separating of the layers.
Awesome! So glad you enjoyed the recipe, April :)
These look so good and easy to make! I’ll need to make a lot–they’ll go fast in my house!
I just finished making these for a Super Bowl Party. They are very tasty- just like the real thing! Based on the negative reviews, I decided to only make a half batch in an 8×8. I made sure to only BARELY mix the shortbread as Kelly has said, and I decided to error on the side of underdone to help with crumbling. The coconut/caramel mixture was hard to stick down so I risked some burns for these beauties and used my fingers. There was some crumbling when I cut them, and some of it crumbled into the dipping chocolate. They are in the freezer now for the chocolate to harden. My caramel/coconut is REALLy chewy (definitely not good for dental hardware), but overall, very delicious. This is a little bit more labor intensive than many bars, but if you crave some Samoas this is for you! I wanted to post a review for someone that made them successfully besides Kelly. Thanks for a good recipe!
Awesome! Thanks so much for your notes and your review, Kat! Enjoy every bite :)
These look great. I’d like to substitute pure coconut oil for part of the butter in the shortbread recipe. My family really likes coconut oil in many of the other recipes I prepare, and it’s healthier.
Do you have suggestions for making the substitution? Thank you in advance.
Thanks, Katrina! I’ve never made cookies using coconut oil in place of butter, so I can’t provide info on how much to use or how to re-work the recipe. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
You thought that Girl Scout cookies were expensive, wait till you see the price on the candy bars!
Thanks so much for your comments. I’ve made this recipe many times without any issues. The key is to not overmix the shortbread dough or it’ll be too crumbly once it’s baked. And the topping will stick as long as you apply it immediately after mixing the hot caramel with the coconut (the topping must be warm). If it still doesn’t stick, you could try spreading a little bit of the caramel on top of the bars and then adding the topping. Hope this helps!
This were a disaster :( agree with previous posters. The shortbread was perfect until the topping was being cut, which didn’t stick. I followed the directions perfectly. Incredibly sad.
Thank you!!! Can’t wait to try them!
This looked so good, I gave it a try. What a disaster! The shortbread falls apart when cut, the coconut caramel top didn’t stick to the shortbread even after attempting to warm it further. The taste is good but with these ingredients of course it would be. I’m an experienced home cook and followed the recipe as written. I was hoping to convert these to gluten free for myself but this wouldn’t hold up. You must be above my capabilities; I have a pile of shortbread sand and a stiff sheet of coconut caramel. Bummer.
My Grandson & I made these today….Not sure what happened but the shortbread was golden browned in the parchment lined 9X13 pan. Let it cool & made the coconut mixture for the topping. We pushed it down on the shortbread as it didn’t want to stick to it. So we let it all cool. I took it out of the pan & starting cutting it & the topping came off the shortbread….the shortbread is to crumbly ;-( I mashed it down again & dipped the shortbread & it’s a mess……Ours did not turn out at all …. Not sure what we did wrong. Maybe I will try the cookie version instead.
Thanks for your note, Sue! If the shortbread was too crumbly, it was likely the result of being overmixed. And the coconut mixture has to be hot when it’s pressed onto the shortbread, otherwise it won’t stick. Hope this helps!
Your cookie picture popped up name Samoa when I was browsing the net. I am a Samoan, was interesting to find out something new for Father’s Day recipe. I printed out your recipe, it looks so yuuuuumy. I haven’t try it yet, but I will and I’ll be back here to write you about it.
Thank you for sharing
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