Sunday, October 7, 2012

Caramel Coconut Bars*

My all time favorite Girl Scout Cookie has to be the Samoa/Caramel deLites. I could eat a whole box. In fact I may have. I can neither confirm nor deny without incriminating myself. They are so, so good. Coconutty, caramely, chocolaty, short bready. All the best cookie adjectives all in one cookie. What's not to love? So, when Girl Scout Cookie Season is upon us I can't resist those cute faces and delicious treats and I buy, buy, buy. And, because the money goes to a good cause I don't feel guilty one little bit. Calories are allowed in the name of charity. Right? Right!

But, here's the delimma: What do you do when you're craving one of these scrumptious treats and it's not Cookie Season? Scream? Cry? Pound your fists in protest? Naw, you just search the web, find a recipe, and make it. STAT! So, I did. Check it out. . .

*Out of respect for the Girl Scouts, I changed the name of this recipe to "Caramel Coconut Bars".

The players: sugar, butter, an egg, vanilla, flour, salt, coconut (sweetened or unsweetened), caramels, milk and semi-sweet chocolate.

Start by toasting up the coconut. This is a very important part of the cookies flavor, so don't skip it. Lay the coconut out on a parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet and toast in a 300°F oven for a total of 20 minutes until the coconut is golden brown. You want to stir the coconut around every 5 minutes during the cooking time to make sure is gets evenly toasted.

This is what it should look like when you are done. Watch it close so it doesn't burn. Set it aside and let it cool.

While the coconut is toasting you can go ahead and unwrap and weigh out the caramels. Unwrapping the caramels is the hardest part of this recipe. Not hard, just tedious. If you can find soft block caramel then just weigh out 12 oz. and cut it up into smaller pieces. However you do it, you need 12 oz. of good quality soft caramel.

Now start the bars by making the shortbread crust. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and egg and mix well. Next sift in the flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. The original recipe says it will be the texture of wet sand. My dough actually came together into a ball. It may be because it was a hot day and my butter was really soft. Anywho, it worked so let's move on.

Press the dough evenly into a 13 x 9 pan that has been greased and lined with parchment.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges just start to brown. I actually over baked this a bit. You can tell because the edges are dark brown and have started to pull away from the pan. Uh oh, this is going to cause problems later. My advise would be to check it at 15 minutes and then add more time if needed. Take it out when the edges just start to turn brown.

Let the crust cool and start on the caramel coconut layer. Add the milk and salt to the bowl of caramels and microwave on high, 1 minute at a time, stirring frequently, until caramel is melted together and is smooth.

Add the coconut and combine well.

Plop globs of the coconut-caramel mixture onto the cooled crust and spread evenly.
(Get used to me using these highly technical terms like "plop" and 'glob".)

To get the top smooth, cover with a piece of parchment and use your hands to smooth it out and compact the caramel into a dense layer. Park it in the fridge for at least and hour to firm it up. It's much easier to cut when it's chilled.

When you are ready to finish the bars with chocolate first cut into strips. . .

Then cut the strips into bars. I didn't follow directions and ended up with over 40 bars. The recipe says to cut into 30 bars which would have been better and made the dipping go faster. Here is where the over baked crust became problematic. It was too crusty and kept crumbling when I tried to cut it. So, instead of nice even edges, I got crumbly jagged edges. Live and learn.

After your bars are cut and laid out, melt your chocolate. If the chocolate seems too thick, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to loosen it up. Next, dip the bottom of each bar into the chocolate up to the coconut layer, covering all of the shortbread crust. Again, this is where the overcooked crust became problematic. It kept crumbling off into the chocolate. So, again, be careful not to over cook the crust layer.

If you want, take the leftover chocolate and scoop into a small zip top bag. Snip a corner and drizzle some chocolate on top of each bar.

All and all, I'd give this recipe a "8". It was pretty easy to make considering it's a multi-layered bar and it tasted really good. Thumbs up all around at home and from a couple of friends. They are pretty close to the Samoa cookie, but, maybe, not as sweet. I used unsweetened coconut but, I think, if you used sweetened then they would taste pretty darn close to the real thing. I wouldn't hesitate to make these again. Get the recipe here: Samoas Bars

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