Tag Archives: Dessert

Samoa Bars

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Everyone (living in the US of A) has one. Thin Mints, Samoa, Tagalongs, Lemon Chalet Cremes…. ? My mom’s favorite is the Thin Mint. Subtle mint flavoring covered in chocolate deliciousness. Yes please! But I have grown to love Samoas and Tagalongs just as much (if not a little more). In fact, and I hate to admit this, I would inhale boxes of them in college. Because really – Girl Scout cookie-time comes but once a year.

I gave up my box-a-day habit many years ago but, each Spring when I get accosted by little girls in uniform, I secretly long for a tray of Samoas. This year I gave in, but not as I had previously imagined. I decided to try making my own. A quick Google search lead me to BakingBites.com’s Homemade Girl Scout Cookies and a grocery list was quickly assembled.

A couple of notes: do not cheap out on ingredients with this dessert. Look for unsweetened, shredded coconut and the best dark chocolate you can find. Also, good caramel is a must – make your own if you have to. Safeway brand caramel squares will not cut it. Just trust me on this one.

Samoa Bars (makes 30)

Cookie:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Set aside.

Beat sugar and butter in mixing bowl until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract. Lower speed and gradually incorporate flour and salt. The mixture should be crumbly. Transfer to pan and press into an even layer with a spatula or large spoon.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are light brown in color. Let cool completely.

Topping:
3 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened (you can use sweetened, but I highly recommend the unsweetened)
12 oz chewy caramels (or try making your own caramel)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs milk
10 oz dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips will also work)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly distribute coconut and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 4-5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

Place (unwrapped, if store purchased) caramels in microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir every 60 seconds. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut.

Using a spatula, spread topping into an even layer over the cookie base. Let set until completely cool. Cut into bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of boiling water. Transfer chocolate into a piping or ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate OR dip the bottom of each bar into the chocolate and place onto a clean piece of parchment paper. If you choose option two, take the remaining chocolate and decorate the top of the bars.

Finally, Girl Scout cookies minus the scout.

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Chocolate Caramel Tart

Our first guest cook, aka cousin Lindsey, joined me in the kitchen this week with one request – chocolate! After flipping through a few magazines and scanning my favorite blogs, we saw this Chocolate Caramel Tart on Lottie + Doof and decided we just had to make it. I mean come on, look at those pictures!

To be honest, the idea of making caramel scared me a bit, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. Much easier than making marshmallows. And in the interest of transparency, I purchased a chocolate pie crust since we were pinched for time  – don’t judge.

Caramel Filling:

1/2 cup hot water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbs crème fraîche

Place water, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it becomes dark amber in color (if you’re using a candy thermometer, bring to 350°F).

Remove pan from heat and very carefully add heavy cream (the mixture will bubble and may even splatter). Once incorporated, add the butter and crème fraîche and stir until smooth. Pour caramel filling into pie crust and allow to set, first at room temperature (10-20 minutes) and then in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes).

Chocolate Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 oz extra bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)

Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Meanwhile, bring cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and leave for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Spread ganache over the tart and return to the fridge until set.

Remove tart from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before serving. Cut into slices and sprinkle each with sea salt. Enjoy!

This tart is delicious, though a bit on the sweet side – I gulped down an entire glass of milk within the first few bites. Next time, I would like to spread a layer of toasted walnuts in the bottom of pie crust before pouring the caramel filling in. A little extra crunch and extra depth would really put this dessert over the edge. Plus I love the idea of a Turtle Tart! So, what did you think of the tart?

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Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

I try not to go grocery shopping or flip through the latest issue of Bon Appétit when I’m hungry (though when am I not hungry, really?). N, however, has taken to borderline torturing me as of late with the most delicious cupcake pictures just before dinner. It sends me into sugar cravings like you wouldn’t believe.

So today we decided to stop looking at pictures (okay – maybe just a few) and make some cupcakes of our own. The most difficult part was choosing what to make. We settled on Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache – a slightly revised version of a recipe from Ming Makes Cupcakes. Word to the wise: do not look at this website if you are hungry.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache (makes 21-24 cupcakes)

Peanut Butter Cupcakes:

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
A pinch of cinnamon
6 tbs (or 3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I used a mix of light and dark brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat, but anything will do)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Using a mixer, blend the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar together. Next, add the vanilla extract and egg. Once incorporated, slowly pour in the milk and flour mixture while still mixing. Add extra milk by the tbs if too dry.

Scoop (since this is a peanut butter batter it may be too thick to pour… not to worry) the batter into your pre-lined cupcake pan. Fill each cup about halfway and put in the oven for 18-20 minutes (or until a test toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean). Set aside to cool.

Chocolate Ganache:

3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt chocolate and whipping cream together in a metal bowl over simmering water.

Drizzle over cupcakes and enjoy!

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Marshmallows

I don’t remember the first time I had marshmallows. It was probably during a family camping trip to Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Tetons. I imagine my dad spearing a marshmallow with a whittled stick and helping me hold it over the campfire until it had turned to a soft golden brown. Oh so sweet and sticky – I can only guess how large a mess I made as I consumed one after another.

Homemade marshmallows? That’s a more recent and far more memorable discovery. During a vacation to Maui, Hawaii, in 2006, we stumbled upon a small restaurant overlooking the ocean in Lahina. After devouring a mahi mahi and avocado burger (one of many consumed over the next week) we ordered homemade marshmallows with chocolate fondue. I was in heaven, to say the least.

I’ve never thought about making marshmallows at home before. I didn’t even realize it was possible – I’m slow sometimes, what can I say. I don’t know what changed exactly but I was finally ready to give it a go. This recipe is adapted from Cooking for Engineers. I chose to start with an eggless recipe, but there are many other variations out there.

Marshmallows (approx. 40 large pieces)

3 tbs (21 g) gelatin
3/4 cups (180 mL) cold water, divided
2 cups (400 g) sugar (I use vanilla sugar for extra flavor)
2/3 cups (160 mL) corn syrup (I use light corn syrup)
1/4 tsp (1.5 g) salt
1 tbs (15 mL) vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

Grease a 9×13 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Set aide. Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in mixer bowl. Let bloom for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups corn syrup, and remaining 1/4 cup water in a pot. Bring mixture to a boil and, using a candy thermometer, allow the temperature to pass 250 °F (120°C).

Note: A stand mixer is far superior for this next part, though a handheld mixer will do. If you are using a handheld mixer, be sure to have a dish towel handy to control splattering.

Run mixer on lowest setting and slowly incorporate boiling sugar syrup. Add 1/4 tsp salt after the syrup and gelatin have fully mixed together. Increase the mixer speed being careful not to splatter yourself. The mixture will begin to whiten and fluff after a few minutes time. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and adjust the mixer speed to high. This is where I ran into trouble. As you can imagine, marshmallow goo is rather sticky. And it loves to crawl up the beaters. I kept picturing it enveloping the mixer, overtaking my arms, and finally encasing me in a cocoon of sorts. So I exaggerate… but I did manage to cover my counter tops, apron, and hair in marshmallow splatter. Lesson learned.

When the marshmallow has stopped increasing in size (it’s more of an “eye-balling” thing, as my mother would say – but expect 8-12 minutes of mixing), add 1 tbs vanilla extract. Once incorporated, stop the mixer and pour into the previously prepared pan. Smooth with a spatula (easier said than done) and set aside for at least 3 hours to cool.

Cover a cutting board or clean surface with powdered sugar and ease the marshmallow upside down out of the pan. Using a pizza cutter, slice marshmallows one row and then piece at a time, rolling each in powdered sugar until they are no longer sticky.

These marshmallows have been a big hit at my house. So far they’ve appeared in hot chocolate, s’mores, and bowls of ice cream. I have some more experimenting to do (flavors and coloring), but I’ve overcome my fear of making marshmallows!

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