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Homemade Samoas!


Homemade Samoas!

When girl scout cookie season arrived this year, I couldn't help but instantly start craving samoas... it happens every year. Those caramel coconut chocolate wonders combine some of my favorite flavors of the dessert world into one package. But every time I buy them these days, they never quite live up to the hype I have in my mind. So this year I decided to put together my own homemade version of the samoa - and I think you'll agree that homemade is so much better in this (and most) case(s)! 

And you can always give those girl scouts a cash donation, which will be much more useful to them than the fraction they get from the price of that box of cookies! 

Plus, this means we can have access to samoas any time of the year we might start craving them - a definite bonus! 

The process is actually quite simple. We make a classic shortbread cookie circle (if you're felling really crafty, cut a hole in the center of the cookies to mimic the originals... but that seemed like a lot of work for very little reward to me), then make a caramel packed with shredded coconut and spoon that on top of the cookies. Top it off with a drizzle of chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt and you're all set! 

So here we have the recipe, broken down into three separate sections so you don't feel too daunted by the task. Believe me, it's going to be worth it! 

the shortbread cookies

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups white flour

pinch of salt

  • Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, an electric mixer, or a strong arm, cream together butter and powdered sugar until it reaches a nice fluffy texture. If my butter is fully softened, I usually run the stand mixer for two minutes or so, longer if i'm starting with butter that is still a little cold. 
  • Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Then add the flour and salt, and mix until just fully combined. 
  • Using your hands, reach into the bowl and clump the dough together. Move it to a lightly floured work surface, and roll the dough out to about 1/4in thick. 
  • Cut the dough into circles using a medium circular cookie cutter, a glass, or whatever you have on hand! You can make them whatever size you prefer. 
  • Place cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicone baking mat. They'll only expand a little bit so you can put them pretty close together. 
  • Bake the cookies at 360 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the edges are just lightly golden. 
  • Cool completely on a wire rack. 

The Coconut Caramel 

Note: If you'd like to make these cookies but don't want to take on caramel making, you could melt down some purchased caramels and mix in the coconut. 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

3/4 cup cane sugar 

2 Tbsp corn syrup 

2 Tbsp water 

1/2 tsp vanilla 

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 

  • Melt the butter with the cream over medium heat. When the butter is fully melted, give it a good stir and set it aside. 
  • Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a high sided saucepan of at least 2 quarts. Stir these ingredients together until fully combined into a thick granular paste. Using a wet pastry brush, rinse the sides of the pan to remove any stray grains of sugar. Without stirring, cook the sugar mixture over medium heat until it reaches 300 degrees. 
  • Whisk in the cream and butter, then slowly bring the caramel up to between 245 and 250 degrees. Remove from heat immediately. 
  • Whisk in vanilla and salt, then coconut. 
  • Allow the caramel to cool slightly, so that you can spoon it on top of the cookies without it spilling off the sides. 

Cookie Assembly! 

1 cup chocolate chips, melted in a double boiler 

sea salt 

  • When the caramel has cooled enough that it will still spoon easily, but won't spill off the sides of your cookies, top each cookie with a bit of caramel. Use a spoon to scoop it on top of each cookie and gently push it as close to the edges as you can, without pushing it over the edge. 
  • Let the caramel set while you melt the chocolate. 
  • If you want, dip the bottoms of the cookies in the melted chocolate to more precisely mimic those classic samoas. 
  • Use a fork, or a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip to drizzle the chocolate over the top of the cookies. 
  • Sprinkle the cookies with a small pinch of sea salt on each one. 
  • Cool the cookies in a cool spot in your home or in the fridge until the caramel is solid and the chocolate has hardened. 
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container, with parchment separating layers, in the fridge. These cookies keep well in the fridge for about a week, but good luck keeping them around for that long! 



oatmeal cookies with cherries, chocolate, and almonds


oatmeal cookies with cherries, chocolate, and almonds

What happens when you pack a rich buttery dough with an outrageous amount thick rolled oats, dried tart cherries from Traverse City, cacao nibs, almonds, and dark chocolate chips? Did you say pure heaven? Because I'm pretty sure that's what these cookies are.

I've been making versions of this recipe for years now - often packing them with whatever dried fruit or nuts I have in the pantry.  While they're always satisfying, I don't think any combination will ever match the perfection of tart cherries, chocolate, almonds, and crunchy roasty cacao nibs. So mix it up, make these on a whim, but do try your best to include the cacao nibs - they're my favorite part! 

I topped my cookies with a hearty sprinkle of this new salt from The Meadows here in Portland. Flakey sea salt from whales is absolutely covered in vanilla bean specks, creating a perfectly sweet, salty, and herbal infusion to top chocolate filled cookies. I've been itching to make some cookies since I bought it - knowing they would be the perfect use. 

This recipe will make a serious batch of cookies, and I'll be honest - it's more cookies than I want to have in the house unless I'm planning to bring them somewhere (or planning to have cookies for breakfast all week). Thankfully, this dough freezes like a dream! I love pre-scooping cookies and freezing them for later. Just give them time to freeze on a baking dish or sheet pan, then toss them into a freezer bag for later! You can bake them right out of the freezer (or just eat cookie dough straight from the freezer whenever you get a craving... you know you will!). 

I love making these with all whole wheat pastry flour. The fine grind of the flour results in a cookie that doesn't taste like it was made with whole wheat, and you can rest assured that you're getting in some whole grains when you eat a few too many cookies. Whole wheat flour + thick rolled oats is sure to equal a healthy cookie despite the two cups of sugar and big mound of butter! 

Depending on your tastes (and what you have in your cupboard), you can always make these with your typical all-purpose flour, or a mixture. You're in charge here! I will, however, take a moment to sing my praises for whole wheat pastry flour. While I've learned that it isn't a totally foolproof alternative for white flours - in more recipes than not you can replace white flour with this magic (a simple one to one substitute, or a mixture!) and have stunning results. I've aways been a little weary of baking with whole grains, because some baked goods I just want to keep as they are. Whole wheat pastry flour has been my glorious answer! Cookies, pancakes, quick breads, muffins, pasta and more. Whole wheat can be so much less overpowering than it often is! 

Okay. Stepping down from my little whole wheat pastry flour soapbox. Use it. Don't use it. It's up to you. But me? I'm a convert! 

Cherry Chocolate Almond Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened 

1 cup cane sugar 

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs 

1 Tbsp vanilla extract 

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, or a mixture of the two

 1 tsp baking powder 

1 tsp baking soda 

1/4 tsp salt 

2 1/2 cups thick rolled oats 

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped

1 cup dried tart cherries 

1/2 cup cocoa nibs 

1 cup chocolate chips 

  • Cream together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, with a hand-held mixer, or with a strong arm and a good wooden spoon. 
  • Mix in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, stirring to incorporate after each addition. 
  • In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, and stir until just combined. If you're using a stand or hand mixer, do this on the lowest setting to avoid over-mixing the dough. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, and continue mixing just until they're evenly distributed. 
  • Scoop spoonfuls the dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, silicone, or butter and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until just cooked. 
  • Let rest on a cooling rack until completely cool, 


chocolate hazelnut macarons


chocolate hazelnut macarons

I am WAY late to the game on the whole macaron trend, but here I am! I finally took the time to try my hand at these little beauties and the result was amazing. Part of my hesitation on macarons has been the obsession with brightly colored cookies packed with food dye. Color for color's sake, as opposed to color created from whole food ingredients that also provide flavor, is just something I've never been excited about. 

So... I decided it was high time to make what some may consider to be blandly colored macarons. The kicker of course is that the flavor is anything but bland, and that my friends is was really matters in our food! Serious deliciousness. 

macarons, chocolate hazelnut, dessert, recipe
macaron, chocolate hazelnut, french, classic, dessert, recipe

I started my experimentation with classic almond flour macarons (partly because I had egg whites left over from my Meyer Lemon Curd project), but after learning the process I was super interested to mix things up and create a macaron made with hazelnut flour. I've had a thing for hazelnuts since I was a kid (thanks to my mama being a big fan of them as well), but rarely found them outside of chocolate bars until I grew up. 

Since moving to Portland over the summer, I've been in Hazelnut heaven! Oregon is known for their production of hazelnuts, as the climate and soils are perfectly suited for the crop. This means hazelnuts are abundant, affordable, and available at my favorite farmers market! A win-win-win in my eyes and my belly! 

Hazelnut Macarons

1 cup hazelnuts (107 grams) 

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (175 grams) 

3 large egg whites 

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp cane sugar (80 grams)

  • First, using a food processor or a blender (I did this in my Vitamix), pulse the hazelnuts and powdered sugar together to form a flour. Sift this mixture through a sifter or a fine mesh sieve. If there is more than a Tablespoon or so remaining, return to your machine and repeat the process. 
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or an electrical hand mixer), combine egg whites and cane sugar. Using a hand whisk, give the mixture a quick stir to combine the two ingredients, then move on to the electrical help! Whip the mixture at medium speed for a few minutes, then increase the speed (8 on a Kitchenaid, as high as it goes on a hand mixer) and continue to whip until the mixture becomes glossy and forms stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. The mixture should stand up strong even if you take the whisk out and hold it upside down! 
  • Remove your bowl from the mixer, and pour in the hazelnut mixture. Using a wide rubber spatula, gently fold the two mixtures together. Resist the urge to stir, and just keep gently folding until it all comes together. You don't want to ruin all that great texture you created by whipping it for so long! 
  • Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large round pastry tip. If you don't have tips, just cut a small whole in the corner of a plastic bag. Holding the tip about 1/2 inch from a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, pipe little mounds about 1 inch in diameter, leaving 1 inch between each one. As you finish each mound, pull the tip over to the side. You want to avoid too large of points forming where you pull away. 
  • Finally, we're going to drop the pan before baking. Holding it flat about 1 foot from a sturdy table or the floor, drop the pan 6 times. This will flatten out the cookies a bit. 
  • Bake at 325 for about 14 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. You want them to be firm and dry to the touch, but not browned. 
  • Cool completely on the parchment or silicone mat before removing. 

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream 

4oz butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar 

1 tsp vanilla 

heaping 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

  • Melt the chocolate. I like to do this in a double boiler (or simply a heat-proof glass bowl over an inch or two of water in a pot), but you can also do it in the microwave. once melted, set aside to cool slightly. 
  • While the chocolate is melting and cooling, whip the butter using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer. it will get nice and fluffy if you give it enough time - the key to the light texture of this decadent frosting. 
  • add the vanilla and powdered sugar, whipping until fully combined. lastly, pour in the cooled chocolate and heavy whipping cream. continue to whip frosting for a few minutes longer. it will take in a lot of air during this final stage, adding to that light fluffy texture! 

Assembling the Macarons 

I like to make the frosting while the cookies are cooling, or if I'm itching to divide up the time it takes to make these, I'll hold off on making the frosting until I'm ready to do the assembly as well. That said, you can refrigerate the frosting if needed. Just let it come to room temperature and give it a good whip before putting it into the cookies to ensure a good texture! 

Assembly is super simple. A lot of folks will use a pastry bag and pipe the frosting, but if you're not worried about absolute perfection in the looks (which honestly, I wasn't) all you need is a spoon! 

First, make your pairs of cookies. Just separate all the cookies you have out into pairs that are as close in size as possible. This will keep them looking nice even if your cookies have a wide variety of size.

Then just dollop a spoonful of frosting into the center of the bottom of one cookie and gently squeeze it's pair on top until the frosting reaches the edges. 

Place all of the finished macarons on a baking sheet, and slide it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This will harden the frosting and help to keep those beauties looking beautiful! Once they've hardened a bit, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.