March 14, 2011

Samoa Bars - a dairy-free take on a Girl Scout favorite

A dairy-free ode to a cookie rock star!
When I asked friends and family about their favorite Girl Scout cookie, most loyalties were divided fairly evenly between Thin Mints and Samoas.  But put a box of each kind of cookie in front of the group and you can bet there will be more pure giddy over the Samoas.  Those cookies have serious die-hard fans.  I think it has something to do with how complicated they are.  Thin Mints are delicious (my personal fave) but beyond the burst of peppermint it's pretty much a chocolate cookie. With their fancy lines of chocolate and sticky clumpy coconut tops, Samoas are the wild child of the Girl Scout Cookie family.

So after successfully making a safe Thin Mint for my dairy- and nut-allergic kids, I naturally moved on to tackling the Samoa.  After seeing the many steps involved to making them, I decided to go easy on my first attempt.  I chose a less labor-intensive bar recipe to work with.

The biggest hurdle in making the bar dairy-free was the caramel sauce which is traditionally made with heavy cream and butter.  I used Bobtail's recipe for non-dairy caramel sauce that was featured on  Taste-wise, it's a great match.  Texture-wise, it is thin and runny but because you'll be mixing it with toasted coconut it will work out okay.  You can also thicken the sauce by mixing a teaspoon of corn starch to the creamer as you heat it on the stove.

Samoa Bars
Adapted from Baking Bites' 2009 Homemade Samoas Bars recipe

Cookie base:
1/2 cup sugar (I use organic sugar)
3/4 cup vegan margarine, softened (I like Earth Balance)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (I use whole wheat)
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp extra vegan margarine or milk substitute (I use Soy Dream Original)

Chocolate accents:
1 10oz bag semisweet chocolate chips (I use Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening

Coconut topping:
3 cups flaked or shredded coconut (I used sweetened flakes)
dairy-free caramel sauce equivalent to 12 oz. of caramel
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy coffee creamer (I use Silk soy creamer)
  • 3 Tbsp vegan margarine
Cookie base:
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line a 13"x9" rectangular pan with aluminum foil.  Grease with canola oil or cooking spray.
  2. Cream together vegan margarine, sugar, and vanilla.  
  3. Add flour and salt to wet mixture and combine thoroughly. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more vegan margarine or some milk substitute until dough can come together.
  4. Press dough into the bottom of foiled pan.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool in pan.  
Chocolate dip:
  1. While cookie base is cooling, heat semisweet chocolate chips (about 2 minutes in microwave).  Add vegetable shortening and stir until mixture is smooth.  
  2.  Spread a layer of chocolate to completely cover the cookie base.  
  3. Cool until completely hardened.  After the pan is cool, you can pop it in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.  Keep your leftover chocolate dip -- you'll need it for drizzling over the top of your bars.
Caramel Coconut Topping:
  1. Toast 3 cups coconut in preheated 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until it begins to turn golden brown.  Check coconut every five minutes -- I burned a lot of coconut at 350 degrees!
  2. While coconut is toasting, make your caramel sauce.  Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan.  (Add 1-2 teaspoons of corn starch if you want to ensure thickening.)  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugars.  When sauce boils, cook an additional few minutes and make sure everything has dissolved.  Remove from heat to cool.  Remember that it will be a runny sauce.  (It reminds me of what the sauce looks like at the bottom of a takeout box for Chinese noodles!)
  3. Meanwhile take cookie base out of refrigerator. Over a surface lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper, carefully remove foiled cookie base from the pan.  Turn cookie base over --the chocolate top will now be on the bottom of your bar-- and peel off the foil. 
  4. Toss toasted coconut and 1/2 cup of caramel sauce together until well coated.  You might not need all the caramel sauce (remember, it's runny!).  Add more sauce as needed to fully coat coconut.
  5. Spread caramel coconut mixture on the "new top" of the cookie base.
  6. Reheat leftover chocolate sauce.  Add additional melted chips mixed with shortening if needed.  Drizzle over coconut topping.
  7. Let chocolate drizzle and coconut set.  Then cut into bars and enjoy!
Overall I thought the shortbread crust, while delicious, didn't remind me of the slightly chewy Samoa cookie.  My husband thought there was too much crust per bar, so next time I might opt for spreading the base on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, and upping the toasted coconut/caramel mixture.  The caramel coconut topping and chocolate accents were excellent-tasting substitutes.  You can be sure I will be dairy-freeing this cookie version in the near future...after I can fit into my jeans again.


I did end up making a Samoa cookie using the January 2008 recipe after we gobbled up the bars way, way too quickly.  My husband liked the cookie version better than the bar.  I preferred the Samoa bar.  Once you've done the cookie versus bar challenge in your household, let us know your winner!

1 comment:

  1. I love that you all are taking popular everyday items and making them allergy friendly. That is exactly what this world needs, allergy or not. Your food photography is so beautiful too.Keep up the excellent work! -Chrissy