Monday, April 25, 2011

Samoa Girl Scout Cookies

Growing up, I was a Girl Scout for many years. I was always a shy girl, making cookie season difficult for me - I hated going door-to-door to sell cookies! Needless to say, I never won any top seller awards!

Since I moved out after graduating high school, I rarely get girl scout cookies any more. I don't have any friends with kids (or at least, kids old enough to be in Girl Scouts!), and while there are occasionally lists at work to buy off of, I'm in a different unit or hospital every month, making it difficult to pick them up if I were to order.

Because I've missed my favorite cookies sooooo much, I decided to make my own this year! Growing up in the Midwest, they were always called Samoas. (Here in the New England, everyone calls them Caramel deLites). These were a very close substitution for the boxed version, and were quickly devoured at work. (I particularly enjoyed cleaning out the bowl that I made the topping in - yum!)

Samoa Girl Scout Cookies Clone (From Once Upon a Plate)
Makes about 3 1/2 to 4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
up to 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, next, the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk only as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (you may not need any at all). The dough should come together into a soft, pliable ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough seems sticky.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness (or a little thinner), using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined (or on silicone mat) baking sheet. Repeat until the dough is used up (it's okay to re-roll, this dough is shortbread-like and very forgiving.)

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are very lightly golden brown around the edges.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, to allow them to firm up slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-ounces chewy caramels
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
8 ounces chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (F)

Spread coconut evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Watch carefully, especially near the end of toasting time; the coconut toasts very quickly once it begins to become golden.

Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.

Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 teaspoons per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it begins to firm up, to make it soft and spreadable once again.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.

Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Soft Sugar Cookies

In my hiatus from my blog, I started getting the itch to bake again. However, with working nights, I didn't want to go to the grocery store in my limited time home (Due to working 14+ hour night shifts, and with my commute, I'm maybe home 8-9 hours, during which time I have to get my sleep, walk my dog & shower).

So, I was limited to what was in my cupboards for ingredients. And I always have what I need for basic sugar or chocolate chip cookies. I've been looking for a *good* drop sugar cookie recipe to make my go-to recipe, and I think this will be it! (For now!) The nurses at work quickly devoured them, and commented that they were perfect - slightly golden, soft & chewy.

Soft Sugar Cookies (Adapted from Delish)
Originally from America's Test Kitchen
Yield approx 4 doz cookies

2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Set oven rack in middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread 1/2 cup of the sugar in a shallow dish for coating and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

Beat softened butter, vanilla and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl & beaters as needed.

Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined. Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure dough is combined.

Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/4 inch cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Flatten cookies slightly.

Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10-12 minutes. Cool on pan for 10 minutes. Serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. (They are softer if cooled on the pan! Trust me - they still taste good, but are definitely better if cooled on the pan!)


Monday, April 18, 2011

Spiced Popcorn

And on to the last of my popcorn buffet, another savory option. This had the perfect kick to it, especially the day after it was made. I would usually recommend serving popcorn soon after making it to keep it fresh, but because the flavors developed so much after sitting a day, I think I would probably suggest making it about 24 hours prior to serving - just be sure to keep it in an airtight container so that it doesn't get too soggy.

SPICED POPCORN (From Rachel Ray)

2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
15 cups hot unsalted popcorn

In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, paprika, cayenne and salt.

In an extra-large bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the popcorn and sprinkle with some of the spices. Mix with your hands; repeat until the popcorn is evenly coated.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn

After an almost 1 month (oh my!) hiatus, I'm finally on to the third popcorn in my buffet. This was another sweet popcorn - very sweet, and used one of my favorite flavor combinations - peanut butter with chocolate! Yum! Personally, I think it's better than a peanut butter cup!

I recently had a wonderful, relaxing vacation (where I learned how to make some amazing, refreshing drinks - I'll try to share them this summer when it warms up here!) As I'm now refreshed & rejuvenated, I'm hoping to get back to more consistent blogging. I miss all of my baking! (And the nurses are asking what I plan on baking next - I think it's a hint!)


10-12 cups popped popcorn
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy)
2 pinches of salt

chocolate chips for drizzling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Stir corn syrup and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. Be careful - this is hot! Pour mixture over popcorn and stir to coat. Pour popcorn onto baking sheet and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. Spoon popcorn onto wire rack covered with waxed paper or parchment paper. Allow to cool completely. Melt chocolate chips in microwave, being careful not to scorch. Drizzle over popcorn and allow to set. Break popcorn into pieces. Store in airtight container.