These… these were fabulous. I’m a little bias though- Samoas are my absolute favorite girl scout cookie. I never could jump on the whole thin mint bandwagon. The Caramel Coconut Cluster Bars were a dream come true to me.
This recipe comes from one of my new recipe books- “Baked: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients” by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito. I’ve only had it a few short months now and I think I’ve made over ten recipes out of it already haha I just love their recipes! They always find new ways to reinvent classic desserts and flavors. Plus they never fail to be downright delicious. This one was no exception.
Unfortunately there are a number of steps involved in these bars. First you have to make the cookie base, slather it with coconut-caramel, sprinkle on the toasted coconut, and then once cool, dip the bars in/drizzle the bars with melted chocolate. It is quite the process. Not as simple as making a batch of brownies by any means, but not an impossible task either.
I promise though, the results are well worth it! The chewy caramel is delicious with the toasted coconut throughout. And paired with the chocolate and the buttery crust? YUM!
One small complaint though- I found the cookie dough base to be rather tender and crumbly. Because of that the bars were fairly difficult to cut without looking sloppy and having pieces of the crust break off altogether. And as I dipped them into the melted chocolate more pieces would fall off. I would almost rather suggest using just a sugar cookie crust instead, maybe cutting back on the sugar a bit since they are plenty sweet with all that caramel. I just really thought that the dough was too tender to contrast the caramel- it needed more crunch to hold up against all that chew. Plus Samoas have a crunchy cookie bottom! And it just works : )
Regardless, I brought these to an FRG meeting and they were ALL gone by the end of the evening with many people telling me how fantastic they were.
- 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut, divided
- For the Cookie Base:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- For the Caramel Layer:
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 2 ounces (1/2 stick), unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- For the Assembly:
- 6 ounces dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- For the Coconut: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coconut in an even layer on the baking sheet and toast, tossing and turning every 4 minutes or so, until the coconut just starts to turn golden brown, about 12 minutes total. Remove the coconut from the oven and set aside to cool.
- For the Cookie Base: Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to overhang on two sides. Lightly spray the parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
- Turn the dough out into the prepared baking pan and, with lightly floured hands, press it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Prick the top of the dough with the tines of a fork and bake the crust for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool,
- For the Caramel Layer: In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup, both sugars, AND 2 tablespoons of water and stir gently so you don't splash any of it up the sides of the pan. Set the saucepan over low heat and continue to stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the bulb of the thermometer is immersed in the syrup. Turn the heat up to med-high and wait without stirring for the mixture to reach 240 to 245 degrees F, about 7 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on the temperature while you proceed with the next step- you do not want the mixture to exceed 250°F.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream and sweetened condensed milk. Gently warm the mixture while stirring- do not bring to a boil.
- Once the sugar mixture reaches the correct temperature, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and cream mixture until completely combined (be careful as it will bubble up when you add the cream mixture). Place the pan back over medium heat, stop stirring, and bring the mixture back to 245 to 250 degrees F.
- Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and fold in TWO cups of the toasted coconut.
- Pour the caramel directly onto the cookie base and, working quickly, use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup toasted coconut over the caramel and press lightly to adhere. Let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then place in refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a knife to loosen the chilled bars from the sides of the pan, then lift the bars out using the parchment paper overhang. Spray a sharp knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the bars into twenty-four 3-by-1½-inch rectangles and place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
- To Assemble: Melt both chocolates together in the bowl of a double boiler over medium heat or in the microwave.
- Dip half of each individual bar in the melted chocolate, scrape off the excess chocolate with an offset spatula, and place the bar back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bars.
- Alternatively, dip the bottom of each bar into the chocolate, then scrape off the excess chocolate with an offset spatula. Return to the baking sheet to set. Once set, squeeze the chocolate into one corner of zippered plastic bag and twist the other end of the bag a few times to form a makeshift pastry bag. Use kitchen scissors to snip off a small corner of the bag where the chocolate has collected (you don't want too large a snip of the chocolate will ooze out). Working quickly, drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag pattern across all the bars.
- Place the pan of bars back into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the chocolate set up. Serve immediately.
- The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days. They taste really good directly from the refrigerator as well as at room temperature- entirely up to you.
adapted from “Baked: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients” by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito