Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Make Girl Scout Cookies at Home!

In a little less than a month, it'll be Girl Scout cookie season again--that delightful time of year when you shell out $4 for a box of Thin Mints and devour half the pack before arriving home. Maddeningly, Girl Scout cookies are only sold for a three-week period during the end of February and the beginning of March. Unless you possess an iron will, the last box is usually gone before the first April showers.
Recently it came to my attention that cookie connoisseurs finally found a solution to the nearly 11-month absence of Girl Scout cookies from the average American household: online recipes. Turns out there's no shortage of home-tested Girl Scout cookie recipes floating around the Internet.

Given the sweet ingredients that go into each cookie--melted chocolate and mint extract for Thin Mints, caramel and coconut for Samoas--it's unsurprising that most recipes receive rave reviews. But the real question is: Are these cookies really as good as the product the Girl Scouts of America put out?
Luckily, I'm not the only person I know who's wild about Girl Scout cookies. I pulled together some friends, we pooled the resources in our cupboards, and we put the recipes to a taste test.

Homemade Samoas
1 cup of butter (softened)
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tbsp of milk (optional)
Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the sugar and softened butter until the mixture is creamy, then add the flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract. If the dough seems too dry, add the milk.
Roll the dough out until it's 1/4 of an inch thick. Use a round cookie-cutter to form the cookies, and then take a knife and cut small circles in the dough. (If you like to break the rules, try cutting squares!) Toss the cookies on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven for about 12 minutes.
While the cookies cool, begin making the topping.

Homemade Samoas Topping
3 cups of shredded coconut
12 oz. of good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp of salt
3 tbsp of milk
8 oz. of semisweet chocolate
Turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Shake the shredded coconut onto a baking sheet and pop it in the oven until it turns a golden brown. (Usually this takes about 20 minutes, but if you use a baking sheet without sides, the coconut might cook more quickly. Stir the coconut every five minutes, and keep a close eye on it. Shredded coconut goes from snowy white to golden brown to scorched black in a matter of seconds.) Then let the shredded coconut cool.

Next, melt the caramels with the salt and milk. (It goes without saying that you should unwrap the caramels first.) You can melt them in a sauce pan on a burner, or if you want to speed up the process, nuke the caramel in the microwave for about two minutes. (It goes without saying that, should you choose the microwave option, you should use a microwave-safe bowl.) After the caramels are melted, fold in the toasted shredded coconut and spoon 2-3 tsp of the mixture onto the top of each cookie.

While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate. Again, you can use the stovetop or the microwave to do this. If you choose to use the microwave, melt the chocolate for 45 second intervals to make sure the chocolate doesn't begin to burn. When the chocolate has melted, dip the bottom of the cookies into the mixture. Trail the remaining melted chocolate over the tops of the cookies.

Homemade Thin Mints
1/2 cup of butter (softened)
1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup of white sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp of mint extract
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
3 squares of semisweet chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup of butter
Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the sugar and softened butter until the mixture is creamy, then beat in the egg and add the mint extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.

At this point, my friends and I deviated from the online recipe. The recipe directed us to refrigerate the dough for about five hours. We had no such time, so we left it in for about 40 minutes while we watched an episode of Jersey Shore online. Perhaps this is the reason our cookies did not taste exactly like Girl Scout cookies.
Roll out the dough until it's 1/4 of an inch thick. Use a round cookie-cutter to form the cookies, then toss them in the oven for about 12 minutes. When the cookies are baked, melt 1/4 of a cup of butter (or about half of a stick) together with the chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop. Dip the cookies in the melted mixture and set them on wax paper until the chocolate hardens.
This recipe makes about four dozen cookies.

Homemade Trefoils
1 cup of butter
1 cup sugar (plus additional for optional topping)
2 eggs
2 tbsp of milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking powder
Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees;. Stir the butter and the sugar together until the mixture is creamy, then add the eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. For the best results, refrigerate the dough for an hour. (Or for the 40 minutes it takes to watch another episode of Jersey Shore.) Roll the dough out until it's 1/4 of an inch thick. Use a cookie-cutter (the shape can be your choice, because who has a trefoil-shaped cookie-cutter lying around the house?) to shape the cookies and then cook them in the oven for about 10 minutes.

The recipe makes about seven dozen cookies, so we halved it and had more than enough cookies to go around.

The Verdict

Oh, joy of joys, the Thin Mints tasted almost exactly like real Thin Mints! Which meant the entire batch was devoured before we could take pictures of the cookies. (If I were to be perfectly honest, our Thin Mint creations were gone before the chocolate hardened all the way. I think I'm more embarrassed about this than about the three more episodes of Jersey Shore we watched.)

The Samoas, on the other hand, stuck around long enough for us to take pictures. I've personally never tried Samoas, mostly due to my lifelong aversion to anything coconut, but if these cookies are any indication, I definitely need to reassess. The Samoas were incredibly good, and my friends assured me that they tasted pretty damn close to the real product, so that recipe was a success too.

The only failure was the Trefoil recipe. All three of us agreed that we'd tasted better shortbread recipes before. This lead us to conclude that no one needs new shortbread cookie recipes, Girl Scout imitations or not.