This picture’s from my first birthday. I’d never seen it before last night, and after viewing it I promptly burst into tears. Don’t ask me why. It’s been a weird year so far.
Wow. Just…wow. We actually made it. Can I be honest with ya’ll? When I started this blog one year ago today, I was in a crummy (or crumby, get it? Get it? Nyuk nyuk, I’m clever) place. I was physically and emotionally injured man, and I mostly began writing this thing because it distracted me from the hurt back and the hurt heart. I never really imagined that people would actually keep up with this blog, much less enjoy and (sometimes) look forward to it. So if you’ve read this blog, if you’re reading it now, if you’ve ever said a kind word about it, baked something you saw here or simply clicked on something because you saw chocolate and like chocolate, THANK YOU. Thank you for encouraging me to stick with this tiny little blog, and thank you for putting up with me. I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel for all of the amazing people and experiences that have made their way into my life in the past 365 days. Some have been because of this blog, and some have not, but all have shown me how lucky I am to have you guys.
Now, I need to be honest with myself, and with all of you: I am not a good baker. Well, I’m ok. But I’m not a great baker. I know great bakers. They work at places like Butter Lane, or they’re college students named Rhea Mol (HI RHEA MOL!). I recently came to this realization after attempting to make Samoa bars. The Girl Scout treats are #2 on my list of “Cookies That I’ll Need When The World Goes Dark And Only Five People Are Left But The Other Four People Aren’t Into Cookies So My Cookie Stash Is Safe.” Rainbow cookies are #1. Mint chocolate chip cookies did not make the list, and never will, FYI.
Anyway, I think I screwed these bars up something fierce, but my boyfriend claims they are actually really good. That’s why he’s my boyfriend. Let me tell you what I did, and then let me tell you what you should not do.
Things That I Did That You Should Not Do (Unless You Want Sucky Bars)
1. I halved the recipe. You should not halve the recipe.
2. I used Werther’s Caramelts, which are not the same as regular caramels, and are actually not very good by themselves at all. You should not blahblahblah…
3. I did not melt enough caramels, but then again it’s not like I had the right caramels anyway so I was already screwed. So you know what you should not do, right?
Cool. Let’s get to the recipe.
Samoa Bars (makes 30 bars)
For the shortbread base:
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
For the coconut-caramel topping:
3 cups of shredded toasted coconut (toast in a 325º oven for 10 minutes until browned)
12 ounces of chewy caramels, but don’t get cute and try to get fancy ones that aren’t real caramels
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of milk
10 ounces of semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate chips)
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Let’s start with the base. Grease a 9×13″ pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add your egg and mix until fully combined (you may want a hand mixer for this), then stir in vanilla. Add flour and salt, a little at a time, until the mixture is crumbly and grainy. Pour into your pan and press evenly. Send into the oven for 20-25 minutes until the edges have been lightly browned. Let the base cool in the pan for ten minutes, then remove and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the topping, place the UNWRAPPED caramels (I had to say it because you just never know) in a large saucepan over low heat. Add in your milk and salt, and stir until the mixture’s fully melted. Remove from heat and fold in toasted coconut. This will be a workout for your arms. I should know, as I am now ripped. Plunk large heaps of this caramel mixture onto your cookie base with a rubber spatula, then spread evenly until there’s a thick, gooey layer.
Cut into 30 bars.
To melt your chocolate, place into a large bowl over another bowl of simmering water. Stir until completely melted. Dip the bottoms of your bars in the melted chocolate, then lay on parchment paper so the chocolate hardens. Then, using a spoon or a piping bag, drizzle more melted chocolate over the top.
Ok, honestly, these weren’t terrible. But they’re not Samoas, mostly because I’m the opposite of a genius and can’t understand what caramel is, apparently. They were good, but not good enough to keep me from beating myself up over the fact that THEY’RE NOT SAMOAS.
The night after I made these, I decided to make a chocolate cake, to prove to myself that I actually could bake. Let me be honest though, I did not want to make this cake. I was so tired, frustrated and depressed due to some seriously crappy weather that I basically needed to force myself to start this thing. I was going to include that recipe here as well, but I’m thinking it deserves its own post, because it’s probably the most amazing cake I’ve ever made. It’s also, visually, perhaps the ugliest. Stay tuned?
So friends, here’s to another year of screwing up recipes and eating the crazy, crumbly, messy pieces of sweetness anyway. Stay classy. ❤