Baking/cooking has always been a creative and cathartic outlet for me. Anyone who has ever lived with me can attest to that. When the tough gets going, I get baking. Which always seems to work out for those around me because they end up with the majority of the leftovers. For whatever reason, the action of completing the dish, from start to finish, the mixing/stirring/chopping, the dash of this and pinch of that, the first bite-it’s all a therapeutic exercise in taking my mind off of whatever might be monopolizing it that day.
So, as you read this, I’m probably on a plane somewhere over the southeastern United States going to take a pretty big exam. Been there, done that. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken these kinds of tests. But, hopefully, this will be my last one. I’ve studied pretty much non-stop for the past month or so-and I’m *really* ready for this to be over with. The best part is the reunion I’ll be having with some of my great friends who also happen to be taking the test at the same time. Always the optimist, this is what I am looking forward to.
So, these Samoas Bars, archived for umpteen months in the “Things I Seriously Need to Bake” category on my computer (which is kind of like that “emergency bar of chocolate” that some people may have….) made their appearance during a study break. Best decision ever. I stored them in the fridge overnight and couldn’t help going back and forth all night and almost ate the whole container. I took them to work instead, and they seemed to be a big hit. There’s nothing like turning something stressful into something that brings people joy-that’s my M.O.
I’ve never made a caramel with sour cream, so that’s one of the reasons why I tried this particular recipe. I loved it. I picked a brand of sour cream, which is, in my opinion, more tangy than most other brands, and I felt like it really balanced out the super sweetness of the rest of the bars. While making the homemade caramel can be a little intimidating, it’s really not that bad. Just be careful that you don’t splatter yourself, like me.
Servings: about 20 bars
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 sticks (yes, I know…fully aware. Moderation, people.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature (this is important-you don’t want your caramel to seize if the sour cream is cold)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 cups flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
For the chocolate:
10 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped
Special equipment: a candy thermometer for tempering your chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. For the caramel: In medium heavy sauce pot over medium-low heat, melt the sugar, without stirring, until it is completely melted (I swirled mine around the pot a few times to make sure it was evenly distributed.) While I was doing this (and checking the sugar every minute or so), I went ahead and prepared the dough.
3. Once the caramel is completely liquified and amber brown in color, remove the pot from the heat and add one stick of butter (very carefully!)
4. Stir until the butter is completely melted.
5. Carefully, add the sour cream, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Stir until completely mixed; set aside.
6. For the dough: Line a 9×13-inch baking with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (if you have it-I found this made removing the bars easier.)
7. In a large bowl (or the bowl of your food processor, which I found to be WAY easier), whisk or pulse together the flour, dark brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
8. Add the remaining two sticks of butter, in pieces, to the mixture. If using a bowl, use a pastry cutter to gently blend the butter into the dough. If using a food processor, pulse the mixture until the butter is blended in and the mixture resembles coarse sand.
9. Gently press the dough into the prepared baking pan.
10. For the coconut topping: Once the the caramel is slightly cooled, add the coconut flakes to the caramel, mixing well.
11. Spread the caramel/coconut topping evenly over the dough.
12. Bake the bars until the dough is lightly golden, about 45 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before cutting. (Cut the bars before making the chocolate-it’s easier this way.)
13. For the chocolate: In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt about two-thirds of the chocolate until it reaches 105 degrees.
14. Once it reaches 105 degrees, remove the chocolate from the heat and add the remaining one-third of reserved chocolate, mixing well. Your goal is to keep the chocolate at 88 degrees. If you need to increase the temperature to do this, return the pan to its original place over the simmering water.
15. Maintaining the temperature at 88 degrees (or so-I totally cheated a little with this because I got impatient), dip the bottom of each bar into the chocolate and place on waxed paper to cool. Repeat with the remaining bars.
16. Using a piping bag or a small spoon, lightly drizzle the extra leftover chocolate over the tops of each bar. Let cool completely.
Source: Directly from Delementals.