Intro: Vegan Samoas!
Inspired by the many recipes online, I've decided that I need to create my own vegan version of the Samoa cookie popularized by the Girl Scouts of America (I sold and ate a lot of these growing up...). There are plenty of homemade versions online, but these are the best (trust me :) Recently, I made 3 dozen of these for my coworkers (none of whom are vegan BTW...) and every last cookie on the plate had been inhaled in less than 3 seconds... Hopefully you will agree that these are amazing :)
Step 1: INGREDIENTS
For The cookie:
2 cups unsweetened coconut - shredded, grated, chips, or flakes
1/3 c coconut oil
3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar or muscovado sugar
1/3 c nondairy milk
1 TBSP ground flax seeds
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c unbleached flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
For the vegan caramel:
4 TBSP lightly packed brown sugar or muscovado sugar
1/4 tsp real vanilla extract
2-1/2 TBSP coconut milk*
pinch of sea salt
1 c vegan semisweet chocolate chips
2 TBSP coconut oil
* The coconut milk needs to be the full-fat variety that comes in a can. "Lite" versions will not work. What you will need to do is refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk somewhere in the back of your refrigerator overnight, middle shelf is good - not too cold or too warm there. DO NOT FREEZE. Using a church key (those triangular hand-operated can openers), carefully poke 2 holes in the bottom of the coconut milk can and drain off the coconut water into a bowl or other container. You can use this for something else later.
Open the top using a regular can opener and you will find a layer of thick cream. Scoop it out and place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
You may also use something called Coconut Cream (also comes in a can); some regular grocery stores sell it and you can find it in the ethnic section, but you can always find it at well-stocked Asian markets.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Make sure to line baking sheets with parchment paper, otherwise your cookies will be very difficult to eat, because they will have permanently become part of the pan if you skip this step...
On medium high heat, lightly toast coconut in a heavy dry skillet. Stir gently to make sure every chip gets toasted. I used a cast iron skillet and it got too hot too fast, so I turned off the heat completely and it was still hot after several minutes. I put my coconut chips in there and they were nice and golden brown in under 2 minutes. Definitely keep an eye on the coconut while toasting because it can go from beautiful light brown to a black smoking mess VERY fast...
Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature, so you may need to warm it up a bit first in a saucepan or in the microwave (if you have one, which I do not)
Step 6: FOR THE COOKIES
In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar/muscovado sugar, nondairy milk, ground flax seeds, and vanilla until well incorporated. This can be done in a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, in a food processor, or simply by hand with a big spoon or fork. Process until smooth.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Add this to the other ingredients to form a batter (rather than a dough...)
Add toasted coconut and gently fold in.
Scoop a small amont of dough out of the bowl using a spoon and place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. They don't spread much, so you will need to flatten each cookie a bit. You will also want to make a small well in the center (very shallow) so that when it comes time to add the caramel, it will stay put...
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. These cookies will be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Set aside to cool (you can leave them on the baking pan).
Step 10: FOR THE VEGAN CARAMEL
In a sauce pan, add sugar, vanilla, salt and coconut cream and heat on medium high. Stir ingredients until well incorporated. Allow caramel to come to a low boil; Continue to stir for about 45 seconds more once it starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low. Stir for another minute or so. Turn the heat off and pour mixture into a small dish. Allow to chill for about 30 minutes or until it begins to solidify slightly. NOTE: This will not fully solidify-it is meant to be more of a really thick sauce...
Step 11: Decorating
While the caramel sauce is setting up, proceed to melt your chocolate chips with a bit of coconut oil. The coconut oil will help make the chocolate chips melt evenly and make for a thin drizzling chocolate.
Make sure to heat the chocolate on low heat; if it is too high, it will burn and separate and then clump up, resulting in ruining otherwise perfectly good chocolate chips.
Once the caramel is done and the chocolate is melted, you can go ahead and drizzle a small amount of each on every cookie. (NOTE: You will want to place the cookies in a single layer on a tray or other dish hat will fit in the refrigerator, because at this point you will want to put the finished cookies into the refrigerator so the chocolate will set up. Once it has set up, the cookies can then be stored at room temperature if desired.)