Monday, March 10, 2014

Samoa Squares (Gluten Free)

I dream of many things these days... (note: this is not a comprehensive list) The end of this crazy winter (where one day we have the AC on and the next day have to switch to heat). Fresh flowers. Vacations. One day learning to like exercise. A kitchen with a window in it (and marble counter tops too, while we’re dreaming). Paying off student loans. Living nearer a Trader Joes and Whole Foods (though I’m sure it’s better for my pocketbook that I don’t). And Gluten Free Girl Scout Cookies.   Luckily, I can make my own gluten free version of my Girl Scout cookie of preference: Samoas (or Caramel Delites, depending on where you are in the US).

If you think about it, Samoas have quite a few components: the shortbread crust (chocolate crust), the chewy caramel/coconut layer, the chocolate drizzle.... So, I made gluten free Samoa Squares with just a few adaptations to make them a bit easier.  Gluten free shortbread is more fragile than regular shortbread because in addition to not having gluten (i.e. proteins that help provide structure in regular baked goods), shortbread traditionally lacks another structural item: eggs. Making a bar-type cookie that is cut into squares *after* it is assembled is much easier than rolling out the the slightly crumbly dough and attempting to cut out individual cookies. Plus, then the caramel/coconut mixture can be spread on top all at once, and not individually portioned & spread onto each separate cookie base.  Then, instead of dipping the bottom in chocolate, I added a chocolate layer in between the baked shortbread and the coconut caramel. Just a few short-cuts that make the assembly easier, but the squares still taste (and look) amazing! Next time, I may even make a double batch (though then I’d be tempted to eat way, way too many of them....).  

My next dream is to perhaps to take a few of the leftover Samoa Squares make a milkshake or ice cream sundae with a couple leftover Samoa Squares. And perhaps tackle a gluten free version of the Thin Mint (my second favorite).  

Gluten Free Samoa Squares 
Yields approximately 16 squares

Shortbread Base (adapted from Annie’s Eats) 
4.25 oz (1c) GF AP Flour (or substitute AP flour, if not Gluten Free)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 oz Coconut Oil, solid
1.75 oz (1/4 c) Granulated Sugar
3/4 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder & salt. Set aside
  2. In a slightly larger bowl, use a spatula to cream together the solidified coconut oil and the granulated sugar. Add in the vanilla bean paste. 
  3. Pour all the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture & continue mixing, using a spatula, until a soft dough forms.  
  4. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper (I find it’s easiest to crumple the paper first, then try to line the pan with it)--don’t worry if it’s not perfect. 
  5. Press the evenly dough into the prepared pan. (I used my fingers). Chill the pan in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the chilled dough for 15 minutes, or until the dough is baked through and very lightly golden brown. 
  7. Set aside to cool.  Keep the oven on to toast the coconut. 
Chocolate Layer
2 oz semi-sweet Chocolate Chips 
1 tsp (6 g) Coconut Oil 
  1. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir. Microwave for additional 10 second increments, stirring after each session, until the chips are melted.  
  2. Evenly spread over the baked, cooled shortbread base. Allow to set. 

Coconut Caramel Topping (adapted from Cooking Classy)
90 g (3/4 c) sweetened coconut flakes, divided
6.9 oz (approximately 24) Kraft Caramels, unwrapped (note, weight is taken after unwrapping)
2 1/2 Tbl Milk (approximately 33g) 
  1. Spread the coconut flakes onto a small pan. Toast in a 350 F oven until brown (but not burned)--Mine took about 15 minutes. Stir approximately every 5 minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. 
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat the unwrapped caramels and milk over medium heat. Stir constantly until the caramels are just melted. Set aside to cool slightly. 
  3. Meanwhile, pulse the toasted coconut in a food processor until finely processed. Remove 60 g (approximately 1/2 c) and set aside both the 60g and the remaining. 
  4. Pour the 60g of coconut into the caramel and mix to combine.  Carefully spread in an even layer over the chocolate covered shortbread. Top with the remaining coconut & press into the caramel.  Allow to set completely.
  5. Use a sharp knife to cut the coconut/caramel/chocolate topped shortbread into 16 equal squares. Spread the cut squares out slightly on the parchment paper in preparation for the chocolate drizzle. 
Chocolate Drizzle (adapted from Cooking Classy)
Note: this will make more than needed, but it’s rather difficult to make the batch much smaller than it already is. 

35g (2 1/2 Tbl) Coconut Oil, solid
10 g (2 Tbl) Cocoa Powder
1 oz (1/4 c) Confectioners sugar
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut oil and cocoa powder.  Heat for 10 seconds, or just until melted. Stir.
  2. Add the confectioners’s sugar and mix until combined.  Heat for an additional 10 seconds, or until just slightly warm & of a pipe-able consistency.  Additional coconut oil may be added if the mixture is too thick.  
  3. Place the chocolate into a cornet paper piping bag or a small ziplock.  Barely cut off the tip (or corner) and carefully stripe cross the squares.  Allow the chocolate to drizzle across the *entire* square so that you don’t end up with the “toaster strudel” effect ;) 
  4. Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature. Store any leftovers at room temperature. 
Please note: When I made these squares, I used the weighted measurements which will be more accurate. I’ve included some volumetric amounts too, though I have not personally tested them.


  1. It's kind of "ironical" ha ha that you have this posting...I made ranger cookies at work but when I scaled the recipe up I messed up on the butter calculations.... who does that? really? butter? okay, not enough butter. In order to utilize the dough I thought perhaps I should turn them into a Samoa type cookie. So I am thinking I will dip the baked cookie into melted chocolate and heavily drizzle caramel sauce on top. What do you think? Sometimes mistakes can turn out okay, don't you think?

    1. Scaling up is always so hard! I always have to double check my math, haha. I'd try out the dipping in tempered chocolate/drizzling with caramel sauce. Or grind up the baked "cookies", mix the crumbs with icing & turn them into a riff on cake pops/cake truffles? Good luck :)

  2. Wow these look delicious! Might have to make them this weekend!

  3. These look amazing! I can totally imagine having these right now! YUM!

  4. My favorites too! I've been wondering how I would ever be able to eat them again. Can't wait to try them.

  5. Such an informative post about the Samoa Squares (Gluten Free).Get the Non Dairy Creamer online.