Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Birthday, Samoas!

This year the Girl Scout Samoa cookie is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In celebration, the annual Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest is all about Samoas. Until I started playing around with coconut and caramel, I have to admit I was definitely a Thin Mint person, although I'd never turn down a Tagalong either. But I'm sold, and I hope that one bite of this luscious, dreamy pie with crunchy pieces of Samoas, creamy dulce de leche custard, and billowy coconut whipped cream will have you sold too!

My girls are brand-new Brownies and are beyond excited to sell cookies. They practiced their sales pitch at home until they had it down, and for the last few days they've tried to sell to everyone they've had any interaction with. It's amazing for me to watch their confidence grow. At first they asked very quietly, and with much hesitation. Thanks to all the generous souls who said, "Yes, I would love to!", they have learned to stand up straight, make eye contact, give their pitch, explain how to order, say thank you in a voice loud enough to hear, and to handle rejection. They're earning money to go camping, and to buy cookies to take to an assisted living facility to share with residents who don't get many visitors. They feel so responsible, and they are really proud of themselves, and it's a beautiful thing to watch.

So it was easy to get in the spirit too. I won't sell cookies for them as that's their job, but the Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest is right up my alley.

Samoas are drenched in caramel, but in order to get plenty of caramel flavor without making my pie too sweet, I used dulce de leche, or milk jam. It has a rich caramel flavor but is less sweet than traditional caramel sauce. It's a creamy spread, much-loved all over South America and Spain. Probably best known as dulce de leche from Argentina, it's also called manjar in Chile. You can find it online or in specialty grocery stores, or you can make your own by gently simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot of water (you want the can covered by a couple of inches of water) for 3 hours. Keep topping up the water level. Make sure to let the can cool completely, for at least 8 hours at room temperature, before opening it (or it will explode!).

Samoa Cream Pie

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) unsweetened desiccated coconut
2 cups heavy cream
1 box Samoa cookies
2 cups milk
3/4 cup dulce de leche
Pinch salt
4 yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the coconut on a sheet pan. Bake the coconut for 5 minutes, stir it well, then bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, until deep golden brown (do not burn!). Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut and set it aside for decorating the finished pie.

Put the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat, add the remaining toasted coconut to the hot cream, stir to mix, then cover with a lid or piece of aluminum foil. Set the cream aside to steep for 20 minutes.

When the cream has steeped, stir it well, then strain the cream into a clean container. Discard the coconut from the strainer. Cover the coconut cream and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight.

To make the pie, very lightly spray the bottom of a standard pie dish with cooking spray. Use a paper towel to wipe off any excess. Chop the Samoa cookies into very small pieces and lay them in a single layer covering as much of the bottom of the dish as possible. Set it aside while you make the filling.

To make the filling, put the milk in a medium saucepan with the dulce de leche and the salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the dulce de leche. In a small bowl, whisk the yolks until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of the warming milk and whisk well. Add the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. When the milk comes to a simmer, add about 1/4 cup to the yolk mixture and whisk well to blend. Add another 1/4 cup of hot milk and whisk again. Carefully pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot milk, whisking constantly. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil (it will be very thick, so when it boils you’ll just see large areas rise up, and then a bubble will pop). Remove the pot from the heat and use a spatula to spoon the hot custard evenly over the cookie pieces in the pie dish. Smooth the top of the custard and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on its surface. Chill until cold, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to finish the pie, put 2 teaspoons of the coconut cream you made in a small microwave-safe dish with the chocolate. Heat for a few seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate has completely melted. Set aside.

Whip the remaining coconut cream with an electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Peel the plastic off the custard layer of the pie. Spread the whipped cream on top. Drizzle the top of the pie with the melted chocolate (you can pour it into a re-sealable plastic bag and cut off the tip, then use it like a piping bag to evenly drizzle the chocolate back and forth over the pie). Sprinkle the reserved toasted coconut on top. Chill the pie for at least 10 minutes before serving (to let the chocolate set).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Edible Gifts Are Better Than A Sweater

I shared some ideas for edible gifts you can make for the holidays at And Brandi Henderson from The Pantry at Delancey kindly shared her recipe for her ridiculously delicious spiced nuts. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Love, love, love latkes. Here's a piece I wrote about them for the Seattle Times. Instructions included, for traditional latkes and a couple of variations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers

And now, what to do with all those leftovers? (besides eating them as...leftovers, of course)

Chef Charlie Durham and I have some ideas for you, first published at today.

Here's a hint:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

You've been invited to Thanksgiving, what to bring?

I've got some ideas for you, right here.

I took my son for a haircut last week on Wednesday, and was paging through the Seattle Times while I waited. My pieces are usually online, so I got a nice little thrill seeing one in print - photos and all!

Hope you have a very happy and festive Thanksgiving.
Bluebird Grain Potlatch Pilaf with Roasted Delicata Squash and Chanterelles

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Cookbook Social!

Tickets are now on sale for The Cookbook Social on Tuesday, December 4th from 4pm to 7pm at The Palace Ballroom (2100 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121). Hope to see you there!

Click here to buy tickets ($20 includes tax, entrance to the event, tastes from each author, and one drink ticket)

Here's the blurb:

Kick off your holiday cookbook shopping at Tom Douglas’ 2012 Cookbook Social! Back for another year, this popular event brings some of the Northwest’s BEST cookbook authors together in one room for one evening only. 

Come join us on the fourth of December to purchase some amazing cookbooks direct from the authors themselves and try tasty nibbles from one of the recipes in their book. This is a great opportunity to stock up on gifts for the food lovers in your life OR to build your own cookbook library at home.

Authors: Jess Thompson, Leora Bloom, John Howie, Johnathan Sundstrom, Josh Henderson, Kathleen Flinn, Leslie Mackie, Lara Ferroni, Lisa Dupar, Tom Douglas & Shelley Lance, Pat Tanumihardja, Kim O'Donnel, Jeanne Sauvage, Diane Morgan, Cynthia Nims, Ashley Gartland and Alice Currah.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Know It Looks Like I'm Not Doing Anything...

But I am, really.
Here's a bit of what I've been working on:

School Lunches Made Easy (published in 9/19/12)

Blast! How to make vegetables so delicious, even your kids will eat them (published in 10/8/12)

I've been getting ready for some fabulous events this holiday season, including one I'm particularly excited about: Tom Douglas' Cookbook Social on December 4. It's at his Palace Ballroom, 4-7pm. When I have more information, I'll post it here. It's an honor to be included. And very convenient, as I'll be able to buy my own copy of the new Dahlia Bakery cookbook! Hope to see you there.