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
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).