When it comes to the holidays, I bake a lot like I shop: early and often, and with my recipient firmly in mind. It doesn’t matter that I find my grandmother’s preferred merlot—available by the gallon for the bargain price of $18.99—very near undrinkable; it’s what she likes, and so it’s one of the things I always buy.
I apply this same approach to cookies. I bake oatmeal raisin cookies for my mother, cinnamon twist cookies for my father, and white chocolate macadamia cookies for my brother (who invariably eats them all in the middle of a single night and then angrily texts me the next morning about my role in his caloric devastation). And now, because I got engaged earlier this year, I also get to bake cookies for my fiancé.
Life is so, so sweet.
And so, too, are the cookies I decided to bake for him. Inspired by his (and everyone’s) favorite Girl Scout cookie—the Samoa—these cookies combine so many of our favorite flavors: caramel, dark chocolate, coconut. And then, because it’s Christmas and Santa already knows we’ve been nice all year (so why keep pretending?), I decided to swap out the heavy cream in the caramel for eggnog. Joy to the world; the perfect cookie has come; fa la la la la, la la la laaaaaa.
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy them.
Coconut Wreath Cookies (adapted from this recipe from Food 52)
Makes about two dozen cookies
Ingredients (for the shortbread cookies):
- 1 cup salted butter (ideally, Kerry Gold)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
Ingredients (for the coconut topping):
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 salted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 cup eggnog
- 4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 500 grams dark chocolate (either finely chopped or in baking wafers)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- In a large bowl (or the base of a standing mixer), cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the vanilla extract, then add the flour and mix to combine. Use your hands to bring the dough together and then dump it by the handful onto a lightly floured surface.
- Roll out the dough so it’s about 1/4-inch thick. The dough shouldn’t be super sticky, but feel free to add extra flour to your workspace if necessary.
- Use two round cutters (I used one 3 inch and one 1.5 inch round) to cut the dough into the correct shape.
- Place the cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown at the edges.
- Let the cookies cool completely.
- Now, it’s time to toast the coconut. Leave the oven on at 350° F, spread the coconut into a single layer and bake until golden brown (about 10-12 minutes). Let cool completely.
- While the coconut and cookies are cooling, get to work on the caramel topping. In a large pot, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil (via medium-low heat), stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir once the mixture starts boiling. Just let the liquid bubble until the sugar turns amber in color, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly add butter, eggnog, vanilla, and salt.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the caramel in a small bowl. Add the toasted coconut to the rest of the caramel in the pot and stir. Set aside the large pot to cool.
- Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of the reserved caramel on top of each cookie. Then, use your hands to place about 1 tablespoon of the coconut-caramel mixture on top of the cookies. Place in the refrigerator to set for 10 minutes.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Dip the bottoms of each cookie into the melted chocolate, and leave to set upside down (chocolate side up) in the fridge for 5 minutes.
- Once the chocolate has set, drizzle the remaining chocolate over the tops of the cookies using the prongs of a dinner fork. If you want to decorate your cookies, now is the time. You can use holiday-colored sprinkles or order these holly icing decorations from Amazon (as I did).
- Place back in the refrigerator to set, about 5 minutes. The cookies will keep for one week in a sealed container, and for many more weeks in the freezer.