Once a Scout: or, Siena Bars, A Work-In-Progress

“When mean girls want you to join in some low fun, when you think it is not right, ask yourself if mother would like to see you doing it; be brave, and have courage to say it isn’t right. You will feel twice as happy afterwards. Every time you show your courage it grows; it becomes easier to be brave after every time you have tried to be courageous.” How Girls Can Help Their Country, The 1913 Handbook for Girl Scouts by W. J. Hoxie

This is extraordinarily difficult to write and post, because I never intended this to be an apologetics blog. I was a Girl Scout for a very long time, much longer than was considered “normal” in the time and place in which I grew up (up in which I grew? hmmm…). I sold those blasted cookies all the way up until my sophomore year of high school. I remember enduring the taunts of coworkers—yes, by that time I had a part-time job—who thought “nerd” didn’t cover it: they thought I was…well, a word my kids certainly don’t hear me say. But I sold those cookies anyway. Why was it worth being called names I cannot repeat here? Because Girl Scouting gave me some of the best, sometimes only, good memories of my otherwise unpleasant childhood.

Girl Scouting also messed with my perception of reality. The GSUSA of the 70s and 80s fed us some of the worst of feminism. Thus, I got a really poor idea of what makes me valuable as a woman. That idea made being a mother who did not work outside the home (we had twins—I couldn’t afford a “real job”) a far more dreadful experience than it ever needed to be. Mothering is hard enough without dealing with feelings of my own worthlessness for not living out those Dreams to Reality: Adventures in Careers I’d been taught to desire over being “just a wife and mother.” Dreams to Reality is now tame, compared to what GS sells its girls these days. A bit of research revealed to me that the Girl Scouts of today mock my faith, the faith that taught me how to value my whole self, body and soul, no matter what other people say, think, or believe about my value as a human woman.

There’s more, but… frankly I’d much rather get to dessert.

There is a certain type of GS cookie that I adore, but I no longer feel comfortable giving my money to an organization that overtly mocks my faith and actively encourages young women to poison their bodies and call it “health.” Will our family’s boycotting of that fundraiser have much impact? Doubtful. Then why are we sacrificing something so good when it won’t make a difference in the big picture? If you’re asking that question, then you’re not seeing The Big Picture. I’m a terrible apologist, mostly because I was raised in an environment where I was always wrong, no matter what I said. I was taught that if I stood up for what I believed to be right, I was guaranteed a good mental smackdown, plenty of humiliation, and usually some kind of enlightenment on how everything in the whole world was my fault. So honestly, if you’re going to harangue me for this post, knock yourself out, but if you want a fight, go to Catholic Answers.

And it’s not just the conservative nutjobs. Some are boycotting an organization that sends girls out to sell cookies loaded with transfats.

I miss those cookies, but it’s not impossible to come up with something, dare I say—better? I’m not there yet, but we’re working on it. Below is what we have so far. It’s not even trying to be a copycat recipe, because I value intellectual property, even of those who think I’m an idiot. Even though this was our third try at Siena Bars, there are still some problems, but see the end of this post for my plans for future improvements.

Siena Bars: A Work-In-Progress


Cookie base:

1 c AP flour
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 stick of butter
½ c granulated sugar
1 T dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
½ c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla, then add dry ingredients, mixing until combined, about 30 seconds on medium speed. Chill dough in the freezer, covered, for about 30 minutes. On parchment-lined baking sheet, spread dough into a square, approximately 6”x6” and bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes (your time may be less, because I used a stoneware baking pan) until square is still soft but no longer “jiggly.” Turn the oven off. Transfer the cookie base to a cooling rack BUT SAVE THE PARCHMENT. Place the parchment back on the baking sheet. Spread the chocolate chips on the outline of the cookie base, then place the sheet back in the oven (DO NOT turn the oven back on). Let the chips soften while you work on the next step.

Caramel-Coconut Topping

24 semi-soft caramels
1-2 T milk
½ c pre-toasted coconut

In a small saucepan (double boiler if you have one), melt the caramels with one tablespoon of milk. Once the caramels are melted, if they’re loose but not smooth, add up to another tablespoon of milk and stir until smooth. Add coconut and spread this mixture on top of the cookie base.

Take the chip-covered baking sheet out of the oven and spread the softened chips into a smooth “chocolate tile,” using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula if you have one. Place the cookie base lightly on top of this tile. Some of the chocolate will ooze out from the sides. Scoop that up with a spoon and spread it on top of the cookie. Remove the now bedecked square, parchment and all, from the baking sheet and place on top of a wire cooling rack in a cool, dark place (a fridge will work if you don’t mind your chocolate getting white flecks in it, due to the whole distempering process). Once cool, peel off the parchment and cut into squares. Serve with milk or coffee because, wow…. rich rich rich.

My notes for next time:

  • I’m looking for slavery-free chocolate to use from here on out. This has been on my heart lately, thanks to a number of prods from a number of places. We are thinking of a way to have our Little Flowers Girls Club hold a bake sale to benefit some charity that reaches children in chocolate slavery-prone countries.
  • Each bar tended to fall apart a bit, between the weight of the topping and the chocolate base. Next time I’ll spread the caramel topping onto the cookie base, then cut into squares, then place the squares individually on the “chocolate tile,” with a little space in between each. I think the chocolate oozing up the sides of each individual bar should help “glue” them together vertically.
  • I’m hoping to scoop up the chocolate “spread” from the sides, spoon it into a piping bag, then pipe on top of each square. Having both top and bottom slathered in chocolate sounded good in theory, but it totally upstaged the caramel-coconut.

So, whether you’re looking to get a conscience-friendly vanilla/caramel/cococonut/chocolate fix, or whether you’re just looking for that taste after all the cookie booths have closed for the year, give Siena Bars a try. I hope you like them. If you don’t, come on back here and check for future improvements.

Dessert before dinner? In my blog-world, yes. Tonight’s dinner was buffalo-bleu seitan-sliders. I’m really, REALLY hoping that I digest them easily this time and that last time was just a fluke.

“Be who you are, and you will set the world on fire.” —St. Catherine of Siena


About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to CatholicMom.com and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at erinmccolecupp.com .

One Response to Once a Scout: or, Siena Bars, A Work-In-Progress

  1. Pingback: New Feature: Two for Others Tuesday « Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP

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