Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Glad Notes: Making a (thin) mint - Girl Scout cookies in the USA

For a month or so every year troops of young American girls put their entrepreneurship skills to the test and flog cookies to the US population. I've been vaguely aware of Girl Scout Cookies being a 'thing' here in the USA. But I did not know that each year these kids sell a batch of cookies worth an impressive $786 million. I did not know that there is an app to find out when and where to get them. I also did not know that they weren't homemade cookies, but rather a specific brand made by two bakeries in the USA.

Originally, in the early 1900s, Girl Scout cookies were homemade. A recipe circa 1922 is available on the official website. But in 1933 the real tradition of the American Girl Scout Cookie was born, and where? Philadelphia!

The 1933 Philadelphia Girl Scouts outsourced their cookie baking to a local firm, Keebler bakery. Sales were so successful that in 1936 Girl Scouts of the USA contracted Keebler to bake cookies nationwide. There's even a plaque commemorating this in Philadelphia (not my photo but worth a look).By the 1950s there were three popular varieties of Girl Scout Cookie, all of which are still produced along with other recipes, and sold by wily American girls.

The most popular? Thin Mints. One in four boxes sold is a box of Thin Mints.

As baked goods go, Thin Mints are surprisingly mediocre. They look and taste mass-produced, just like Oreos, the defunct Twinkie, and that vital 'smore component, Graham crackers. A division of Keebler, Little Brownie bakery, remains as one of the two official Girl Scout Cookie bakeries. Keebler also produces Grasshopper cookies, which look suspiciously familiar but are not the same as the Girl Scout cookie. Thin Mints, again like Oreos and Graham Crackers, are actually vegan. Grasshoppers are not.

I understand why the youth movement no longer encourages homemade bake sales. And Girl Scouts of America and their two contracted bakeries are fairly open about the contents of the cookies, the use of palm oil, and the nutritional value (or lack thereof). They also say attempts to promote the sale of low fat/sugar-free confectionery failed.

In what I consider to be the true American culinary spirit of taking something unhealthy and making it less healthy, I have created a special treat using three US confectionery institutions: Thin Mints, Marshmallow Fluff, and Plantation Candy straws. Behold, Cookie Cloud Heaven, or something:
It's actually only about 120 calories if you care about that kind of thing. At any rate, nobody is really buying Thin Mints for their salubrity, are they?

I think Thin Mints serve a valuable purpose for young American women. I really do. These young girls must choose their cookie supplier, set the price, order stock and reach sales targets. I think that's pretty admirable. Never mind that they're ruining the post-holiday diets of the American populace.

Girl Scout Cookies are not available in the UK, primarily because the UK doesn't actually have Girl Scouts. Why's that, you ask? Well, you'll have to come back tomorrow to find out…


  1. Hah! As a Canadian, we kind of got the short end of the stick when it comes to those cookie sales. The Girl Guides of Canada sell only 2 varieties of cookies (I still don't get what a Samoa is, but apparently people could justify killing for them), and the thin mints are definitely the lesser of the two. After a few encouraging successes in the kitchen, I think it may be high time to try my hand at making my own thin mints... but I'll keep a jar of Fluff in my pantry in case they need a little something something!


    1. Samoa's are definitely better than Thin Mints! Although technically I think the name has changed to not offend Samoans...but I can never remember what the new name is. Tagalongs (the peanut butter ones) are my favorite.

    2. The Girl Scouts I met didn't have any so I didn't get to try them!
      There are two names for some of the cookies because there are two bakeries that make them - the other name is Caramel DeLite. I now know far more about Girl Scout Cookies than I ever expected :P

    3. I find it really interesting that it's a known thing in many countries (including Australia and NZ) but not in the UK.

      I think I was more expecting something like an After Eight Mint, which is basically mint fondant covered in dark chocolate, not an Oreo type cookie at all.

  2. You know, I don't think they're that good either. I think people do that thing where they talk it up and say it out loud, "Oh man! Thin mints! I love Girl Scout Cookies!" and someone else agrees out loud, even if they don't think they're that awesome...because it's trendy to act like they're the best? And so repeats the cycle? (Does that make sense?) I don't know a single person who wouldn't rather have something fresh from a local bakery or someone's kitchen.

    1. I think it's a part of the whole Girl Scout Cookie process - they are for a great cause, and I guess many Americans also grew up with them so it's a nostalgic thing as well. I think they represent something great, but don't stand up as a cookie by themself.

      I think I'm a bit biased in preferring British cookies/biscuits, so it's probably what you grow up with that counts.

  3. This looks so delicious! I didn't think Thin Mints could get any better - but it just did! I'll have to try this the next time a group of Girl Scouts sucker me into buying some :) I used to be a Girl Scout so it's a nice sentimental box of cookies to me :)
    Loving your blog!!