Girl Scout Cookies get new twist from chefs competing in 'Dessert Challenge'

They are as much of an American tradition as apple pie – Samoas, Thin Mints and the chocolate-coated, peanut butter-filled Tagalongs. Girl Scout cookies, around over 100 years, have become the must-have dessert this season.

In Arizona, chefs are reimagining the traditional Girl Scout cookies – and whipping up their own versions of the timeless classics. #DessertChallenge was started by the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council troop five years ago and as part of the competition, chefs are turning the famous cookies into shakes, cakes and even pops, with an added twist. At least 25 local restaurants in the state are participating in the challenge, and others are on a waiting list to join in.

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'Samoa Trifle'  (Fox News)

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“The dessert challenge has been incredibly popular,” Viviana Reyes, Girl Scouts Innovation Manager-Latino community, said. “It is a really big deal for us. We get really excited with all these amazing creations. Chefs are so creative and they just do such an amazing job of using the Girl Scout cookie to make something that’s really unique and specific to their restaurants.”

Proceeds from the desserts sold from the #DessertChallenge go to the Girl Scouts. Last year, the Girl Scouts raised $20,000 from the challenge, a spokesperson said. The restaurant that sells the most desserts wins the challenge.

And the challenge is on. 

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“It’s such a great cookie that we just wanted to enhance its flavors and put it inside of a milkshake,” Stephen Pucci, Aioli Gourmet Burgers sous chef, said of the Tagalong – You're It – Premier Milk Shake.  (Fox News)

Aioli Gourmet Burgers in Phoenix used the Tagalongs to make the “Tagalong – You're It – Premier Milk Shake.” It’s a milkshake with dolce de leche, chocolate syrup, peanut butter, whipped cream and the cookies blended in.

“It’s such a great cookie that we just wanted to enhance its flavors and put it inside of a milkshake,” Stephen Pucci, Aioli Gourmet Burgers sous chef, said. “It’s always been a big thing for us to be able to give back to the Girl Scout community and having our own twist on it from a culinary perspective and background—being able to give back to the girls that have helped out communities around us so much. That’s just something we’re trying to back them with, as well as their great flavor of cookies.”

Proof at Four Seasons Scottsdale Resort Troon North created a “Thin Mint Chocolate Brownie Pie with Thin Mint Cookie Ice.” They also offer Thin Mint ice cream.

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‘Vegan Thin Mint Ding Dong’  (Fox News)

The Girl Scout-inspired desserts range in price from $4 to $10. A portion of the sale goes to the Girl Scouts.

“Whether we win the challenge or not, it’s just a blast to be part of it,” said Lance Whipple, Scottsdale Four Seasons executive pastry chef. “Every time that we go to a table and we say that we’re participating in it, everybody’s eyes glow. It’s just such an easy sell because everybody loves Girl Scout cookies.”

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‘Thin Mint Crazy Milkshake Food Coma Ride’  (Fox News)

Other Girl Scout Cookie dishes in the #dessertchallenge include a “Thin Mint Crazy Milkshake Food Coma Ride” offered at Grape Wine Bistro, a “Samoa Trifle” at Rita's Kitchen at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn, a “Vegan Thin Mint Ding Dong” at The Herb Box and a “S’mores Fudge Pop” at The Thumb.

All these dishes have already been a hit. But the chefs may have some catching up to do.

The Girl Scout cookie program brings in close to $800 million overall in total sales over the course of a cookie season, which begins mid-January and ends mid-March. 

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'S'mores Pop'  (Fox News)

Sisters eighth grader Ella and third grader Maya have sold 1,000 boxes so far. They’re girl scouts in Arizona. So is first grader Ophelia and second grader Jordan, who’ve sold 600 boxes.

“Well, I fill up with cookies a lot so, yeah, I like to eat sugar a lot,” Ophelia said.

The program, however, is not about sales. It’s about teaching the scouts entrepreneurial and management skills.

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“Every time that we go to a table and we say that we’re participating in it, everybody’s eyes glow," Whipple said. "It’s just such an easy sell because everybody loves Girl Scout cookies."

“The cookie program is really impactful," Reyes said. "It’s a way for girls to develop leadership skills, to learn how to run their business, and be a part of the largest girl-led business in the entire world." 

The Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scouts said the #DessertChallenge program is not just for Arizona sous chefs. Program leaders said anyone could embrace their inner-chef at home and share their Girl Scout Cookie dessert dish on social media using the hashtag #DessertChallenge.

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“Its fantastic, it’s a no-brainer for us,” Chef Whipple said. “We love being part of this organization because it is really kind of developing people’s skills that’s going to help them be successful in the future. And they’re Girl Scout cookies. Who doesn’t like girl scout cookies?”  (Fox News)

The group plans to use proceeds for a $15 million project to renovate a girls’ leadership center. It also goes to support the Girl Scout programs, such as summer camps and STEM programming.

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“It’s fantastic, it’s a no-brainer for us,” Whipple said. “We love being part of this organization because it is really kind of developing people’s skills that’s going to help them be successful in the future. And they’re Girl Scout cookies. Who doesn’t like Girl Scout cookies?”

Charlie Lapastora is a multimedia reporter based in Phoenix, Ariz.