Saturday 19 November 2011

Chocolate Haystacks

I lost someone very dear to me this week and find myself standing at the edge of the huge void left by her absence.  It has me thinking about how people deal with loss.  Some build bridges across the void with activity, or sleep, or prayer.  Some try to fill the void with noise, or company, or alcohol.  For me, the path to consolation appears to begin in the kitchen, and it is paved with chocolate.  I know that I cannot soothe my hurt with chocolate indefinitely and that feeding my stomach is not the same as soothing my soul but, for today, it's enough.  Tomorrow will bring a return to healthy eating and exercise.

This is one of the treats I baked today.  I didn't have my camera in the kitchen but I still had these photos on file from a post I made to Facebook last December.  I'm sharing them--and the recipe again--with the hope that my Facebook friends will excuse the repetition.

A great many of my friends and their families make fudge every year at Christmas-time.  My mom made chocolate haystacks instead.  I never got her recipe from her but was delighted to find a very similar one in Marion Cunningham's "Fanny Farmer Cookbook."  Ms. Cunningham's recipe is excellent, easy to make, and it produces cookies almost identical to the ones my mom made.  They're chewy, less overwhelmingly sweet than fudge, and have a good deep chocolate flavour.

We loved chocolate haystacks as kids and I enjoy them still.  Today they are providing me the comfort of happy childhood memories.  I hope you like them too.

To make chocolate haystacks you'll need:

  • baking sheets and parchment to line them with
  • a 14-ounce tin of sweetened condensed milk (400 grams)*
  • 3 ounces of good quality, unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • a dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a bowl.  Chop the chocolate and add it to the milk.

Heat the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate together in the microwave, in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until the chocolate has melted.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Scoop heaping teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, taking care that the bottoms don't burn.  Allow them to cool on the cookie sheets and then transfer them to an airtight container for storage.

*Sweetened condensed milk is sold in Canada in 300 gram tins.  If you are buying 300 gram tins, you'll need to buy 2 tins and measure out the amount you need. 

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