Sunday, June 23, 2013

dn's Choco-PB Haystack Crunchies

Summer is here and so is the summer heat! 

Even if you've already stocked your freezer with homemade baked treats to last through the summer or have air conditioning, you are probably still going to want at least one yummy treat recipe that doesn't require turning on the oven!

This twist on the classic childhood fave, only requires a few minutes of time watching and stirring a pot on the stove! Then a bit of mixing, dropping the batter on prepared pans and some chilling before you and your family or guests can dig into a delicious treat!

Growing up. I remember my mom making "Haystack Cookies" - the classic, no bake chocolate and quick oats drop cookies. They were easy to make and aside from a few minutes watching and stirring a pot on the stove, they didn't add much more heat to the old farm house during the warm days of summer. I liked these cookies, but they were definitely on the sweet side and never chocolaty enough for me! I've also never been a huge fan of coconut - especially the sweetened kind that was the most readily available in our area when I was young.

I hadn't made Haystacks or even tasted them in years! 

Then, a few months ago, I came across a recipe online that put a slight twist on the original - it called for peanut butter! Hmm, that could be really good! It got me thinking about what other kinds of changes I could make.....

There are many similar recipes online - with varying degrees of sugar and peanut butter. The other ingredients, were pretty much the same as the original.

As usual, I made my own adjustments - reducing the amount of sugar and also adding some crushed peanuts instead of the coconut. It was good, but I knew I could tweak it even more!

A few days ago, I made the recipe again with additional adjustments. I reduced the sugar even more but added some chocolate hazelnut spread (aka Nutella) and some dark chocolate chips. I reduced the oats a bit and added some crispy rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies).

A note on the Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: The most well known version of this is Nutella which is quite good, however my favourite version of this tasty spread is actually President's Choice which is made for, and distributed by, Loblaw's Inc and their numerous affiliates stores (such as Real Canadian Superstore) here in Canada. It is also a fair bit cheaper than the name brand! This is not to be confused with the yellow labeled No Name version (also sold by the chain) which is sweeter, runnier and not as much flavour. Compliment's which is the store brand from Sobey's is also a decent alternative to Nutella. I can't speak to versions offered through stores in the USA or other countries.

The result of all my adjustments to the recipe, is still a little on the sweet side but not as overwhelmingly sweet as the original. Some "Haystack" recipes use as much as 2 CUPS of sugar!! Mine is down to 1 1/3 cups sugar and although there is sugar in the chocolate chips and in the chocolate hazelnut spread, my new version isn't nearly as sweet!!

My newest creation is loaded with chocolaty, peanut butter flavour and the additional nuts and crispy cereal give it that needed crunch!

I gave some samples to a few friends to taste test and they thought it was awesome! I asked them for name suggestions and got some interesting responses but decided to go a bit more traditional!.

So, this isn't your grandmother's ... or even your mother's Haystacks recipe of old .... BUT this is a tasty treat for a summer's day!

dn's Choco-PB Haystack Crunchies
1/2 cup crushed peanuts (I use blanched salted peanuts)
1 cup crispy rice cereal
2 2/3 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/4 cup margarine - block kind NOT soft!!
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (I use Skippy)
1/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Foley's or Chipits)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

- Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper and set aside.
- Mix the peanuts, crispy rice cereal and quick oats in a bowl and set aside.
- Measure out the peanut butter, Nutella and chocolate chips into a large measuring cup. (DO NOT use disbursement method to measure the peanut butter!!!)
- Mix sugar and cocoa in a large sauce pot (a 2 1/2 - 3 qt/litre pot is required to prevent spillover while mixing). 
- Stir in the milk to thoroughly combine - then add margarine.
- Over medium heat, bring to boil. NOTE: It is tempting to turn up the heat, but this recipe works best on medium heat even though it takes a bit longer. You do need to keep a close watch on this and stir often while heating to the boiling point.
- Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir till melted and thoroughly combined.
- Remove pot from the stove and set on a heat safe surface. Stir in the peanuts, cereal and oats - mixing to coat all in the chocolate mixture.
- Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
- Chill in fridge for a couple of hours. Then transfer to a container, cover and store in fridge till serving. They may crumble a bit, but not nearly as much if you put a strip of wax paper between each layer so that they don't overlap or bump against each other as much. They can also be frozen in the same manner for up to a month.
- Makes about 4 dozen.



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