Haystacks (no-bake chocolate peanut cookie)

These are the perfect cookie for autumn on the Gulf Coast.  We get a distinct change of seasons here — not least of all because there’s a noticeable arrival of cool air that the locals pray for as the end to hurricane season.  And, particularly if you’ve lived in more New England-y climes, this meteorological shift makes you think of sweaters and hot drinks and stews and the like.  The thing is … it’s still probably high-70s to 80s.  So you want things that evoke that autumnal spirit without being actually warm.  Enter apple crisps, crumbles and strudels, or cookies that — while they don’t require firing up the oven — still have a rich, dark, pantry-suited and fruitless manner about them. These are widely known as ‘haystacks’, I’ve always known them as ‘beaver dams’, but I was looking for something more seasonal … and if you’ve ever seen something like a 20-car pile up on the I-5 in California and wondered if that ever happens to witches on broomsticks (you haven’t?  what’s wrong with your imagination?) then … maybe this is what it looks like?

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Cookies

1 cup each butterscotch and chocolate chips
2 tabelspoons peanut butter
6 ounces chow mein noodles
1 cup peanuts

Or … twice as much of each, which uses the whole 12 ounce bag of butterscotch and chocolate chips and makes a double batch, as I do here, because seriously, who likes leftover ingredients?

This is the world’s simplest recipe.  It’s actually going to be hard to make it a whole post here.  Put the noodles and peanuts in a big mixing bowl and, well, mix them.  I like the Spanish peanuts for this, but you can use any kind of roasted and lightly salted version.

Melt the chips in a double boiler or microwave.  If the latter, pause every 15 seconds or so and stir, until they are melted and almost entirely smooth.  If you don’t have a microwave or a formal double boiler, anything — like this mixing bowl — over boiling water will do.  And put the butterscotch chips on the bottom.  They seem to have a higher fat content or something … they melt more painlessly.

While the double boiler is coming up to steam, line a cookie sheet or “cooling station” (i.e. chart table) with parchment paper.

When the chips have begun to melt, add the peanut butter and stir it through.  This will help slow and smooth the melting chocolate.  You can use crunchy, but you’re already dumping it over whole peanuts … I go with smooth on this rare occasion.

When the chips have completely melted and the peanut butter is stirred through, scrape the mixture into the noodles and peanuts and fold it in.

You goal is to coat everything with chocolate, but not to crush the noodles more than necessary!

Drop by the spoonful onto the parchment and let cool, or chill in the icebox if you have space and are in a hurry.  I just turned the fan that usually cools the navigator at the chart table down toward them and 15 minutes later they were firm enough to pick up and eat.  Which is honestly the real goal here.  If you’re delivering them to others or having people over … you may need longer/colder.

On the other hand, if you’re serving a skipper and a Spaniel-swab, just peel them off the parchment as soon as they hold together, and you’re done!

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