A coconut haystack is a sweet made by clumping coconut together with meringue or another gluey substance, baking it, and then dipping it in chocolate or leaving it plain, depending on personal taste. This treat can also be made without the use of a binding agent, making it more candy-like. Many candy stores which make their own products produce coconut haystacks, since they are very easy to make, and it is also possible to purchase coconut haystacks in packaged form at various markets. This sweet treat is not too difficult to make at home, either, and when allowed to cool completely before being packed into boxes or bags, coconut haystacks can make great gifts.
As you might imagine from the name, the base of a coconut haystack is dried, shredded coconut which may be sweetened or left unsweetened, depending on personal taste. Recipes for coconut haystacks vary; haystacks made with meringue tend to be lighter, sweeter, and fluffier, while haystacks made with things like condensed milk will be more dense and rich. In either case, the center of the coconut haystack tends to remain soft, moist, and chewy, while the outer layers grow crisp during the baking process.
After baking, coconut haystacks can be left plain, in which case they are generally a light golden to dark brown color, or they may be dipped. Dark chocolate is a classic choice of dipping substance for coconut haystacks, although cooks can also use milk chocolate, white chocolate, or candy coatings. Some cooks like to add sprinkles, dried fruit, or other inclusions to the dip to make their coconut haystacks more festive.
It is also possible to make a coconut haystack with shredded coconut and chocolate alone, for a very rich dessert. In this case, coconut is toasted until it is golden brown before being mixed with melted chocolate and deposited on waxed paper by the tablespoon to cool. Once cooled, the coconut haystacks will have hardened, with a crust of chocolate surrounding the crispy shredded coconut. This dessert is very easy to make, since all it requires is a brief oven toasting, a dish of melted chocolate, and a sheet of wax paper.
Because coconut is an extremely rich fruit, a coconut haystack tends to be quite filling and dense. Usually one or two is enough, especially when coconut haystacks are made from pure coconut and chocolate. The combination of coconut and chocolate is quite popular in many regions of the world, so coconut haystacks are a much-appreciated treat at potlucks and other community events.