The recipe: Chocolate-Dipped Triple Coconut Haystacks

Why you should bake: Because they’re a better, more decadent version of a Mounds bar. Another bonus: they’re dairy- and gluten-free. “Although you’re not sacrificing anything,” said baker Ron Traxinger.

Degree of difficulty: Surprisingly easy.

What we didn’t tell you: We have been known to substitute bittersweet chocolate for the recipe’s semisweet chocolate.

Fun fact: When Traxinger prepares batches of this favorite cookie, most inevitably end up as gifts. “But not for the office,” he said with a laugh. “They’re too good for the office.”

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED TRIPLE COCONUT HAYSTACKS

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: This 2003 finalist is from Ron Traxinger of St. Louis Park. He likes to add lightly roasted, coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (about 3/4 cup) into the final coconut mixture, dropping cookies into mounds rather than forming pyramids.

1 c. (canned) coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
4 egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. unsweetened, shredded, desiccated (dried) coconut
3 c. sweetened flaked or shredded coconut
14 oz. semisweet chocolate

Directions
To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, light corn syrup, egg whites, vanilla extract and salt. In a large bowl, combine unsweetened and sweetened coconut, breaking apart any lumps. Pour coconut milk mixture into coconut and mix until coconut is evenly moistened. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Form cookies into four-sided haystacks, moistening fingers with water if necessary.

Bake until light-golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 3 minutes and, using a thin-bladed spatula, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare chocolate: Using a double boiler, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding haystack by pointed top, dip bottom into chocolate, covering up to one-third of sides of cookie. Use chopsticks or a fork to remove cookie, draining off excess chocolate. Set on a wire rack and refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.

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