Butterscotch haystacks are sweet treats common at parties, especially children's gatherings. In their basic form, they contain peanut butter, butterscotch chips and fried chow mein noodles, but variations can also include other ingredients like marshmallows or peanuts. These snacks are called haystacks mainly because, once the ingredients are mixed, doled into servings and cooled, they look somewhat like piles of hay.
To make butterscotch haystacks, butterscotch chips must be lightly melted. Peanut butter and other add-ins are stirred in, then chow mein noodles are added and stirred until they are coated in peanut butter and butterscotch chips. Once stirred, small globs of the mixture are spooned onto wax paper and cooled before serving. The wax paper keeps the sticky butterscotch haystacks from adhering to the surface once they are cool and hardened.
These snacks can be heated in the microwave, or they can be melted using a double boiler system. A double boiler is a tool used to make candy on the stove without burning the sugar. It protects the cooking sugar using a system with two pots: one contains the cooking candy and is inserted into the other pot, which contains water. The water in the second pot regulates the temperature, preventing the candy from reaching a burning temperature.
When the crispy chow mein noodles are mixed together with the melting butterscotch chips and peanut butter, the sweet peanut butter begins to coat the chow mein sticks and meld with the butterscotch. In many cases, the lightly melted chips somewhat retain their form when mixed with the peanut butter and fried noodles, leaving chunky morsels of butterscotch throughout the mixture. How melted the butterscotch chips are within the mixture depends on the preference of the cook preparing the snack.
Butterscotch haystacks are commonly served as a bite-size snack at parties and gatherings. They are particularly popular for kids' parties because they are made of kid-friendly foods that can be eaten by hand. When making butterscotch haystacks for people with peanut allergies, soy, almond and walnut butters can be substituted for the peanut butter, but the texture and flavor may turn out slightly differently.
The chips used to make butterscotch haystacks are actually flavored baking chips, and are not made of pure butterscotch. Usually, these chips contain some butterscotch in addition to ingredients that help the chip function like other baking chips. Sometimes, butterscotch chips are artificially flavored, and contain no real butterscotch. These snacks are usually made with creamy forms of nut butter, but can also be made with crunchy nut butters for a change in texture.
Butterscotch is classified as a confectionery, which is a food item made mostly of sugar. Butterscotch is somewhat similar to caramel, but has different ingredients. Rather than being made with caramelized granulated sugar, butter and sometimes milk, as caramel is, butterscotch is made from brown sugar and butter. Brown sugar differs from granulated sugar because it contains some molasses.