Chocolate haystacks with crushed strawberries are pretty healthful as candy goes. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Chocolate haystacks with crushed strawberries are pretty healthful as candy goes. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

When Ellie Krieger makes a chocolate treat, she crushes it

These no-bake goodies are made with shredded wheat cereal to give them a cookielike crunch.

I have been making some variation of these chocolate haystacks for years now, and whenever I do, I feel a little sly because they are unexpectedly simple — and more healthful than they let on.

A melt-in-your-mouth chocolate confection with a cookielike crunch, the haystack comes across as exacting to make, yet all that’s involved is coating shredded wheat cereal in melted chocolate and mounding the mixture into small piles onto a tray.

The haystacks also register as completely indulgent, but they are pretty healthful as candy goes. I sometimes add chewy dried fruit and/or toasted chopped nuts to the mix — I particularly like them with dried cherries. Here, I took a more blatant Valentine’s Day approach by sprinkling the tops with a pink shock of crushed, freeze-dried strawberries.

Wrap these festive haystacks in a cute box and gift them to someone you love. When you get raves about how good they taste, you can divulge how easy and good-for-you they really are, or you can keep quiet and relish that feeling of being just a tad sneaky.

Chocolate haystacks with crushed strawberries

These festive treats taste completely indulgent, but they are pretty healthful as candy goes.

Make ahead: The stacks need to be refrigerated for about 20 minutes, to set up.

Note: Freeze-dried strawberries are typically located in the dry-goods section of a grocery store produce department.

⅓ cup freeze-dried strawberries (see note)

3 large shredded wheat cereal biscuits (about 2½ ounces)

6 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cocoa), chopped

Place the freeze-dried strawberries in a resealable plastic bag and use a mallet or rolling pin to crush them until they are mostly pulverized with some small pieces remaining.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Use your hands to crush the shredded wheat into threadlike pieces over a medium bowl.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan filled with a few inches of barely bubbling water (medium heat). Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute, then remove the bowl from the pan. Add the crushed shredded wheat to the chocolate and stir until well coated.

Use your fingers and/or a large spoon to transfer 16 tablespoon-size stacks of the cereal-chocolate mixture onto the wax paper. Sprinkle some of the crushed strawberries on top of each stack. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until set.

Store and serve at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings (16 pieces). Nutrition per piece: 80 calories, 1 gram protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 4 grams sugar.

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