If you have ever brought a pan of Rice Krispe Treats to a gathering, your pan probably looks like the one above within a few minutes of arriving. Right? It doesn’t matter the age or the palate of the people at said gathering – people love Rice Krispie Treats. I brought a 9×13-inch pan to our end of school potluck and in the time it took me to get my phone out of my bag, they were gone. I get it. I too am powerless in front of a pan of these, especially if they are doctored up a bit and made extra special.
Like most of us, my mom used to make them for us when we were kids and next to chocolate chip cookies and brownies, they were my favorite. Awful college dinners were made better by my bastardized version made in the microwave using cereal from the cereal bar, marshmallows from the sundae bar, and a hunk of butter. And then I learned that marshmallows are not vegetarian – they contain gelatin – so for a long time, including the early years of my kids childhoods, Rice Krispie Treats were not a part of my repertoire. And then I found vegan marshmallows and all was right with the world again. (Side note – my kids are obsessed with marshmallows. I mean obsessed. Is this because it is the one candy I won’t let them eat unless they are the “special” kind? Or are all kids obsessed?)
Now, not all Treats are good. They seem to pop up in coffee bars in truly gargantuan squares that seem to contain a lot of air. How would I know? Sometimes you have a child who really really must have a Rice Krispie Treat and even though you know that thing does not contain vegan marshmallows, and probably does not even contain real butter, sometimes you just need to be a good mom and buy your kid that treat they are so desperate for. And then, because it is there and it is so gargantuan that your small child couldn’t finish it, you taste it and you realize that they can, in fact, be mediocre.
Not these. When I saw this recipe for Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats, I thought, “Really?” Is this necessary? I mean, the plain old regular ones using the recipe off the box is pretty darn good. This one is not all that different, except there is more butter and that butter is browned and there is an all-important pinch of salt. (For the record, I am vegetarian, not vegan, so butter is ok in my diet.) Deb makes hers in small pan so they are nice and tall and I do that too sometimes. If I need to serve more people, I make them in my 9×13. Whichever size, I always make sure really pack them into the pan, using at first a spatula and then an offset palette knife to press and smooth. I don’t like airy treats, I prefer them to be dense and this step will get you that result.
One Year Ago: Israeli Couscous and Tomato Salad with Arugula Pesto
Two Years Ago: Tomato and Corn Pie (so good),
Three Years Ago: Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu, Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Four Years Ago: Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar
Five Years Ago: Pasta with Cauliflower and Walnut Pesto
Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Adapted (only in language) from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes never enough
If you are looking for vegan marshmallows, Dandies is the brand I have used. You should be able to find them in a natural-ish grocery store. Whole Foods for sure. For the East Bay Area people, I have also found them in Berkeley Bowl.
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Heaping ¼ tsp. flaky sea salt
One 10-ounce bag large or miniature marshmallows
6 cups puffed rice cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)
Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.
In a large pot, melt 1 stick butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot: You may be impatient for it to start browning, but the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.
As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off, sprinkle salt over the butter, and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on over low heat until the marshmallows are smooth. (DT: If you are using vegan marshmallows, they will take a long time to soften and you will need to keep them over low heat. Keep stirring them and mash them into the bottom of the pan to get them softer. In my experience, they will never get 100% smooth but it all seems to work out when you add the cereal.)
Remove the pot from the stove, and stir in the cereal, folding it gently with the marshmallow mixture until the cereal is evenly coated. Quickly spread into prepared pan. Use the back of your stirring spatula to get the top even and press down to make them compact. Let cool, then cut into squares.