Friday, September 3, 2010

meditation on the simple rice krispie square

A comfort food, for sure. But not one of my favorites. We didn't make them when I was growing up. I have no memories of standing warm in the kitchen while mom mixed up a batch, slowly melting marshmallows and pressing the finished product into a pan. The first time I ate one I was in my early twenties, if you'll believe it - all that time passing without a single bite of an iconic childhood dessert. And that first bite: a rude awakening. I had imagined something creamy and chewy. The crisp of the rice mellowed by vanilla, strings of marshmallow like spun sugar on my tongue. Instead, my overwhelming sense was... styrofoam.

I wasn't much of a fan.

In subsequent years I've had them a few times - I've grown fond of them in their own light and styrofoamy way. But ultimately, I know why they never suit my tastes, and it's because I've always eaten something else in their place.

From the days of childhood to now, when I get a hankering for anything resembling a cereal cookie/dessert concoction, I don't reach for Rice Krispie Squares. I reach for something we called Caramel Cookies. And oh, besides the name, what a difference.

Imagine the same concept as a Rice Krispie Square, with the crisped rice cereal base and the chewy fluff of marshmallow. But then add the extra soft mellowing of butter--- so much chewier and easier on the roof of your mouth. And the extra shots of CARAMEL FLAVOR, so much richer than the simple bland taste of its well-known counterpart. Of course, mom made these with Special K, which is a flake and therefore performs differently than the little puffs of Rice Krispie.

I don't know why it took me so long, but when Rice Krispies were on some kind of madhouse super sale several weeks ago I bought many many boxes. And promised Chip some proper Rice Krispie Squares. Though luckily I didn't say proper because I decided to translate the caramel cookie of my childhood through the bright blue RK box.

And oh, the results.

Where once upon a time I was barely able to choke through a single RK square--- my new version had Chip and I jockeying for position to cut the biggest piece for ourselves. And come back for more (and more). Since then they've become something of a household staple (helps that I have so many unopened boxes of cereal sitting in the garage).

And now I'm going to share the recipe with you. I feel it's my duty. My obligation. I owe it to the world to share this recipe.

But there are a few directions that you must follow to fully appreciate these delectable pieces of goodness. First, you must not think or calculate the affects of half a pound of butter on your hips. Second, you must not compare this half pound of butter to the much more hip-conscious (but so boring) regular Rice Krispie Square. And third, just let go and enjoy these things. Don't think at all, just take a bite (eyes closed) and think bliss. Bliss in a cereal bar.

Oh it is so possible.


Caramel Rice Krispie Squares

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 sticks of butter (1/2 pound)
4 cups marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 1/2 cups Rice Krispie cereal

Prepare a 9x13 dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray, set aside. Measure Rice Krispie cereal into a large mixing bowl. Set aside for later. In a saucepan, cook brown sugar, white sugar, butter, and marshmallows until marshmallows are melted. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until everything is melted and incorporated, but be careful not to overcook. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over the cereal and mix thoroughly. Press into buttered pan and let set. After they have cooled, you can cut them into squares.


Bethsix said...

I think maybe you didn't know about them because maybe they didn't exist when we were little...? I never heard of rice krispie squares until late high school maybe... Anyway, yeah, they're never really satisfying to me. The more gooey and marshmallowy, the better, but really, I always just end up feeling like, "Really? That's it?" THIS recipe looks decidely YUMMO, though. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

I love the RK Treats. LOVE THEM. Will eat an entire pan in one sitting with no shame. This new recipe, though, might be serious trouble. My mom arrives tomorrow so I think it's fitting I try them first with her. Except that means I will have to share.

wandering nana said...

I must admit...they are not my favorite either. I think I made them once or twice for my kids. I didn't start liking RK treats until about 10 yrs boss (and friend) would bring them in but she melted chocolate chips and spread them over can hardly wait to try yours.

angelalois said...

You say you have no memories of your momma making them.. I do! It was the one thing she felt like she could bake and not burn! My folks are the professional rice krispie square preparers. I like dipping them in chocolate afterwards and letting them cool. Yum. Thanks for the recipe!!