Rice crispy treats. No, no, *really*!

Hint: Use browned butter and real vanilla bean.

Yes, I was never the biggest fan of rice crispy treats even as a kid.  Oh, I still liked them for their chew, crunch, and mounds of sugar, but other desserts held my interest much better (oh, for a bag of puppy chow and a stack of chocolate chip cookies with milk!).  And in college and adulthood I’ve enjoyed squares from others on occasion.  Though probably fewer than a handful: only three times I can remember, and probably not many more.  But last spring I was introduced to something stupendous.  A newer, possibly more adult, and certainly more rarefied, more edumacated if you will version of these childhood treats.

Jen, who first introduced these to me, also introduced me to the glorious taste of browned butter.  And now I want to brown butter before I do anything else with it.  Try it in all my recipes, even the ones that say they need creaming.  What the heck if they are flatter and chewier, the flavor is at least worth one trial batch.

Not only do these call for *browned butter,* though, they also call for real vanilla bean, which is a fun adventure in culinary rarefication in itself since it’s not an ingredient I normally keep.  They do alright with real vanilla extract, especially if yours still has the flecks of brown bean still in it for that visual bang, but they are really best with the strength from the bean itself.  Hm, though maybe if you put in enough additionally extract, well, anyway, you can experiment.

To summarize: in the normal process of making rice crispy treats you melt the butter in a pan, slowly melt the marshmallows and, optionally, add vanilla.  Then mix in the rice crispies and coax the whole concoction into a pan to cool.

In this version you don’t stop at melting the butter but leave it on med/low till it browns deeply and gets enticingly fragrant, but before it starts to blacken and burn.  Then do you the bit with the scraping out the half a vanilla bean, letting it steep, and straining it before adding the marshmallows then toasted rice cereal of your choice.  Add lots of extra butter and some marshmallow and they’ll be softer and chewier.  I highly recommend it.

To be honest I’ve been meaning to make it since last spring, but didn’t want to eat it all myself and haven’t had much luck convincing other people it might be better than other options.  But this time I had a great excuse!  Unfortunately, a cousin is disarming bombs and similar dangerous things somewhere warm this holiday and I’ve heard rice crispies are less likely to get stale or mold v.s. other sweet treats on the long trip over.  So, this new year I’m wishing for world peace.  But I guess I’d settle for family coming home safely like he has many times before and a delicious batch of browned butter and real vanilla, because, hey, in this life you take what you can get.  And most of the time it’s not half bad.

Merry christmas to all, and may everyone get peace for their holidays!


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