Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats

Brown Butter.  Those two magical words can drastically change the flavor profile of many things, both savory & sweet.  They kick things up a notch.

Heating butter past melting & liquifying until the milk solids themselves cook and caramelize, forming lovely brown bits in the bottom of the pan.  And the smell?  Fantastic!  Nutty!  Chances are that you have probably made brown butter before, even if it was an accident.

My first intentional experience with browned butter came during a Daring Bakers Challenge a couple years ago.  I don't even remember what the challenge was that particular month.... Due to my schedule, I didn't finish whatever we were challenged to make that month, but I did go so far as to make a browned butter cake.  From that point on, I have been hooked!

When I was teaching, I made it a goal to incorporate a few brown-butter-including formulas into  the curriculum.  I love to demonstrate the process of browning butter to a classroom of students who most likely hadn't before intentionally made brown butter.  I liked to see the amazement on their faces as the block of cold, pale butter (just butter, nothing else) turned to a golden melted state, and went beyond that stage to caramelize into something more akin to nuts or caramel in appearance & smell than to the simple butter with which we began.  Over my time teaching, more than once a student has asked if they should strain out the brown bits in the bottom of the pan.  No!  Absolutely not!  Color is flavor. And those brown bits are what makes brown butter so amazing.

Plain Rice Krispy Treats (or as I grew up calling them "Rice Crispy Bars") may not sound terribly exciting on their own, though I still adore them in their plain state.  I may even admit to liking the prepackaged ones you can find in the snack aisle of the grocery store, but shhhh!  It's a childhood thing, having packed lunches for 13 years of my life, sort of thing :)  

What happens if you take the plain butter from the original recipe & replace it with browned butter instead?  Magic happens!  Completely dresses up the 'ole Rice Krispy Treat and makes the flavor a little more "grown up" too.

makes 1 8x8 pan or about 16 squares

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
10 oz bag of mini marshmallows
5.6 oz Crispy Rice Cereal

1.  Prepare an 8x8 pan by spraying it liberally with pan spray.  Measure out all ingredients.

2.  In a tall, heavy duty pot, begin to melt the butter for the browning process.  During this process the butter may spit, so having a taller pan will help reduce the risk of burning yourself.  Once the butter has melted, it will become a bit bubbly or foamy.  Keep cooking the butter, gently swirling the pan occasionally.  The bubbles will begin to dissipate and brown specs will begin to form in the bottom of the pan.  Use your ears during this process, as the sound changes during each stage.  Allow the milk solids to come to a rich brown color (and give off their nutty fragrance), then immediately remove from the heat.

3.  Off the heat, stir in the marshmallows.  Stir with a heat tempered spatula until they have melted.  If they are not able to completely melt off the heat, return the pan to low heat and stir until everything is melted.  Remove from heat again.

4.  Stir in the cereal & keep gently mixing until each piece is completely covered with brown butter marshmallow goo.  Work quickly so that the mixture does not become too cold in the pot.

5.  Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan and press to slightly compact.  Spray your spatula with additional pan spray if it begins to stick to the surface.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Additional resources on brown butter: here and here

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