I'm always intrigued when I flip through a cookbook and find a childhood treat that's been reinvented by a chef. That was definitely the case when I came across this recipe for rice krispie treats in Joanne Chang's Flour. Of all the numerous desserts a chef could include in their cookbook, it surprises me (in a good way!) that such a simple snack makes the cut, and I know there must be something special about the recipe. The ingredient list here is short but there are two things that stand out. First, the butter is browned. I've yet to find anything that doesn't get better when you include browned butter, and these treats are no exception - they definitely have a deeper flavor than the childhood version. The recipe also calls for a vanilla bean, and while I loved seeing the little specks of the bean throughout the finished bars, you could absolutely substitute vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste if you wanted since vanilla beans aren't exactly cheap. The intro to this recipe in the book mentions that these rice krispie treats have become a signature item at the bakery and now I understand why. They're a great take on a classic childhood treat - similar enough that you'll recognize them immediately, but with a more grown-up taste. I sent them to work with Shane and they disappeared quickly at his office.
Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery & Cafe by Joanne Chang
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean (or substitute 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
2 10-oz bags marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
9 cups crispy rice cereal
Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Add the butter to a large saucepan set over low heat. (I used a 4.5 qt pan and I recommend something even bigger.) Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan with the butter. The butter will melt then begin to bubble and foam. Eventually it will start to turn brown and smell nutty - be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burned quickly. Once the butter is browned, add all of the marshmallows and the salt. Stir the mixture constantly until the marshmallows are completely melted.
Turn off the heat under the pan and add the cereal. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to coat the cereal evenly with the buttery, marshmallow liquid. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Let cool for at least an hour before cutting and serving.
You can store the treats in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.