Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Days and Rice Crispy Treats


Certainly, I'm not the only one with fond memories of listening to news radio on snowy mornings for school closures. Snow days were one of the great pleasures of my childhood, time spent alternating between outside snow play and indoor lazy day activities. Given that my mom was a school teacher, she too would have the day off so we could host friends, build snowmen, make cocoa, and, of course, play around in the kitchen.

As a parent, it was a sad day when I realized that here in Illinois we don't get snow days. We're a tough bunch here in the Midwest. No matter how deep the accumulation or how low the wind chill, school must go on. As a working parent, I know I should be grateful, but still . . .

So when Saturday's weather reports predicted our first snowstorm, I didn't think as an adult about errands not run or sidewalks to shovel. Instead, I was as giddy as Thor about the possibility of a snow day that we could actually enjoy. We made snow angels, took a long walk, had a snowball fight, made hot cocoa, and made a giant mess in our kitchen. Within four hours, we'd prepared brownies, cashew brittle, gingersnaps, oatmeal cookies, marshmallows, and the very pinnacle of nostalgic indulgences: Rice Crispy Treats.

I have not made them since high school, but one nibble of one recently sent me in a swoon and it got me thinking - why must they be made with margarine and bagged marshmallows? How awesome would they be if I used the real deal - butter, sugar, and real vanilla? Suspicions confirmed. Even my husband who originally pooh poohed my suggestion because he "never liked them" rated them tops among the days baking experiments.

I brought them that evening to a friend's Chanukah party and apparently, without my knowledge, she too was guilty of Rice Crispy nostalgia. I'd wished I'd made more because they were the first to depart the dessert tray. At least I'd saved some for the little locavore who rated them tops as well.

Cheers to snow days!


Little Locathor and his snowSam.

Rice Crispy Treats

1 envelope (1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil cooking spray
5 tablespoons butter
5 1/2 cups puffed brown rice

Spray two 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment and spray with more oil.

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin.

Mix together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until syrup reaches 238 degrees (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer.

Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Begin whisking gelatin mixture on low speed. Gradually pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed slowly to high and then beat until is thick, opaque, and has almost tripled in volume. Don't overbeat. Add vanilla, and beat just to combine.

Spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray and scrape the mixture into the first prepared baking pan; smooth with a greased offset spatula. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Scoop the marshmallows into a large saucepan, add butter, and cook over medium heat until melted. Add rice and stir strongly to combine. Press into the second prepared pan and cut into squares.

Best served on the same day that they're made, if they last that long.


  1. I've been making them like they're going out of style. What is it about winter that puts you in the mood for rice crispy treats?

  2. Mrbrownthumb, good question. Perhaps it's the snowy like appearance. Or maybe, that Winter indulgences can be hid under thick heavy sweaters.


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