Rice Krispies Treats for Grown-Ups

Deb Perelman | Smitten KitchenThe night my friend plucked a Ziploc bag from her tote and plopped a pirate's booty worth of marshmallow treasure on the bar in front of us one night at happy hour, we promptly forgot all about our cocktails. With a touch of salt and rich with nutty brown butter, these Rice Krispies treats surpass anything that comes wrapped in shiny blue plastic. And isn't that how we should always remake the classics? By elevating beloved flavors to something just ever-so unexpected-without losing any of the nostalgic charm.

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The genius behind this keeper is Deb Perelman, the woman who pens one of our original food blog loves, Smitten Kitchen. Deb is like the Internet version of the Barefoot Contessa, amping up recipes you already love until the flavors really sing-only she works her wonders in a downtown apartment with a sliver of a kitchen instead of a million dollar Hamptons mansion. In other words, she's one of us. The recipes in her long-awaited debut, "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook," are worth dirtying the counters for, and friends will come begging for your secrets.

The secret to these rice crispy treats is a simple technique: browning butter transforms it from something milquetoast and mild-mannered to a darkly complex, rich, nutty flavor. If you'll allow a literary metaphor, it's like Jane Eyre's St. John compared to a dark and brooding Mr. Rochester. No contest, right?

My friend whipped these up again for her holiday party on Saturday, and just like last time, we forgot all about the boozy punch. They are a scene-stealer. Baker beware.

Deb Perelman | Smitten KitchenSalted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 12 2-inch squares or 32 1-by- 2-inch bars

8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Heaping ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
One 10- ounce (285-gram) bag large or miniature marshmallows
6 cups (170 grams) puffed- rice cereal (about half a 12- ounce box; I've had luck with brown rice cereals as well)
Butter (or coat with nonstick spray) an 8- inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides

Brown the butter: In a large pot, melt 1 stick butter over medium- low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don't take your eyes off the pot: You may be impatient for it to start browning, but the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

Make the crispy treats: As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off, sprinkle salt over butter, and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on over low heat until the marshmallows are smooth. Be careful not to cook the marshmallows, which will destroy their stretchy softness; you're just looking for enough heat so they will melt and smooth out. Remove the pot from the stove, and stir in the cereal, folding it gently with the marshmallow mixture until the cereal is evenly coated. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I've sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners and smooth the top, though a silicon spatula works almost as well. Let cool, then cut into squares and get ready to make new friends.

Excerpted from "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2012 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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