Friday, 26 February 2010

Rice Krispie Squares

Remember these? If you live in North America you’ll remember them from every buffet table and every school bake sale of the 1970’s and 80’s. They were a huge part of my childhood.

I have fond memories of making these with my Mom. I can remember painstaking counting out the “40 marshmallows” the recipe called for. My Mom always said, “Honey, you don’t have to count the marshmallows. There’s usually about 40 in a package – maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but it won’t matter.” I was okay with the more, but not with the less – so I kept counting!

I used to make them with my son when he was little. Then one time when we were making them, he slipped on the stool he was standing on to stir the marshmallows. I couldn’t grab him in time and he managed to catch his neck on the pan and burnt it as he fell. (Yes I know now that it was a dumb idea to have a five-year old standing on a stool to reach the stove, but at the time it seemed perfectly safe. The stool was especially for kids and I was standing right there.) Although it wasn’t a serious burn (I took him to the doctor to be sure) and it didn’t leave any mark, we never made Rice Krispie squares together again, despite his numerous requests that we do so. In fact, although he is scarred neither physically nor emotionally from the burn experience, it took me years to get over it. The first time we made Rice Krispie squares together again was about a month ago. My son is seventeen years old.

Anyway, since then I’ve been making up for lost time, and we’ve been having Rice Krispie squares quite regularly. You’d be amazed by how much people love them. Over here in England where I live now, not every one remembers them from their childhood, but they still love them! Marshmallows over here are somehow different in taste and texture, making them pretty much unsuitable for melting, and it used to be nigh on impossible to get North American style marshmallows. (I used to bring marshmallows back with me in my suitcase when I visited Canada.) Now you can get what I consider to be “proper” marshmallows fairly easily, at the big warehouse store Costco and from speciality importers of foods from Canada and the US like American Sweets in Aldershot and the Canada Shop in Covent Garden in London. Both have on-line stores too.

To make these sweet treats, I use the time-honoured recipe that Kellogg’s post on their North American website, with the addition of one extra ingredient. My best friend’s Mom used to make the most amazing Rice Krispie squares and she shared it with my Mom. Just add one to two tablespoons of corn syrup as you stir in the Rice Krispies. If you are familiar with Rice Krispie squares you will be amazed at the difference it makes to how they taste. Okay, okay, it’s yet more sugar in something that is already alarmingly sweet, but nobody ever said Rice Krispie squares were healthy. Kellogg’s may have tried to imply it, but seriously – 40 marshmallows and three tablespoons of butter definitely negates any health benefit of eating something made with rice cereal, no matter how nutritious that rice cereal might be to start with. A little corn syrup isn’t going to make that big a difference! If you live in the UK and can’t get corn syrup easily (the Canada Shop does stock it) you can always use Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

Anyway, I urge you to give these delicious squares a try, whether you have ever made or tasted them before or not. For me, they are a blast from the past but even if they are new to you I’m sure you will enjoy them. And seriously, next time your little one mentions those dreaded words “school bake sale” – these take about ten minutes to make and they definitely qualify as home-made. Just cut them up in small squares make little packages of three or four in food safe cellophane bags, tying them with a ribbon. I can tell you from experience, they disappear from bake sale tables almost before anything else, no matter what country you are in!

Rice Krispie Squares

3 tablespoons butter
40 marshmallows - American style, a brand such as Rocky Mountain, not European-style marshmallows like Haribo
(This is about 1 large package or half the very large package of Rocky Mountain brand. You can also use 1 large package of mini marshmallows.)
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 to 2 tablespoons corn syrup

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low to medium heat. Add the marshmallows, and melt into the butter, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful the marshmallows don’t start to catch on the bottom of the pan.

When the marshmallows are melted, remove the pan from the heat. Quickly stir in the Rice Krispies and the corn syrup, making sure the cereal gets totally coated in the buttery, sticky marshmallows.

Now here’s the tricky bit. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 inch pan that is about 2 inches deep. Now, using two buttered knives (just run them along a block of butter to lightly coat them), firmly press the mixture into the pan until it looks like this.

Allow to cool at room temperature. Then cover with Saran Wrap or cling film and put in the fridge. They will keep for a couple of days in there, if they last that long!

Serve cut into small squares with a knife. Once they are cool, they are not so sticky so are pretty easy to serve. As I said, it’s hard to qualify these as a nutritious snack, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that as this recipe involves cereal, there must be some good in it! Perhaps it is nostalgia on my part, but for some reason, they taste particularly lovely with a glass of ice-cold milk.

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