How do you improve upon something as pure and simple as the Rice Krispies Treat? By taking this minimalist dessert and giving it the maximalist treatment. From the small changes in how it's prepared to ingredient upgrades and mix-ins, here are five ways to make a better Rice Krispies Treat.
1. Add more butter, and brown it.
Between the rice cereal and the marshmallows, there's zero fat in this recipe. And as we all know, fat is where the flavor's at. I've always found the amount of butter in the recipe on the box to be more recommendation than requirement and have always added more every time I make a pan of these treats.
In our recipe, we use a one-to-one ratio of butter to cereal. And even more importantly, we brown the butter — but not until it's deeply nutty (that can be a touch overwhelming). Cook the butter until the milk solids just begin to pick up some color. These two changes to how you use and manipulate butter in a Rice Krispies Treat would be impactful enough, but we're going to keep going.
2. Toast the cereal.
This is by far the fussiest thing you can do to make a better Rice Krispies Treat, but like most recipes, it's up to the cook. Just know that the option exists for you to try. I've made Rice Krispies Treat with and without toasting the cereal, and the difference is discernible. The toasted cereal impacts a nutty flavor that pairs well with the brown butter and makes the treats extra crunchy.
3. Add salt.
Salt is always a good idea when it comes to particularly sweet desserts — especially ones that have a cooked sugar flavor. It's why salted caramel took off like wildfire and continues its slow burn today. Our recipe for Rice Krispies Treat folds a bit of salt into the melted marshmallow and butter mixture, although it would be enough to just sprinkle some on top as they're setting.
4. Use small marshmallows.
Not a flavor difference, but one made in the name of efficiency — small marshmallows melt much faster than the standard size. This becomes pretty important, given that they're mixed into the browning butter. There's less risk of the butter burning because the marshmallows didn't melt fast enough.
5. Get creative with mix-ins.
When these are for adults, I strongly suggest adding a splash of rum or bourbon to the marshmallow step. Most of the alcohol with cook off, but the flavor pairs beautifully with the nutty, caramel notes from the brown butter, toasted cereal, and cooked marshmallows. I have a friend who stirs in a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and one who likes to tip in a bit of vanilla. Both are spectacular in their own right.
What's your riff on Rice Krispies Treat? What you do mix-in, top them with, or substitute?