There is something about the presence of Rice Crispy Treats that puts smiles on faces and for millions of children and adults brings a sense of anticipation and happiness. The simple answer is that the treats taste great, but there is more to it than that. Understanding the phenomenon of Rice Krispies Treats starts with how they became a part of American culture that has spread around the world.
What are Rice Crispy Treats?
Put simply, they are dessert treats that are based on Rice Krispies cereal which was first introduced in 1927. The cereal is mixed together with either butter or margarine and either marshmallows or marshmallow crème. The recipe itself is quite simple and it does not take very long for a batch of Rice Crispy Treats to be made.
The treats themselves were first invented about a decade after the cereal was released by Malitta Jensen and Mildred Day who worked at the Kellogg Company in 1939. They created the treats in the home economics department of the company for a Camp Fire Girls fund raiser. The treats themselves became a big hit and the recipe was soon put on the cereal boxes.
Over the next several decades, the treats were a family favorite across the US thanks to the combination of being simple to create and very inexpensive. It was not long before there were a number of additions to the recipes that included chocolate and other candies that made them even more flavorful. They have even been used as part of other desserts like cheesecake and the like. However, the basic treats have remained a popular favorite around the world.
It may be because they were so easy to make that Kellogg did not actually market them until about 1995. Today, you can find Rice Crispy Treats around the world as marketed by the company. In the US and Mexico, they are known as Rice Crispy Treats, but in the UK and Canada they are called “Squares” while in Australia and New Zealand they have been branded “LCMs”.
No matter the title or the language, there is little doubt that these treats have become a part of the world culture in terms of their popularity as a snack or dessert. However, despite how great they taste there are ways to improve the overall flavor.
How to Improve the Flavor
The good news is that you can really improve the flavor and texture of the Rice Crispy Treats with very little effort and inexpensively as well. In fact, some of the best techniques for flavor improvement only take a little extra effort.
It may seem a bit fussy to toast the cereal before making the treats, but the good news is that it does add a wonderful nutty flavor. You may find that it’s too much trouble, although it only takes a few minutes to do the actual toasting. The treats become extra crunchy and it works very well with brown butter which also adds to the overall texture of the treats. For a difference that you and your family will notice, try toasting the cereal before making the treats.
Add Extra Butter
One reason why butter is added to the Rice Crispy Treats is because it brings in fat. Because the rice cereal and marshmallows do not have any fat, it needs the butter to help make it taste better. However, the amount of butter in the standard mixture seems a bit thin for many people. This is not surprising since the recipe errs on the side of caution when it comes to adding fat to the mixture. Still, for most people it is not quite enough butter and they will add a little more to get a better taste.
The recommended mixture to get better flavor is a one-to-one ratio of the butter to the cereal. However, in addition to adding more butter you’ll want to brown it as well. You can cook the butter until the solids of the milk begins to pick up some color. You do not want to brown the butter until it becomes nutty as that is going too far. When you combine this with the toasted cereal, it really adds to the overall flavor which makes it an even better treat.
This is really not about adding flavor as it is speeding up the process of making the treats. By using smaller marshmallows, they will melt considerably faster than the standard size ones which is important given that you are mixing them into the browning butter. By using smaller marshmallows, you help avoid burning the butter all because the marshmallows have yet to melt.
It may seem counterintuitive at first to add salt, but when it comes to sweet desserts salt is a necessary ingredient to help the overall flavor really come alive. This is especially true with cooked sugar and why salted caramel is still a favorite thanks to its rich, full taste. Fore your Rice Crispy Treats, you’ll want to put a bit of salt into the melted butter and marshmallow mix while sprinkling just a little on the top as it settles. In this manner, you can really get the full flavor of the treats without going too heavy on the salt.
Adding New Flavors
Of course, no treats are complete without adding a touch of new flavors to the mix. The key is to start small and then add the flavors you enjoy until they mix in well with the rest of the treats. The most common flavors added are the following;
- Peanut Butter
- Rum or Bourbon
Keep in mind that the alcohol content of the rum and bourbon will burn away when making the Rice Crispy Treats leaving behind the flavor of the liquor. You can add other flavors or perhaps mix the dessert with other favorites such as cheesecake, pie, or other treats.
With all of these additions, it’s little wonder that so many people around the world love these treats whether homemade, from Kelloggs, or from specialty companies like Makse Bar in Santa Cruz California that make delicious versions of this time-honored classic.