You may prefer flat, firm, compacted homemade or commercial rice cereal treats – and if so, this recipe is probably not to your taste. No one judges here – you should definitely always eat what pleases you. But if you want a rich, soft, stretchy, ooey, gooey, marshmallow laden treats, I encourage you to give my version a try!
Just about everyone is familiar with crispy rice cereal treat bars (Rice Krispie Bars). They have been a guilty pleasure of mine for decades. When I was in high school during the ’70’s, bake sales for various events were a common occurrence. There were several standbys you could bet were going to make an appearance, among them flitch (potato candy), one or several varieties of fudge, and crispy rice cereal treat bars.
Some moms made them light as air; others, I suspected, rented a steamroller with which to press the cereal/marshmallow mixture into the pan. Suffice to say, I would eat any of them, although I had my favorites among the varieties that showed up at lunch time on tables set up by candidates for football homecoming queen or class trip fundraisers.
Sometime along the way, these treats became available ready made and started showing up in lunch boxes and check-out-line candy shelves everywhere. Even I got into the swing of things and bought a huge box at a club store to hand out for Halloween several times.
But the ready-made seemed to pale to me in comparison to the homemade version. One day I found myself standing in the aisle of the grocery store, mini marshmallows in one hand, crispy rice cereal in the other. I remember making these treats many times; they weren’t rocket science — a little messy, but not very time consuming.
So, I pulled out my old recipes from the marshmallow bags and cereal boxes and set to work. The result was nothing to write home about – something went very wrong! The bars were hard, scratched the roof of my mouth with every bite, and had none of the flavor I remembered homemade to have. Did I misread the directions? No. Did I mis-measure an ingredient? Nope. The “waste-not, want-not Dutchie” in me would not allow me to throw the batch out, so I muddled through and ate them…all.
Now, more determined than ever to revive these treats that sparked memories of my ’70’s high school years and those much anticipated bake sale tables with homemade goodies galore (not to mention disco lights and John Travolta in that white suit that went with my coming-of-age era), I dutiful went to the store and bought the ingredients again, only this time I invested some brain power and forethought into what makes or breaks these bars.
First I tried them with more butter than the measly couple tablespoons called for in some recipes. Better, but not what my now crispy rice treat starved palate wanted. Next batch, more butter and definitely more marshmallows. Yes, this was an improvement, I was on to something!
A little more tweaking, and I arrived at my version of rice cereal bars I love so much. Way more mini marshmallows and double the butter of original recipes, (along with even more un-melted marshmallows from one of the bags stirred in right before turning the mix out into a pan) yielded my “hallelujah moment”. I had originally set out to only use 1 1/2 (10 ounce) bags of mini marshmallows, but once again my frugal side stepped in and I decided the left-over half bag had the potential to sit in the pantry and grow stale, so I decided to add them. too.
Of course, adding extra marshmallows at the end is completely your choice, but I never skip them. I also add a teaspoon of vanilla to the melted mix just before stirring in the cereal. And I always use salted butter in this recipe.
For Success Every Time
A few tips and tricks will insure your rice cereal bars come out ooey, gooey, soft and chewy…and remain that way for several days (if they last that long.)
- It’s really tempting to toss the butter and marshmallows in the pot together and turn up the heat to get the job done but — DON’T! It is possible to over-cook marshmallows which leads to tough treats.
- Place the butter in the pan (non-stick interior like this one works great) first and melt it over medium heat, stirring constantly (I like to use a silicone spatula for almost all the steps when making the treats). Reduce the heat, pour in the main ingredient marshmallows and slowly heat them until melted and smooth. Once they are just melted remove them from the heat immediately.
- Gently stir in the cereal; you need to work expediently before the mixture cools too much. Fold to avoid crushing the cereal. (Add any bonus marshmallows at this step.)
- Using your buttered hands, or a silicone spatula, gently spread and press the mixture into the prepared pan. Avoid pressing too firmly, this causes tough treats. The top can be lumpy and bumpy; the goal is to keep the bars light.
- Store the bars airtight and at room temperature. My favorite pan for making these treats is this Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish with Red Plastic Lid . I press the squares, store them, and cut them right from the dish and the lid means air-tight storage!
Ultra Gooey Soft and Chewy Rice Cereal Treat BarsCourse: Desserts, SnacksDifficulty: Easy
The ultimate in rice cereal bar treats, these feature extra marshmallows and come together quickly for a poplar snack.
6 tablespoons butter
8 full cups miniature marshmallows (approximately 1 1/2 (10 ounce) bags)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Recommended but Optional: the remainder of the bag used in the main cereal mix (about 2 to 3 cups)
- Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan or line with parchment and set aside. (You may use aluminum foil, if you’d prefer, but grease the foil very well with butter.)
- Melt the butter in a large pot, over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add the marshmallows and stir until they (slowly) melt.
- Remove from the heat and fold in the cereal until well coated. If using, fold in the additional marshmallows now.
- Scoop the mixture onto the prepared pan. Butter your hands and gently press and spread the mixture out to the edges of the pan. Press down lightly, but don’t compact the mixture. It is okay to leave the top surface bumpy.
- Allow to cool partially or completely before cutting into bars or squares.
- Store air-tight at room temperature for up to 4 days.