Beyond the Box – Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Krispie Treats (plus a short tour of the bakery that inspired them and a wedding cake)

It took the extraordinary pastry chef from Flour in Boston, Joanne Chang, to get me to confess my love for Rice Krispies Treats. She boldly put a recipe for them in her cookbook, next to the cakes and other delicate, fanciful pastries. It was an honest and unpretentious statement, which gives the rest of us the ability to stand tall while admitting we too love these juvenile confections. Until now I have used my boys as an excuse to have them around, but the truth is I love them more than they do. This recipe takes the ordinary to new heights. One may argue the beauty of a recipe on the side of a cereal box is the speed, ease and simplicity of ingredients. Admittedly this version takes a few more minutes, and I do bother to use some pretty special ingredients, but it is so worth the effort and I promise the vanilla bean is not lost on them.

I have been following Joanne’s career since she worked in New York with François Payard. Her talents were recognized even while in the shadow of one of New York’s pastry greats, which is no small feat. Several years ago she took the bold step of leaving Payard and opening her own bakery in Boston, now she has a small pastry empire. When my brother announced that he would be getting married this summer near Manchester, New Hampshire, I immediately made plans to slip into Boston for a day to sample her goodies.

I love Joanne’s philosophy on life,

and food! This is what baking is all about, joy and a love of the people you are creating for. You can taste that in the food.

The options were limitless at Flour, and in the name of research I had to try one of each. I love this job.

Of course, we had to have several slices of the cake with the misnomer (Boston Cream Pie), since we were in the homeland of this creation.

And yes, she sells the rice treats at the bakery, for those of you lucky enough to live nearby, the rest of us will have to take the 15 minutes to make them ourselves. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Crispy Rice Treats, inspired by Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1o ounces (one bag) marshmallows

5 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal

to make the Treats:

butter a 9×9 square pan, set aside

In a small saucepan cook the butter over low heat, until the butter is a deep caramel colored and smells toasty.

Strain the butter into a larger sauce pan.

Add the seeds from the vanilla bean, salt and marshmallows. Cook over very low heat until the marshmallows are completely melted.

The vanilla seeds will disperse from the heat.

Add the cereal,

and stir just until it is all coated with the vanilla marshmallow.

Press it into the pan. You may want to put some butter on your hands or a rubber spatula to prevent it from sticking.

Let it cool for as long as you can stand to wait and then cut and serve.

The following day I drove to the Commissary (Popovers on the Square) near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Jennifer Beach runs the bakery and quite literally saved my hide by helping me prep for my brother’s wedding cake. As if making wedding cakes isn’t stressful enough, doing it in another state without equipment is another ball game all together. This wasn’t just any wedding, it was my younger brother’s so I wanted it to be fun, tasty and as stress free as possible. This tall order was made possible by Jennifer, her amazing sous chef Jason Perry and their fabulous team. Not only did she put up with my long distance requests and last minute changes, but she also lent me all of her equipment to take to the wedding facility. We pastry chefs are generally a protective lot and our equipment is held dear to us and rarely let out of our sight. Lending her equipment was an act of extreme generosity and faith that I will never forget.

I carried 400 gum paste flowers to the wedding in egg flats on my lap in the plane.

The cupcakes were black, white and red to match the theme of the wedding.

My brother and his wife got engaged on a rock in Central Park, so the bride and groom sat on the “Love Rock” on top of the wedding cake.

The small wedding cake was surrounded by towers of cupcakes.

Thank you Jennifer and Jason, your work is absolutely gorgeous and was enjoyed by everyone at the wedding!

Next week I will take you to Masala Farm, the Upstate NY farm of my friends Suvir Saran and Charlie Burd, where we ate like kings and canned like granny. Now I relax and enjoy the last minutes of my vacation in Vermont.