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.

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

  1. My version of this is very similar, only I use homemade vanilla extract (instead of the bean) and I brown the Marshmallow mixture slightly as well. It is SO worth the few extra minutes!

    I love your site; thanks!

  2. Hi Zoe, I only recently stumbled upon your site but you’ve won me over already. The rice krispie treats look amazing — I love how using simple, quality ingredients can produce something so incredible. And GREAT job with the wedding cake!

  3. I know you hear this all the time, but how do you stay so trim with all the “sampling” you do?

    Thanks again for your lovely blog and your creations at Tilia.

  4. I worried about a lot of things on my wedding day, Zoe, but having delicious and beautiful cake was never one of my worries after you said you would bake for us. It was as tasty for the eyes as it was to eat, and we brought some cupcakes on our honeymoon in Maine:) Thank you thank you thank you!

  5. Looks delicious and beautiful-I made your devil’s food cupcakes with cream cheese frosting this weekend-I made 98 of them! They were divine-Thank you : )

  6. My son got married in Peru three weeks ago. They didn´t want a wedding cake, just a huge sample of little Peruvian sweets. So good. The pictures of your brother´s wedding cake and the cupcakes look incredibly delicious, so beautiful and delicate. Congratulations.

  7. hi zoe,
    those crispy treats look amazing!!!! it’s a keeper for sure!!!
    i am a little confused with the recipe. you call for 5 tablespoons of butter but looking at the picture it looks as if there were 2 sticks of butter, is it 5 oz. of butter instead of tablespoons?
    thank you,

    1. Hi pitti,

      Oh boy, that was my mistake, I published the wrong picture! The recipe is correct as written, the picture was the confusing factor. Thank you so much for pointing it out!

      Cheers, Zoë

  8. Gorgeous cake! I love Popovers in Portsmouth! Such delicious pastries 🙂 Glad to see two awesome New England bakeries get a shout out!!

  9. At first glance, I thought it was ganache. The photo looks so beautifully black and I had to ask. I thought I had missed out on some great industry secret after all these years of fending off requests for black buttercream!

  10. Hi Zoe,

    Beautiful cake and cupcakes! 🙂

    Would a chocolate ganache frosting like that melt? I live in a very humid and tropical country and melted frosting is always my problem!


    ~ Barbie

  11. Just had my last one – these rice crispies were great and so easy to make, would be a great thing to take to parties to snak on!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. I just made these Rice Krispie treats. I’ve had your recipe pinned for awhile. They are SO GOOD!! I want to eat the whole pan for dinner. Thank you for sharing!!

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