Rice Krispies Treats à la Française: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

When I heard that Dorie Greenspan was coming out with a cookbook called Baking Chez Moi, I was expecting recipes that would be obviously French. But the book has some surprises, like her recipe for "Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars." These bars have a brown sugar cookie base topped with a layer of chocolate and caramelized Rice Krispies. As Dorie explains, they are what Rice Krispies Treats would be like if they had been invented in France -- "supermodel slim, chic and bittersweet."

The reason I wanted to try this recipe is that I love caramelized Rice Krispies. I first made them as part of the Baked Malted Crisp Tart -- but the process I used to caramelize the cereal for the tart was very time consuming. Dorie's method was very similar, but a lot faster. You sprinkle sugar over the bottom of a wide saucepan, moisten it with water, bring the mixture to a boil, and cook it until the sugar starts to take on color. You dump in the Rice Krispies and keep stirring until all of the cereal becomes coated with caramel; this only takes a few minutes. Then you spread the cereal out on parchment paper or a Silpat to cool.

The base is made from softened butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, vanilla, and flour. You spread the dough into a parchment-lined pan and bake until the dough puffs and turns golden brown. Right after you take the pan out of the oven, you scatter over chopped bittersweet chocolate and put the bars back into the turned-off oven for a couple of minutes to soften the chocolate. You spread the chocolate into an even layer and sprinkle on the caramelized Rice Krispies. If for some reason you are not interested in using incredibly delicious caramelized cereal, Dorie suggests several alternative toppings including plain Rice Krispies, granola, coconut, popcorn, Cracker Jack, mixed nuts and dried fruits, or candied orange peel.
Cutting these bars created a huge mess -- shards of caramelized Rice Krispies went flying everywhere.  The same thing happened with each bite. But having to clean up the piles of cereal detritus was so worth it -- the bars are such a delight. They were very candy-like and didn't seem like a baked dessert. The base was crispy (bits of it broke off when I sliced the bars) and had a caramel-like flavor. And of course the crunch and flavor from the Rice Krispies was heavenly.

While these bars taste nothing at all like a regular Rice Krispies treat -- the flavors are completely different and the texture is about as far away as you can get from the chewy/stretchy character of the traditional treat  -- I can see how the two desserts bars arguably share the same emotional character. They are both whimsical and delightful, pure and simple.

Recipe: "Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars" from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan.

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Isla said…
Do you think the caramelized krispies would be a good add-in to compost cookies?
Ohmigosh -- yes! That is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. And especially because you can keep the cereal in small clumps after it caramelizes, I think they would add great texture and flavor to the cookies (but you would just have to be gentle when incorporating them into the batter so they don't get crushed!).