Tradition, Memories, and Black & White Rice Krispy Treats

This time of year is always a bitter-sweet one for me. I love the atmosphere that settles in the closer we get to Christmas – it can be frigid and icey or temperate but rainy, and yet there’s still a warmth almost everywhere you go. The decorative lights are inviting, the gift buying and wrapping is exciting, and houses start to smell like pine needles, pot roast, and gingerbread. I even forget that I don’t love Winter right about now. But then, I can’t help but feel a small void inside of me, a little twinge of…regret? Sadness? Introspection. This is the time of year where I remember my grandmother most. If you knew her, you couldn’t not remember her around Christmas. Our house was decked in wreaths, garlands, candles, ornaments, and the biggest tree our old Victorian home could house. She lived with us until she passed away, which was over ten years ago now. The first few Christmases were hard. Then, the decorations slowly changed. The traditions changed. We no longer got a tree. Mezzuzahs and menorahs replaced the holly and mistletoe, now that everyone else in the house was Jewish. Everything about how we celebrated the holidays changed. More than anything, I miss the perpetual smell of cookies that would waft out of the kitchen as she baked dozens and dozens of cookies to give out to neighbors, friends, family – even my bus driver got a package each year.

I don’t know why, but as much as I bake, I have yet to take on those cookie recipes. I was hit with this wave of nostalgia too late this year, just last night feeling a strong desire to keep her cookie baking tradition alive, but know that next year I will be picking up where my grandmother left off, even if it is ten years delayed. I love trying new recipes and shaking things up, but I think you need a little reminder of tradition now and then, too.

I want to pause in all of the crazy baking schemes I’ve been in the midst of this week, and talk to you about a recipe that I think holds a lot of memories to a lot of people. Ironically, it doesn’t really for me. I feel like it’s almost this rite of passage to grow up on homemade rice krispy treats, and yet the first time I made them myself was just last month. I may not have my grandmother’s famous chocolate covered peanut butter ball recipe to share with you today (I’m pretty sure I ate at least a dozen of those every day leading up to Christmas when I was a kid!), I can share with you a recipe that I hope will bring back childhood memories for others. Because even if it’s painful, a little sad and bitter-sweet, it’s important to take a minute at this time of year and just remember.

These rice krispy treats are subtly sweet and very simple. They’re softer than a store bought square, but I haven’t yet figured out if that’s the recipe or the fact that I was maybe, possibly, I hope you can keep a secret, using stale crispy rice cereal. Please don’t judge me. They still tasted really good. I actually put the leftovers in the freezer which was a completely spontaneous move – I have no idea if they’ll be anything close to edible when I take them out to thaw – but I thought it would be an interesting experiment. I’ll let you know how they are when they’re not fresh. If mine ever were fresh to begin with…sigh. I’m doing a mighty fine job of selling these, huh? They’re extremely enjoyable, though, I promise.

One Year Ago: Special Delivery Cake

Black & White Rice Krispy Treats, courtesy of Annie’s Eats
Yield: 18-22 servings

The Ingredients
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 cups mini (40 individual regular) marshmallows, divided
6 ½ cups crispy rice cereal, divided
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Method
Line 18-22 muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

Melt half of the butter and all of the dark chocolate and cocoa powder together in a microwave safe mixing bowl, stirring frequently to prevent the cocoa powder from scorching. Add half of the marshmallows and return to the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and melted. Stir in half of the crispy rice cereal, making sure the chocolate coats all of the cereal. Stir in the mini chocolate chips and set aside for 15-30 seconds. Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared muffin tins and press down to create level tops.

In a second (or washed) microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining butter and marshmallows in the microwave for 2-3 minutes until the marshmallows have fluffed up and the butter has melted completely. Stir in the vanilla and remaining cereal until the mixture is fully incorporated. Set aside for 15-30 seconds. Divide evenly among the muffin tins already filled with the chocolate treats.

Chill the treats in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or let sit at room temperature until set before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


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