Folks, brace yourselves… the “Hallmark Holiday” is coming up! Exciting, right? Who doesn’t love the pink, glittery, cuddly, heart-encrusted items currently taking up all the shelf space in stores? Yay for Valentine’s Day!
That first paragraph was only partially riddled with sarcasm. I’m on the fence about Valentine’s day. It’s a bit ridiculous. Let’s be real. And those chalky conversation hearts? Eew. Gross. They don’t even look appetizing. Yet, I find all that ridiculousness to be nostalgic and a bit charming. Valentine’s day brings back fond memories of my early childhood (the days of no stress or worries). I loved the little class parties and paper Valentines that we exchanged. Those days seem like forever ago… (just kidding, I’m pretty sure it’s only been five years since then).
Regardless of what you think of Valentine’s day, I think we can all agree on one thing: the “Hallmark Holiday” creates a fantastic excuse for baking the heck out of yourself and breaking out the box of sprinkles.
Of course, I had to do something heart-shaped or pink and sparkly for Blueprint’s “Recipe of the Issue”. I’m in high school. I have to be festive and highly spirited. That’s why we have rallies (I think). The only problem was that I wanted to make champagne cupcakes and macarons. Clearly, the former has the potential to be a little too teen friendly (don’t even get me started) and the latter is just too dang finicky. So, I emailed Joy the Baker and Tracy Shutterbean and asked for better ideas. They answered my question on their podcast, and I almost died from excitement (and relief). True story.
Somehow, they picked the PERFECT recipe suggestion. I’m in love with it. Joy’s recipe makes a basic rice krispie treat, but I decided tp put a grown-up spin on the nostalgic childhood cookie. Browned butter adds a rich, nutty flavor while a generous pinch of sea salt gives the treats an irresistible salty-sweet component. Best of all, they’re super easy (teen-proof) and you can customize them to your heart’s content!
Thank you, Joy and Tracy! Listening to you two address my question on the podcast totally brightened my day. I really appreciate it, and the newspaper staff does too. You guys rock! Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Recipe Notes: Joy and Tracy suggested adding bourbon. I didn’t try it, and I’m not endorsing it. I’m simply putting it out there.
Browned-Butter Rice Krispie Hearts
1 10 oz bag mini marshmallows
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 ½ cups puffed rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
generous ¼ tsp sea salt
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Decorations (all optional)
4 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
Red food coloring
Pink, red, or white sprinkles
1) Thoroughly butter a 9×13 inch baking dish. Set Aside.
2) In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking until it has a nutty aroma and begins to develop a dark golden color. This should take about five minutes, but watch the butter closely, there is a fine line between browned butter and burnt butter. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the marshmallows. If the marshmallows do not melt fully, return the pot to the heat and stir until they are fully melted. Stir the salt and vanilla extract into the marshmallow mixture. Then, pour in the puffed rice cereal and mix until evenly coated.
2) Dump the hot marshmallow-y cereal mixture into the prepared pan. Use a spatula sprayed with cooking spray to flatten the rice krispies into a rectangle. Try to get the mixture pressed into the pan as evenly as possible. Allow the cereal slab to cool completely.
3) Turn it out onto a clean cutting board. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many Rice Krispie hearts as possible. A medium sized cutter will produce around ten hearts. At this point, the treats are finished, but a coating of chocolate and sprinkles adds a festive touch.
1) Melt the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Dip or drizzle each heart with the melted chocolate, and place them on sheets of waxed paper to dry. Any sprinkles or candy decorations should be added when the chocolate is still wet.
2) Refrigerate the dipped treats until the chocolate is set, about thirty minutes. To add a contrast color, melt a portion of white chocolate in a double boiler. Either leave it white, or stir in a drop or two of red food coloring until it is tinted the desired shade of pink. Drizzle the white chocolate on top of a plain heart, or on top of a chocolate dipped heart that has been refrigerated.
The hearts will last for about three days in an airtight container left at room temperature.