I wouldn't dare call into question the greatness of the Rice Krispies Treat (I'm not trying to get panned in the comments section). But sometimes—do I venture to say most of the time?—I long for my Rice Krispies to be more like themselves: I want more snap. I want more crackle. And you better believe I want more pop. But please, keep that added sugar—we're making dessert, after all.
The great thinkers in dessert—Pierre Hermé, Dorie Greenspan, Dana Cree—have espoused an easy method to make Rice Krispies crunchy, complex, and irresistible. And all with just a bit of sugar and water. (This particular version shared here comes from Dorie's Baking Chez Moi.)
Here's how it goes: Make a basic caramel (sugar moistened with just a touch of water); as soon as the sugar starts to change color, remove the pan from the heat, add the Rice Krispies and stir until the syrup disappears. Now return the pan to the heat and stir carefully, without stopping, until every Krispie is a deep golden caramel. It should take only three minutes or so.
After you spread the sticky cereal across a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow it to cool, each grain will be coated in a sheen of caramel with a complex sweetness that just verges on bitter. The broken-up bits are almost like caramel corn, but even crunchier; almost like brittle, but lighter; and almost like candied nuts, but more buoyant. They're seductive, they're snackable, and they give Rice Krispies Treats a run for their money.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silicone mat. Have an offset spatula, a pastry brush, a bowl of cold water, and a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon at the ready.
Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom or a (preferably nonstick) saucepan or a wide skillet—you want enough room to stir comfortably Moisten the sugar with the 3 tablespoons of water. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the sugar to a boil, washing down any splatters on the side of the pan with the pastry brush dipped in cold water.
When you notice the sugar turning color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the Rice Krispies.
Using a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, stir until the syrup disappears and you see cakey white streaks on the bottom of the pan. The cereal will also look cakey and white.
Return the pan to medium heat and stir carefully, without stopping, for about 3 minutes, until each grain of cereal is covered with caramel. The sugar make smoke, but it's fine—continue until you have a nice, deep caramel color.
Scrape the cereal onto a lined baking sheet. Use the offset spatula to immediately spread the mixture into a single layer. Work quickly—the candy hardens almost instantly. Don't worry if you have a few clumps or some pieces break off.
To clean the caramel-covered pan, fill it with water and bring it a boil. The heat will resoften the caramel and make clean-up easy.
As for storing, humidity will make the cereal sticky. You can wrap the leftovers loosely in parchment and keep in the fridge for 1 or 2 days. I transferred the leftovers to quart container and kept in the freezer for several weeks.
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.