Snap-Crackle-Pop will never be the same. I, like so many other dutiful American bakers, made my rice crispy treats using the recipe on the Rice Krispies cereal box, never questioning whether there were better marshmallow-laced specimens out there. But then, people like Deb Perelman and Joanne Chang taught me that rice crispy treats could be so much more. For instance, I’ll never make them without vanilla, browned butter, and salt again– these building blocks impart so much subtle flavor and depth, and they enhance any other added flavorings and mix-ins. I mean, what were we even doing before?! There are endless possibilities, and I’m working on a number of variations at the moment. The first to be born are these Salted Chocolate Sesame Rice Crispy Treats. That’s right, I said ‘sesame’, which might make you go, “huh?” But hear me out! Tahini is rightfully taking its place in the dessert world, and chocolate is one of its most harmonious companions.
For this recipe, I used not pure tahini, but rather halva, which is a soft sesame candy that is a Middle East staple, made from tahini and sugar. It’s not “candy” in the sense of American candy bars, but rather it has a sandy, crumbly, fluffy texture with all sorts of mix-in flavor possibilities. Some people eat it out of hand, others spread it on toast, and creative bakers have helped elevate it to a trendy new baking ingredient. My favorite halva comes from Seed + Mill in New York City, where they import huge wheels of it from Israel and there are at least 15 different flavors available every day. They shear off slices and wrap each one individually with a different sticker for each flavor. Alas, they are a continent away from me, so the best I can do is order it online every once in a while. Why am I telling you this? Because before I visited Seed + Mill, I thought halva was the stuff you get in a can in the supermarket international aisle. It wasn’t anything I would just snack on, and certainly the idea of baking with it wouldn’t have crossed my mind! But two things happened to change that: 1) the aforementioned discovery of Seed + Mill, and 2) the recent surge of dessert recipes featuring tahini and halva. People like Molly Yeh, Ottolenghi, Mindy Segal, Uri Scheft, and many other wickedly talented bakers have incorporated halva into treats from ice cream to babka to cookies to cakes, and it struck me that the soft texture of halva would melt beautifully into rice crispy treats! Thus this recipe came into being, and there’s so much more I want to do with halva…
Now, I should say that you do not need to use fancy halva for this recipe; I did not use my precious Seed + Mill stash. You can go ahead and use the common Joyva brand, or any halfway decent brand that tastes good to you. I went with Joyva chocolate marble halva, and vanilla or chocolate would work fine as well. Also, you can make these in a regular cake pan like traditional rice crispy treats, or you can make them in scoop shapes, which I was inspired to try when I saw the ones that Ovenly makes.
Salted Chocolate Sesame Rice Crispy Treats
Yields 32 scoops or 24 squares
Halva can be found the international aisle of some supermarkets, or at any Middle Eastern market, or you can order Joyva on Amazon.
- 9 cups (240g) Rice Krispies cereal
- About ⅔ cup (135g) vanilla, chocolate, or marble halva, broken up into small chunks
- 5 tablespoons (45g) toasted sesame seeds, divided
- 1 cup (2 sticks/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 20 ounces mini marshmallows
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (170g) semisweet or dark chocolate chips
- Flaky sea salt, to taste
Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper if you plan to make scoops, or line a 9×13″ baking pan with a large sheet of parchment paper so that it hangs over on all sides if you prefer to make traditional squares.
Toss the Rice Krispies, halva, and 4 tablespoons sesame seeds together in a large, shallow heatproof bowl.
Place the butter in a pot with high sides and set it over low heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pan occasionally. When it is bubbly, add the vanilla bean paste and quickly stir it into the butter with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (If using vanilla extract, you can just swirl the pan around to combine it with the butter; it will sizzle for a few seconds.) Continue swirling/stirring occasionally, particularly if using vanilla paste, and after several minutes the butter will start to brown (you’ll see the browned bits in the pan). Watch it carefully at this stage, as it can burn quickly. Once the butter is well browned, pour in the marshmallows and add the salt. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are completely melted and fully blended with the butter.
Remove the pot from the heat and quickly pour the marshmallow mixture over the cereal mix in the large bowl, scraping as much as you can from the bottom of the hot pot. Use the wooden spoon to stir together the mixture, coating the cereal evenly and distributing the mix-ins. Add the chocolate and stir it in evenly; the pieces will start to melt, though I try to maintain some unmelted chunks.
If you’re making scoops, use a large spring-loaded ice cream scoop to shape domes of the warm rice crispy mixture, pressing each portion into the scoop to compact them. Set the scoops on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle them with the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and the flaky sea salt. Work quickly so that the treats remain sticky enough to grab the toppings.
If you’re making squares, scrape the rice crispy mixture into the prepared baking pan and quickly press it down and into the corners in an even layer. Sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds and flaky salt.
Let the rice crispy treats cool for at least 1 hour before cutting and/or serving. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.