Merry Christmas! Are you procrasti-baking today? If you need a last-minute quick dessert for your holiday gathering later today, you’ve come to the right place. Amidst posts about Italy and smashed rugelach and cookie butter cake, I almost lost sight of the fact that I’m still working on a number of rice crispy treat variations. Especially this time of year, I seem to want to nibble on copious amounts of marshmallow-y things, so I was hoping to develop some fun holiday-friendly flavors. These warm and cozy Cinnamon Cajeta Rice Crispy Treats are one of my favorites so far. They are right at home any time from October through December, what with the cinnamon spice and caramel-like cajeta, which are a beautiful flavor marriage. (Not that anyone will turn them down in July or anything…)
Never had cajeta, you say? It is very similar to dulce de leche (milk caramel), though it’s made from goat milk, so it has a little tang like other goat dairy products. You can find it in any Mexican or Latino market, as well as some well-stocked upscale markets. I picked up a couple of different jars over the summer, one that I was expecting, and one that was highly unexpected. The first one I got was at La Newyorkina in New York City, a Mexican paleta and ice cream shop from Fany Gerson. I’d had hers before and already knew it was caramelized treasure in a tiny jar. The other one, however, I found in… Montreal. Apparently they make some lovely dairy up there, including goat products, and I found a jar of Goat Milk Caramel. They didn’t call it ‘cajeta’ per se, but that is precisely what it is. I was debating which one to use for these rice crispy treats, and the decision was swiftly made for me when I accidentally dropped the La Newyorkina jar on the floor and almost cracked it open— I figured I should use it ASAP in case the airtightness of the jar had been compromised! Not that there was any doubt, but it was a fine choice. I added cinnamon into the browned butter to bloom the flavor, and again on top of the finished treats mixed with sugar. The cajeta is a double-whammy as well— I folded some into the cereal mixture and drizzled some on top.
If you can’t find cajeta, or simply prefer dulce de leche, that is a perfectly acceptable substitute and will be equally scrumptious, and I imagine that regular caramel would be fine as well, though I didn’t specifically try it. Put these on a holiday dessert table, bring them for a cookie exchange, or gift them to yourself— I won’t tell if you decide not to share. 🙂
I hope you and your family and friends enjoy a wonderful holiday!
Cinnamon Cajeta Rice Crispy Treats
Yields 24 squares or scoops
- 9 cups (240g) Rice Krispies cereal
- 1 cup (2 sticks/16 tablespoons/225g) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 20 ounces mini marshmallows
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces cajeta or dulce de leche, divided
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
If you plan to make squares, line a 9×13″ baking pan with a large sheet of parchment paper so that it hangs over on all sides. If you plan to make scoops, line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
Pour the Rice Krispies cereal into 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; it will sizzle for a few seconds. (If using vanilla extract, you can just swirl the pan around to combine it with the butter.) Continue swirling/stirring occasionally, particularly if using vanilla paste, and when the butter starts to darken a bit, add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and stir it into the butter. After a few more minutes, the butter will start to brown (you’ll see the browned bits in the pan), and you’ll want to watch it carefully at this stage, as it can burn quickly. It’s a little hard to tell if the golden bits are browned butter solids or cinnamon, and basically it’s fine as long as it doesn’t burn. 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 in the large bowl, scraping as much as you can from the bottom of the hot pot. (Alternatively, you can pour the cereal directly into the pot, but I personally find it easier to stir it in a wide bowl.) Use the wooden spoon to stir together the mixture, coating the cereal evenly. Add about ⅔ of the cajeta and stir it in evenly; it’s fine to have some darker streaks.
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. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon and the sugar. Sprinkle the entire surface of the rice crispy treats with the cinnamon-sugar, to taste. Drizzle the remaining cajeta all over the rice crispy treats; you can do a light drizzle or cover it pretty evenly with a thin layer, which will soak into the puffed rice.
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 cinnamon-sugar, then drizzle each scoop with a little cajeta. Work quickly so that the treats remain sticky for the toppings.
Let the rice crispy treats cool to room temperature. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.