I’m sneaking this in at the very end of 2021… what a year. Personally, the first half of the year was extraordinarily good to me– lots of stars aligned for good things in my path. The second half, not so much. But focusing on the positive, the very best thing that happened for me this year is that I was able to manifest something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: move into San Francisco. Most of my life I’ve lived about 30 minutes outside the city (in two different directions), except a brief flirtation with city life in the early 2000s. In recent years, basically since discovering my food/baking life, I’ve longed to move back into SF so I could more easily partake of the spectacular restaurants, bakeries, and food-obsessed culture. One silver lining of the pandemic that I most appreciated is that it made me think more about the present. I remember looking around at my mundane suburban apartment walls (and popcorn ceiling, ugh) and thinking, “Why do I live here??” I was spending a great deal of time in the city on the weekends at that time, and one November day in particular I went to the beach on a gorgeous, sunny, mild day, where I felt a joy and serenity that I wanted to feel every day. So last winter I put this desire more assertively out into the universe, and in the early spring, circumstances came into being which allowed me to make the leap. Now I wake up and go to bed in San Francisco every single day, and although I’m commuting 45 minutes each way for work, when I see the SF skyline every afternoon when driving home, I feel that same happiness and excitement.
I was supposed to travel this holiday season and decided against it (thanks, Covid), but it was actually wonderful to be home for a quiet two weeks of winter break! This meant that I baked a lot, like A LOT, of cookies and delivered cookie boxes to many friends nearby. When I make holiday cookie boxes, one item that I always include is some kind of rice crispy treat. I love many, many cookies, but RCTs bring me so much pure, unadulterated joy, and they are often the first treat that people reach for, so I will keep thinking up as many fun and yummy flavors as I can!
Is there anything not made better by the addition of Biscoff cookies? It’s true that I cannot claim to have done exhaustive empirical research on this, so yes, maybe there’s a possibility that something exists which is not enhanced by the warm, spiced goodness of speculoos. I mean, I would crumble Biscoff cookies in a bowl and pour milk over them and call that breakfast; so perhaps I’m not the best person to ask. Nonetheless, I stand by my very strong opinion that Biscoff makes the world a better place. And there’s a special satisfaction that comes from finally discovering/creating a recipe that has eluded me for many a holiday season. I’ve made a number of fun rice crispy treat flavors over the years, which admittedly makes the process of making rice crispy treats waaayyy more involved than it should be, but it’s completely worth it. However, one that I couldn’t quite figure out was speculoos– I’ve tried a number of versions, most of which were too greasy or too dry or too light on speculoos flavor. But finally I stumbled upon the perfect recipe from which to launch the Biscoff Rice Crispy Treats of my dreams, and the holidays just got so. much. tastier.
I made a few adjustments to the original recipe from Butternut Bakery, namely adding vanilla, adding a little more cereal, swapping in blonde (caramelized) white chocolate for the ganache topping instead of regular white chocolate (though you can absolutely use the latter), reducing the amount of said ganache, and crumbling the cookies on top rather than using whole ones. I could not have asked for a more perfect texture– gooey and soft, but still with a toothsome structure. And there’s a lot of textural contrast going on here besides marshmallow and puffed rice, what with the blonde chocolate ganache that resembles caramel and the crumbled cookies on top. I especially love these because while the Biscoff flavor is very much front-and-center, the flavor and character of “rice crispy treat” is not at all eclipsed, but rather enhanced.
One more note: one of my favorite ingredients is blonde chocolate, which as I mentioned I used in place of white chocolate (simply because I was out and had to make these rightnow) for the ganache topping. First of all, I didn’t let it thicken up as much as instructed because in the original recipe it’s supposed to resemble the texture of frosting in order to avoid seeping into the nooks and crannies of the sticky cereal. To which my response is… why would I NOT want the ganache to seep into the nooks and crannies? In fact, nothing sounds better to me. So I let the ganache cool and thicken a bit, and then I poured and spread it over the surface of the rice crispy slab while it was still fairly warm and fluid. The cookie crumbles stuck pretty well, and the ganache solidified a bit more, but still retained a texture similar to caramel, and I ain’t mad at that. Second, the caramelized notes of the blonde chocolate augment the caramelized notes of the Biscoff cookies, so obviously everyone wins there. (And again, regular white chocolate would be just fine here too.) Lastly, I doubled the rice crispy treat recipe, but not the ganache, because I thought a very thick layer of frosting-like stuff on top would be overkill. (Is it possible that I spend a little too much of my time overthinking rice crispy treat toppings?)
Finally, one more note: Do you work in education like me? If you do, is your brain a little extra melty this year? I’d like to dedicate these treats to you, fellow educators, because we have worked a damn hard year. I hope you are home enjoying a warm and relaxing holiday break with your loved ones. No matter what, I still think rice crispy treats are the best thing since sliced bread, and I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring me. My tasters (teachers!) positively raved about these– a couple of people came back for thirds. These are perfect throughout the Fall and winter holiday seasons, or really any time you need a speculoos fix. I’m looking forward to closing the book on the weirdness that was 2021 and opening a new chapter in 2022– wishing you a bright, happy, healthy, and delicious New Year!
Biscoff Rice Crispy Treats
Adapted from Butternut Bakery
Yields 24 servings
For the rice crispy treats:
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick/3 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 20 ounces + 1 cup (1½ ounces/45g) mini marshmallows, divided
- 1 cup (240g) speculoos cookie butter, such as Biscoff, smooth or chunky
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 7 cups (190g) puffed rice cereal
- 2 cups (140g) Lotus Biscoff cookies (or any speculoos cookie, such as Trader Joe’s), roughly chopped
For the blonde/white chocolate ganache topping:
- 1 cup + a few extra pieces (180g) caramelized/blonde chocolate, such as Valrhona Dulcey or homemade, roughly chopped or wafers*
- ⅓ cup (80ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1⅓ cup (100g) Lotus Biscoff cookies, crushed or chopped (or any speculoos cookie)
*If you use regular white chocolate instead, make sure to use actual chocolate, not white chips
Make the rice crispy treat mixture:
Line a 9″ x 12″ rectangular cake/baking pan with parchment paper so that it extends over the pan edges and lightly grease the parchment with nonstick cooking spray. (I don’t generally do this for rice crispy treats, but these are stickier than normal.)
In a large pot with tall sides, melt the butter and let it cook over medium heat until the butter solids start turning golden brown– it will give off a wonderful nutty aroma. Add the vanilla extract and swirl the pot to blend it with the butter, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot if they’re sticking. Let the butter continue to brown a bit more to about a deep amber shade– keep a close eye on it at this stage so it doesn’t burn.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in 20 ounces marshmallows, the cookie butter, and the salt using a wooden spoon, then add the milk after a few stirs. Mix constantly until the marshmallows are completely melted and the mixture is smooth and sticky, and it coats the sides of the pot (no sloshing around in butter)..
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rice cereal and chopped Biscoff cookies, making sure they are fully and evenly coated in the marshmallow mixture. Add the remaining 1 cup (1½ ounces) marshmallows and do not fully mix them in; they should remain semi-intact so there are gooey marshmallow bits visible inside the rice crispy treats.
Quickly scrape the hot mixture into the prepared pan and press it down evenly into the corners and sides. (I use a piece of wadded up parchment to do this step since it’s both very hot and too sticky to smush it with my fingers.) Let the rice crispy treats cool completely in the pan.
Make the blonde chocolate ganache topping:
While the treats are cooling, place the chopped blonde chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan just until it begins to simmer, then pour it over the chocolate and let the bowl sit for 1 minute. Whisk the cream and chocolate, starting in the center and working out to the edges until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. (It will look like ribbony caramel.) Let the ganache sit without stirring for about 20 minutes to thicken slightly.
Pour the ganache over the rice crispy slab and spread it to the edges with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the Biscoff crumbs evenly over the top and gently press them down so they adhere to the ganache.
Let the rice crispy treats set for about 1 hour, then cut into 24 squares. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. (They will keep a few more days but will get a bit softer. Don’t worry, people will still eat every crumb.)
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2021.