Mexican Hot Chocolate Rice Crispy Hearts

Does everyone else love rice crispy treats like I do, or do I have some sort of abnormal obsession? I love baking – cakes, cookies, tarts, all the yummy things. But I can’t think of anything else that brings more joy to both adults and kids as rice crispy treats, IMHO. So I wanted to create a fun version for Valentine’s Day with a pop of festive pink and red, as well as a little spice. Thus were born these Mexican Hot Chocolate Rice Crispy Hearts.

Much like a good relationship, I had to work hard to bring these to fruition. Back in December, I had a tough time finding Rice Krispies cereal for holiday treats, either because of the Kellogg’s union strike, or because the entire population of San Francisco was making rice cereal treats that exact week, or possibly both. It didn’t occur to me that they would still be scarce two months later, thus forcing me to go on an unexpected wild goose chase for Cocoa Krispies– six stores later, the best I could do was “organic cocoa rice crisps” at Whole Foods! Now, I do normally eat as healthy as possible at home, but when making desserts, “healthy-tasting” is not a flavor profile that I’m striving for. Fortunately I had about ⅔ of the quantity of real Cocoa Krispies at home to make the recipe, and I hoped that the immoderate amount of chocolate, marshmallow, and brown butter would smother any remaining trace of “healthy”. The substitution worked fine for the small amount of cereal that I needed, but I can’t vouch for a full batch made with those imposter rice crisps– they are not the same as Rice Krispies…

Regardless of the cereal crisis, I wanted them to be as luxurious and chocolaty as possible, so I used two types of chocolate (plus a white chocolate drizzle on top), which melt into the cereal mixture while it’s hot. A combination of cinnamon, ancho chile powder, and cayenne pepper bring a nice warm and spicy kick, and an extra cup of marshmallows at the end gives you gooey pockets and streaks of marshmallow, like a warm cup of cocoa.

You can really customize these any way you want. You can cut them into different sized hearts, or other shapes, or just cut them into regular squares. The one downside to cutting out shapes is that you have a bunch of scraps that don’t get utilized. Actually, let me rephrase that – the one downside for everyone else is that there are scraps left over for me, and therefore less for them. So I guess it’s not really a downside for you either. 😉

Similarly, you can make these any time and use non-valentine sprinkles to dress them up for other occasions. I think they would be quite nice for the fall or winter holidays, as well as Cinco de Mayo. Colors are totally up to you!

As with most rice crispy treats, these whip up pretty quickly, so it’s a nice treat to surprise your loved ones with and isn’t a giant dessert orchestration. And yet it’s a giant step up from a box of chocolates or candy hearts. Alternatively, feel free to make an entire batch of these just for yourself and eat them all in one sitting. YOU’RE WORTH IT.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Rice Crispy Hearts

Yields 12-24 pieces

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks/227g) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 20 ounces + 1 cup (1½ ounces/45g) mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 cups (325g) Cocoa Krispies puffed rice cereal
  • ½ cup (85g) bittersweet chocolate (about 60%), wafers or chopped
  • ½ cup (85g) milk chocolate, wafers or chopped
  • ⅓ cup (60g) chopped white chocolate (not white chips)
  • A few drops canola oil, if needed
  • Holiday sprinkles, optional

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.

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 salt, cinnamon, ancho chile powder, and cayenne pepper. 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, making sure it is fully and evenly coated in the marshmallow mixture. Add the bittersweet and milk chocolates, stirring until the chocolate pieces are mostly melted and blended in. Then stir in 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 and streaks 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 white chocolate topping & decorate:

While the treats are cooling, place the chopped white chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water filled about ⅓ of the way; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Make sure the heat is not too high, which will scorch the delicate white chocolate. Once it starts to melt, stir it occasionally with a rubber spatula and remove the bowl from the heat immediately as soon as it’s all melted. (Do not let any steam from the pot come in contact with the melted white chocolate.)

If the white chocolate is too thick to pour in a thin stream, stir in a few drops of canola oil for a runnier consistency.

You can cut the heart shapes either before or after decorating; I prefer before because I find it easier to drizzle fine lines of chocolate over small pieces versus the large rice crispy slab. Use a small whisk to drizzle ribbons of white chocolate in any pattern you like over the treats. Sprinkle your chosen Valentine’s sprinkles evenly on top.

The rice crispy hearts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2022. 

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