Things I love: Almond butter studded with chewy bits of crystallized ginger. Very good, intensely dark chocolate, the sort that melts into velvety bitterness on your tongue. Vermont maple syrup, the real deal that glows amber in the bottle and tastes like you're standing outside in the crisp air, wearing Carhartts, breathing deeply in a stand of fir trees. Crisp rice cereal. The crunch of it, the way I like to add it to a bowl, pour cold skim milk over it, then float a layer of heavy cream on top. Oh, you think that defeats the point of skim milk? I think you're missing the point. (Pure pleasure, that's the point.)
So it comes as no surprise that all these things combined make a killer dessert.
Before you skim the title and ingredients and write this recipe off, let me explain. I don't typically gravitate towards foods that tout health. I don't love labels that tell you what something isn't, instead of what it is (refined sugar-free ice cream, butterless cookies, non-dairy dairy!). But these hippie crispie treats are SOMETHING ELSE. They're unsung heroes, the secret star of your pantry. If this were a variety show, they're the final act, the unassuming contestant who shows up transformed in a spangled flapper dress to belt out Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" in perfect pitch.
Rice Krispie treats are an excellent dessert choice because they don't weigh you down. Seriously, I can tell you from firsthand experience that you can house a pan of these babies and go on your merry way, none the worse off for it. And this recipe takes Rice Krispie treats a step further, ditching the marshmallow and butter in favor of almond butter, maple syrup, and dark chocolate to bind them together.
This is a boon to you for several reasons. One, it makes the bars way more delicious: nutty and sweet and rich and nuanced. Two, you don't have to buy a giant bag of marshmallows only to leave half in your freezer, staring at you accusingly every time you sneak in for a handful of chocolate chips (I can just hear them "hello, use us, eat us, we are tiny puffs of sugar and we are useless for anything other than s'mores and hot chocolate"). And three, did I mention that this is one of the best desserts I've made in years?
Okay enough talk. You don't even need to turn on the oven to make these so frankly, I don't know why you're still sitting here reading this.
A quick note though! I often make these squares without the topping. It's a lovely touch -- a thin, barely-there glaze of dark chocolate strewn with toasted almonds and flaky sea salt -- but it takes them over to the edge and sometimes I just like them plain. Try it both ways and see what you prefer.
Hippie Crispie Treats
Adapted from Food52.com
**I've written about these before, but I've been tweaking the recipe just slightly to incorporate some ginger and a milkier chocolate. Both are excellent recipes!!**
For the bars
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup sweet brown rice syrup
1/2 cup almond butter (freshly ground is best)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal (Barbara's brown rice is best)
For the topping
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 teaspoon flaky salt (Maldon is best)
Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper. Make sure to cover the sides as well.
In a large saucepan, bring the maple syrup and brown rice syrup to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, remove it from the heat and stir in the almond butter, chocolate, coconut oil, and sea salt. Fold the cereal and ginger into the hot mixture and pour it into your square pan. Pack it down with your fingers (if you wet your fingers, it will be easier and less messy!).
In the same saucepan (no need to waste another), melt the coconut oil and chocolate for the topping together. Use very low heat -- you don't want to burn the chocolate. Once it has melted, pour it over the bars in an even layer. Sprinkle the toasted nuts, ginger, and flaky salt over the top.
Let the bars set (about 2 hours at room temperature or 1 hour in the refrigerator or 20 minutes in the freezer if you are wildly impatient like I am).
Lift them out of the pan and cut them into 16 equal squares.