Do you have a favorite back-of-the-box recipe?
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The week after Thanksgiving, I was standing at the kitchen counter, fussing over a pile of cookbooks
On the calendar were a few holiday invitations, to which I'd committed to bringing a little something sweet. Notebook paper was nearby, just waiting for its chance to become a grocery list. On the phone? My daughter, who was reminding me of some of the desserts we've made over the years
“Remember the carrot cake Grandma baked every year for your birthday?” Of course! [Baker's Angel Flake Coconut]
“Or the chocolate chip cookies we made whenever I had a sleep-over? There were always small balls of dough stashed in the freezer” [Nestle Toll House]
“Oh, and my other Grandma's pumpkin pie. She saved the labels from cans because it was her most requested recipe” [Libby's]
And then she mentioned the one treat that I hadn't thought about in such a long time. No backyard BBQ, elementary school party, or post-Volleyball pizza dinner was complete without a plate of Scotcheroos
“Seriously, Mom. What's not to love?”
She also admitted to snacking on them before they were set, although, depending on her mood, she sometimes made it as far as “spreading them out and cutting them into squares with perfect right angles”
How cool is it that some of the best recipes aren't in cookbooks, magazines, or our mother's recipe boxes? Instead, they're right there, just waiting to be discovered, in the aisles of the corner grocery
Have you ever had a Scotcheroo?
Maybe the best way to describe them is a Rice Krispie treat but with a few really great twists. They're bars made by mixing puffed rice cereal with a warm peanut butter slurry, of sorts, and then topping it all with melted chocolate and butterscotch chips.
The result is more than the sum of its parts. They don't really taste peanut buttery, nor do they taste quite like butterscotch. Instead, a nice balance somewhere in the middle. Of course, a bit of chocolate never hurts .. just to make sure all of the bases are covered.
Not to mention, they're fantastically chewy, especially after they've been sitting on the counter for an hour or two (trust me on this).
The recipe made its first appearance on the side of Rice Krispie boxes in the mid-1960s, although history isn't quite as clear where or who invented them. I might be a bit biased, but the midwest certainly appears to be the epicenter of Scotcheroo enjoyment. After all, we have an Iowan to thank for the Rice Krispie Treat
Isn't it funny how times change?
Today, grass-fed, organic, and made-from-scratch recipes are held up as the symbols of culinary sophistication. But it wasn't always that way. I'll never forget an elderly neighbor telling me stories of cooking for her husband in the '50s and '60s.
“You have to realize that during those years, convenience and processed foods were all the rage. Using a recipe from the back of a box was a sign you were on the cutting edge. It would have been trendier to bring a plate of Rice Krispie Treats (or Scotcheroos) to a party than a freshly-made blueberry pie”
One has to wonder .. does the Scotcheroo's popularity stem from how easy they are to make? Melty peanut butter, sugar, honey, and maple syrup .. mixed with Rice Krispies to make a sticky concoction. The only trick? Everything needs to be done quickly, otherwise, you risk making a huge mess
What you'll end up with is a giant, peanut buttery blend of goodness, purity and a bit of Americana. Into a 9 x 13 pan it goes (buttered beforehand, of course), before being smoothed.
Topped with melted chocolate and butterscotch. Cool, cut and voilà(!) You're the hit of the party.
Most everyone will have all of the ingredients in their pantry, no matter if you live in a small town or a bigger city. Thinking back to my favorite church cookbooks, that's certainly a hallmark of midwest cooking. Not everyone has a Whole Foods (or Trader Joes) they're able to send their husbands to on short notice.
Using, instead, whatever they have on hand
The classic recipe that's been printed on the Rice Krispies box is already a pretty great dessert and ready in 15 minutes. In fact, it's so common that we often thumb past it in our mental Rolodex in favor of newer, flashier prospects. But here's another truth .. most people will walk past all sorts of fancy cookies and tarts to get to the stack of Scotcheroos before anyone else thinks of making off with them
This modernized riff is very much like the original. The same crispy crunch surrounded by sweet, soft goo .. and uses virtually the same technique. The only differences being far less sugar and the corn syrup is replaced with a honey and maple syrup combo.
A few notes:
Once they cool, they'll be soft enough to chew, but really hard to cut. Therefore, I've found it helpful to cut them in the pan while they're still warm.
Take the peanut butter mix off the stovetop as soon as it begins to bubble
To make them extra chocolatey .. add a few mini chocolate chips to the cereal mix when stirring. You'll end up with a fun swirl effect, which will add a little chocolate, but not so much as the frosting
When making the frosting, I use a 3:1 ratio of chocolate chips to butterscotch chips. Depending on your preferred thickness, somewhere between three and four cups seems to be a nice amount
Do you have a favorite back of the box recipe, or have you heard about a great one?
~ Adapted from Kellogg's Rice Krispies
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup natural sugar (such as turbinado)
- 6 cups Rice Krispies (or any other puffed rice cereal)
- Chocolate Topping
- ** see the recipe notes above
- 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- flaky sea salt, optional
- Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with butter
- In a large pot, combine the peanut butter, honey, maple syrup, and sugar
- Cook over low to medium heat, stirring, until the mixture begins to bubble and the sugar has dissolved ( ~ 5 minutes ) ** Note, be careful so the peanut butter doesn't burn
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cereal
- Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish
- Chocolate Topping
- Put the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a microwave-safe bowl
- Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth
- Spread the melted chocolate in an even layer over the peanut butter/cereal mixture
- Place in the fridge for a couple of hours, removing them 10-15 minutes before serving
- Sprinkle with flakey sea salt (optional, but delicious)
- Cut into bars and serve