I am just as crazy about Rice Krispie treats made from the back-of-the-cereal-box recipe as I was when I was 10. They're buttery, chewy, sweet, and crispy—what's not to love? But that doesn't mean we can't take that idea and give it a major upgrade. That mission led me on a snack-foods shopping spree and a liquor store splurge that probably made the cashier wonder if I needed an intervention. After plenty of taste-testing, I'm ready to unveil my creation, a homemade marshmallow–bound confection made from salty pretzels, potato chips, and milk chocolate—and no Rice Krispies. The coup de grâce: I infuse the marshmallow with rich, bitter stout beer.
As anyone who's ever had an ice cream float made with beer knows, those bitter beer flavors can pair really well with sweet ones. I knew I wanted to work that bitter element into these bars, so the main question was which beer to use. After plenty of testing, I found that not just any one would do. Fruity beers just tasted wrong. Brown ales were too nutty. Stouts seemed like a better fit, but my initial attempts, using bourbon-barrel stouts and coffee stouts, wound up with a surprisingly unpleasant aftertaste. It wasn't until I used a double chocolate stout that I found the perfect balance, with a rich malt and chocolate base that complemented the marshmallow without leaving behind any unwanted flavors.
To get the stout in there, I replaced the water in the typical marshmallow recipe with cold, flat stout. Letting the beer go flat is important, since beer straight from the bottle results in a mess of ultra-hot sugar foam that can burn you as it bubbles over! Using flat beer, you can easily—and safely—reach the soft ball stage of candy making after heating the stout with sugar, light corn syrup, and salt.
I also mixed additional stout with plenty of gelatin and combined it with the hot syrup to help stabilize the candy mixture. After 10 minutes of beating, I had a texture that resembled the super-sticky melted marshmallow that I was used to working with when making Rice Krispie treats in the past, but slightly thicker. A bit of butter and vanilla extract made it just smooth enough to fold in plenty of pretzels and potato chips.
I prefer a lot of marshmallow in my version, so I mixed in just enough chips and pretzels to maintain some big marshmallow-filled pockets once the bars cooled. However, if you like yours to be dense, don't be afraid to add extra fillings until you can't fold anymore.
To get the marshmallow bars into their signature shape, I pressed the mixture into a parchment paper–lined baking pan and let them cool before cutting them. But even after cutting, they weren't quite finished. I quickly microwaved milk chocolate with some of the leftover stout and drizzled the mixture on top for a little extra sweetness.
Are these good enough to replace the original Rice Krispie treats? It defies all the nostalgia I have for my childhood...but yeah.