Despite a long history of dessert ambivalence and fear of baking, I have somehow become the official family dessert maker. I usually make a cake, tart, pie or cookies for family dinners. Once, my little granddaughter told me I was 'probably' the best baker in the whole wide world. She has since retracted that statement but I still hold onto the memory of the honor — no matter how short-lived it may have been. With my reputation in mind, I was pondering what to make for dessert for the most recent family dinner at our house, when a recipe for nicer krispy squares from Dreena Burton's Plant Powered Families, popped up in my facebook feed. It had been ages since I'd made crispy treats and I thought they would be a welcome change from the usual baked item.
I first started making crispy cereal treats in the 80s for my kids to enjoy. Back then, I had to concoct my own recipe based on how I knew certain foods would behave and taste. I called my recipe Andrea's crispy treats, for lack of a more clever title, and I made the bars often. A few years later, after watching old video footage of a Chinese street vendor making puffed rice bars to sell to eager customers, I was inspired to enhance my recipe a bit. The grainy, black and white video, which I viewed in a Tai Chi class, wasn't in English, so I didn't know exactly what the vendor was adding to his mix, but as soon as I got home, I started experimenting to try to recreate what I had observed. Everyone who tasted the bars asked for the recipe, and I would happily write it out and hand it over. There were no blogs back then, but I eventually posted the result of that experiment 25+ years later, in 2010, on this blog, and called it puffed rice bars.
But those weren't the first cereal bars to appear on the blog. Back in 2007, I posted a recipe for chocolate crispy bars which was based on a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times the same year.
One of the fun things about having been vegan for 35 years, is watching recipes recycle over time. Sometimes I'll see a 'new' group of recipes that triggers a memory, and sends me back to my old vegan cookbooks to look for the originals. The number of vegan blogs, vegan cookbooks and vegan recipes available today is mind boggling, but it's always kind of cool to find the roots of a 'new' recipe in one of my old cookbooks or hand written files. Here are three crispy rice treat recipes to enjoy, whether you are just beginning your vegan journey, or have been following a kind diet for a long time.
Crispy Rice Treats with chocolate chips
(adapted from a recipe from Plant Powered Families)
- 1⁄4 cup cashew butter
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1⁄2 cup brown rice syrup
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar (or any unrefined sugar)
- 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups crispy brown rice cereal
- 1/2 cup of vegan bittersweet chocolate chips
- Oil a 9×9-in pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. It helps to have the paper go across the bottom and up two sides.
- combine cashew butter, almond butter, syrup, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan on low-medium heat. Stir continually as mixture heats until the nut butters are melted. Don't let it boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Working quickly, add cereal, mixing carefully with a wooden spoon to fully incorporate with the syrup mixture.
- Transfer half of mixture to pan and press in firmly and evenly, using a piece of parchment paper to avoid sticking.
- Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips over the surface and press firmly into the mix.
- Spread the remaining cereal mixture over the top and press down firmly and evenly.
- Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over the top and press into the bars.
- Refrigerate to cool completely, remove from pan, then cut into squares. Makes 16 squares. (You will probably need to run a knife along the edge of the pan to release the mixture from the pan before cutting.)
Andrea's (enhanced) crispy treats (a.k.a. puffed rice bars)
This is the recipe I put together 25 years ago after watching an old film of a Chinese street vendor making amazing-looking puffed cereal bars on his cart.
- 6 cups puffed brown rice cereal (I used Nature's Path organic rice puffs)
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted in a pan
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup peanuts, roasted and salted
- 1-1/4 cups barley malt syrup
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- In a 425˚ oven, toast the cereal in a large pan for 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. This isn't essential but it intensifies the flavor.
- Toast the sunflower seeds in a heavy pan on the stove until fragrant and golden.
- In a large bowl, combine the cereal, sunflower seeds, raisins and peanuts, and mix well, distributing the ingredients evenly. It helps to use your hands.
- Heat the syrup in a 1-1/2 quart pot over low-medium heat, stirring constantly. The syrup will start to bubble and foam. Adjust the heat if necessary so the syrup doesn't overflow. Cook and stir for 7 minutes, then add the peanut butter and stir until completely melted, about a minute more.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the hot syrup mixture over the cereal mixture, using a silicone spatula to quickly get it all out of the pot. Quickly and thoroughly combine with a wooden spoon until all the cereal mix is completely coated.
- Press into a lightly oiled and parchment paper-lined 10-1/2 x 15-1/2 inch pan, using the spoon, or pressing down with a small piece of parchment paper. The mixture will cool quickly. Using the parchment paper, press it down into the pan, making it even and compact.
- Cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then cut into pieces with a serrated knife or a pizza cutter.
- For best results store in the freezer or refrigerator. The bars soften at room temperature.
- I cut mine into 24 rectangles.
Chocolate crispy bars (adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian Times, Oct. 2007)
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 3/4 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 5-6 cups crispy brown rice cereal (like Erewhon or Barbara's)
- Oil and line a 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper.
- Place almond butter, syrups, and chips in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until melted and beginning to bubble. (about 5 minutes)
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla then stir in as much of the cereal as the syrup will absorb without becoming too dry. Work quickly and mix thoroughly.
- Press into the dish. You can use a piece of parchment paper to help press the bars down.
- Cool in the refrigerator 15 minutes then slice into pieces with a knife dipped in cold water. Refrigerate to harden.