I did a lot of baking as a kid. My mother's Kitchen Aid basically acted like a babysitter for when I got home from school. My mom would often work until after I got out of school, so when I came home (and to procrastinate starting my home right away), I would bake. And bake. And bake. Sometimes I would get my brother involved and have him videotape me baking ...... what I wouldn't do to have copies of those video tapes now.
My mom also had a binder of beat-up, stained, well-loved recipes for things like dump cake, and five layer bars. Did you have dump cake as a kid??? OMG. So good. I also baked a lot of boxed muffins with huge sugar chunks on top, and then I would only eat the tops because they were extra sweet. One of my favorite treats to make and munch on were rice crispy treats. Who, as a kid, doesn't love rice crispy treats? The sweet, gooey, crunchy squares were so addicting, I could eat so many. Now as a adult, processed marshmallows scare me, and rice crispy treat would definitely be wayyyy too sweet for my tastes. Gosh, that just made me sound really old, uptight, and boring, so let me redeem myself by saying I made a rice crispy-style treat, with just a couple of healthy(er) ingredients and sans scary processed marshmallows.
You may have noticed on instagram that I have had a bit of a puffed rice obsession recently. I am not even sure what inspired me to make my own puffed rice at home, except for the fact that I love rice and I love things that are crispy. While the process of making puffed rice takes a couple of hours, there is hardly any "active" work, and you can make it in big batches. The best thing about puffed rice is that there are SOO many uses for it, aside from these yummy crispy rice clusters. You can add it to your soup or salad for some texture and crunch. You can eat it as you would rice crispies, for breakfast with sliced bananas and milk. Or, you can get all nostalgic with me and make these crispy rice clusters, a healthier but just as yummy, sweet treat to much on.
sweet crispy rice clusters + how to make homemade puffed rice!
3 cups of crispy rice / a dozen+ crispy rice clusters
for the crispy rice:
1 cup of short grain brown rice
1 3/4 cups of water
a pinch or two of sea salt
a couple of cups of sunflower (or another) high-heat oil
for the clusters:
2 cups of homemade crispy rice (or puffed rice cereal)
1/3 cup of shredded coconut
1/4 cup of cacao nibs (optional)
1/2 cup of cashew butter (or almond or peanut butter)
1/3 cup of brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
To make the crispy rice:
- Place the rice water and salt into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 250º.
- Spread the rice out onto a small baking sheet. Bake (dehydrate) in the oven for 2 hours. The rice should be dry and hard when it's done. Place the rice into the fridge to cool off for at least an hour.
- The last step is the most important, to puff the rice. In a medium saucepan, add enough oil so that it comes up to about 1/2" on the side, and heat the oil over medium heat until it's shimmering. Test to make sure it's ready by adding a single piece of rice to the oil. If it sizzles all around the rice kernel, then it's ready. Add about half of the rice to the pot and cook for about 30 seconds, just until the rice puffs up. This happens very quickly, and you do not want to overcook it, otherwise the rice will be too crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rice and place it onto a paper-towel lined plate. Do this until all of the rice is puffed.
To make the clusters:
- Place 2 cups of crispy rice (or puff rice cereal) into a large mixing bowl, along with the shredded coconut and cacao nibs (if using).
- Place the cashew butter, brown rice syrup, salt, and vanilla into a medium saucepan. Heat over low until until the syrup and cashew butter are melted and you can stir everything to combine. Once the mixture is smooth and mixed, pour directly into the bowl with the puffed rice. Stir until everything is evenly combined.
- Grab about a tablespoon size of the mixture and roll it between your palms to form a cluster. Do this until all of the clusters are formed. Enjoy! They will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for a week+.