If ever there were a case of personality over looks, these rice crispy treats would be it. Seemingly ordinary, the visuals completely belie the fact that the bars are awash in flavor—sweet, salty, toasty, malty, nutty—far removed from any packaged version or childhood memory.
A few spoons of nonfat dry milk powder provide a boost of milk solids, creating an amped-up version of brown butter with the dial turned waaay up. (Read all about this trick and why it’s a go-to method here.)
A modest amount of sweetened condensed milk—a tip I learned from friend and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan, who in turn learned of it from Libby Willis of the now closed MeMe’s Diner in NYC—keeps the bars soft and impossibly ooey-gooey-chewy. I know what you’re thinking: I can skip the condensed milk…it’ll be fine. It will, in fact, not be fine. The treats will be dry and hard and deeply ordinary. Sweetened condensed milk has a very particular quality scientists call viscoelasticity. Its high concentration of milk proteins and sugars make it thick and stretchy (re: ooey-gooey-chewy) and essential to the final texture.
When made in an 8″ square pan as the recipe indicates, the bars will be dramatic and tall as a small building. For more modest portions, consider shaping them in a 9″ square, or even a 13×9″ pan for ultrathin bars.