Today I get to talk about something very close to my heart. Lean in close, dear reader.
I’m not kidding.
For at least 18 years of my life, cereal reigned supreme as my favorite food. Let’s take a journey through my love affair with this bowl of joy, shall we?
I distinctly remember the excitement of waking up early (probably around 5am until my parents mandated that I stay in bed until 6) on weekends to watch cartoons and spooning mouthful after mouthful of sugary cereal in my face.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch took the lead early on as my favorite. I once ate 4 large bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in one sitting. Seriously, just ask my mom. She watched me in disbelief the whole time. No one could accuse me of not consuming enough milk (always skim). However, occasionally we could find French Toast Crunch which actually tasted less superior, but those little toast pieces stole my heart. Another cameo was sometimes made by Rice Krispies Treats cereal—almost never Rice Krispies (unless they were piled high with tablespoons of sugar)—which gave my brother and I legitimate sugar rushes. That’s probably why it was a rare morning indulgence.
These other cereals made appearances in order of frequency: Fruity Pebbles (my second favorite cereal), Cap’n Crunch (usually with crunch berries, but never the All Berries one), Reese’s Puffs, Cookie Crisp, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms (but you better get there before my brother, otherwise all of the marshmallows seem to disappear), Frosted Flakes, Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Life, Kix with Red Berries, and Oreo O’s (which always seemed like a great idea for a cereal, but they left a weird oily film in your mouth…).
I’m sure you’re all wondering why I didn’t get Type 2 Diabetes, but these cereals nourished my childhood with pure bliss.
Let’s transition to college, shall we? By then I had begun to add a few healthier options into my cereal diet including granola and Special K with Red Berries which often supplemented my meals in the dorms. My TV stand held 8 boxes of cereal at its most extreme, though generally I only had 3 or 4 in there. Two sugar-bomb epiphanies stand out from that Freshman year: Cinnabon introduced a cereal, and Fruity/Cocoa Pebbles came out with a line extension of Cupcake Pebbles. Mind blown.
Anyway, as you can tell, cereal was a big part of my life for a long time. Throughout college I began to distance myself from cereal. I started eating more filling, and dare I say adult, foods. But cereal will always hold dear memories for me. I still get a little excited when I hear cereal hitting the bowl. So in honor of that life-long obsession, I’ve made some cozy homemade cereal! Nothing is better-suited for a snowy weekend day. I’ve blended clumps of chocolate-covered rice Krispies with malted milk pecans and topped the bowl off with mini marshmallows. A truly decadent treat that you might want to eat as a dessert…unless you’re like me and have no qualms about eating so much sugar for breakfast
And speaking of Rice Krispies and love of cereal, I figured that I’d throw it back to the production science I touched on when I made Trashed Up Rice Krispies Treats.
Rice Krispies (and other rice puffed cereals) are oven puffed cereals. Basically, that means that rice is pressure cooked with water, sugar, some flavoring, and salt. The cooked rice grains are gently dried to a slightly lower moisture content.
At that point, rice grains are moved from the drier through an intermediary step. The grains are flattened slightly with large rollers, a process called bumping, which serves to aid in puffing later. After cooking, drying, and bumping, the rice grains are dried further to a moisture content of around 10%. This moisture content is determined to be the ideal for the puffing process.
From there, the rice is passed through an extremely hot rotating oven (around 550-650⁰) for about 90 seconds. This is where the puffing occurs. The small amount of water left in the rice evaporates extremely quickly at such high temperatures. The cracks created earlier from bumping allows easier exit points for the steam. The rapid escape of the steam causes the already cooked rice starch to puff up.
That Snap! Crackle! Pop! sound comes from the delicate rice structure collapsing when they come into contact with milk.
Are you a cereal lover? Or not so much? I always find it fascinating that cereal seems to create a dichotomy—you seem to either love it or hate it. I’d love to hear which side you’re on and what your favorite is!
Adapted from Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipes
10 cups (250 grams) puffed rice cereal
½ cup (130 grams) corn syrup
⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons (94 grams) sugar
1 cup (180 grams) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup (70 grams) milk chocolate, finely chopped (if you want a sweeter cereal, feel free to use all milk chocolate)
1 ½ cups (220 grams) pecans, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon (12 grams) corn syrup
2 tablespoons (26 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (26 grams) malted milk powder
- Make the chocolate cereal. Place one oven rack in the upper third of the oven and another in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 365⁰F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Combine the puffed rice cereal and the corn syrup in a large bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the cereal is evenly coated. Sprinkle the top with the sugar and stir to combine. Divide the cereal mixture between the two sheet pans and spread into an even layer on both.
- Bake the cereal in the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Rotate the pans and switch the racks that each is on. Bake for another 4 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let sit on the parchment paper until it reaches room temperature.
- When the cereal is cooled, break the cereal into smaller, nickel-sized pieces and put in a large bowl.
- Prepare the chocolate. Melt the semisweet chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 15-20 seconds until smooth. Stir in the milk chocolate until smooth. This should temper the chocolate, but check by dipping a small offset spatula or the tip of a butter knife into the chocolate and let it solidify. It should be slightly glossy with no streaks. If it’s not tempered, keep stirring and check again after a few minutes.
- Pour the chocolate over the cereal pieces and stir to coat. Divide between the two sheet pans and spread to make a single layer on each. Place the two sheet pans in the fridge to let solidify, about an hour.
- Make the caramelized pecans. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375⁰F. Line a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
- Combine the pecans and the corn syrup in a medium bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula to evenly coat the pecans. Sprinkle the sugar and malted milk powder over the top and stir to combine.
- Spread the pecans on the parchment paper in a single layer. Bake on the center rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 4 minutes, until browned.
- Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Break into pieces.
- Combine the cereal and nuts together and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
- For serving: put the cereal mix in a bowl along with a handful of marshmallows. Add cold milk to your desired amount and enjoy!