Shooting a cooking show series is a ton of work. For three straight weeks each May, the entire test kitchen at America's Test Kitchen shuts down, lights and cameras go up, and the kitchen staff focuses on the show. There are boat loads of food to be ordered, scripts to write, and the cooking of perfectly executed dishes timed right down to the minute (you do not want to hold the director up).
It's stressful indeed, but the crew makes sure they have a good time. One of the ways they let off steam is with
a cold beer the annual "Rice Krispie Treat Cook Off". It inevitably becomes a very serious event for the iron chefs in the test kitchen (did someone say pride?), and challengers will trash talk and try to psych each other out. It's all in good fun though (I think), and I could think of worse ways to spend a day at work. On the last day of filming, there's Rice Krispies all over the floor as the kitchen is clogged with entrants concocting their recipe.
When the time is up, a giant table is overflowing with the 'masterpieces' to be judged before a champion is crowned. No flavor is out of bounds here, and I've tasted it all—from 'safe' submissions like lemon or caramel, to the likes of Rice Krispie 'sushi', pumpkin roll Rice Krispie treats, and even one with fish sauce (yup).
No, I never won. I never even entered the competition (I couldn't handle the intense pressure), but I always made sure I was at the tasting to scarf down a plateful of samples. How could anyone resist a Rice Krispie treat buffet? Talk about a sugar rush. Not surprisingly, my favorites were always the chocolate entries. While it's easy to take the chocolate idea and run with it (chocolate-banana, chocolate-bacon), I like it best when it's simply chocolate.
Traditional Krispie treats are cloyingly sweet, so when it came to adding chocolate to mine, I knew right off the bat that I had to go with unsweetened chocolate for the base. But not too much block chocolate. While I wouldn't accept anything less than deep deep chocolate flavor, I didn't want the Krispie treats to firm up too much once the melted chocolate had cooled and set up. So for extra chocolate flavor, I stir a few tablespoons of cocoa powder into the melted marshmallow mixture. Finally, to make them really chocolaty, chopped bittersweet chocolate is folded in at the very end. I couldn't resist one last touch: a sprinkle of sea salt over the top to kick your flavor buds into high gear and turn these morsels into crispy, chocolaty crack.
While I still adore the classic version of Rice Krispie treats, these hit the spot for that deep dark chocolate craving...or if you ever find yourself in a battle of Rice Krispies.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.