So this is Christmas and Nutella Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats (3 ways!)

 So this is Christmas.

Last December while I was at work, I saw that my aunt had written a blog post on my cousin’s blog and shared it on her Facebook page. I had never seen anything like this from her before so I curiously opened the post. It was about her mother and sister (my grandmother and aunt) and her thoughts on the Christmas holiday as it approached for the first time without her mother. (Seriously, read it if you have a chance). I remember finishing the post, a knot wrenching at the base of my throat and tears welling up in my eyes, and barely making it to a bathroom stall before deep sobs escaped me. And thus I became that girl that cries in the work bathrooms. Good times.

So this is Christmas.

People often see the loss of childhood innocence as it pertains to Christmas as the time where one no longer believes in Santa. But I disagree. I think that Christmas will always have a magical quality to it but there is a point in which the celebration starts to carry a certain heaviness.

I will always see Christmas as a time to cherish for its ability to bring friends and families together and create lifelong memories. But a few years ago I began to look upon this holiday with an additional mindset of “maybe this is the last time this loved one will be around for Christmas,” or “this is the first Christmas without that person here.” And so you put forth this energy to try to fill a gaping hole or avoid a topic with this odd over-cheeriness that’s maybe meant to mask it all. There’s almost a pressure to make each moment jolly as a means to an end so as if to say “Yes, it’s Christmas so everybody better be fucking happy” through gritted teeth rather than simply enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company. And it turns this once enchanted holiday, a time that, as a child, felt like a jewel so rare and so flawless that it could only be gazed upon once a year, into a still cheerful holiday, but one tinged with bitter solemnness. You start to understand what Joni Mitchell was feeling as she sang River. You start to sympathize with Scrooge and relate with his resentment.  Maybe this is what becoming an adult is like.

So this is Christmas.

But before you conjure images of me as a soulless woman spouting “Bah! Humbug!” to any and all passerby, you should stop. Because the truth is, I still love Christmas. I turned my apartment into a glistening gold wonderland weeks ago. I can't wait until I'm sitting around the kitchen table with my family eating bottomless appetizers and telling stories of the past. I listen to Christmas music every time I cook and even sent out Christmas cards for the first time in my life, another activity that I truly consider an initiation into “adulting.” And especially this year, a year that feels so shitty for many reasons and for many people, I think a good dose of holiday spirit is exactly what we all need. So worries and sadness aside, let’s talk about Nutella rice crispy treats.

I made these for a Christmas party I had at my apartment last week. They were flanked by the only chocolate chip cookies I ever make, my famous sausage dip, a massive cheese board, and a verrryyy lethal rum punch. You may think that a rice crispy treat can’t really get too inventive, but you would be wrong there. First, these begin with a base of browned butter, which only increases the nuttiness that the entire jar of Nutella contributes. Second, they have a nice amount of salt to them, which makes a nice contrast to the sweetness off all that marshmallow. And third, they get a variety of coatings one of which is a mixture of pulverized freeze-dried strawberries and edible glitter. It creates these sparkly deep red cubes of gooey goodness counterbalanced by the tart flavor of the strawberries. It’s a true Christmas gem. 

When I woke up the next day after 3 hours of sleep with the wickedest of hangovers, I crossed the sticky beer-coated path of a floor to the table where we had the food. What remained were 4 solitary M&Ms and 2 cubes of these Nutella rice crispy treats. I found my breakfast.

So this is Christmas.

Nutella Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats (3 ways!)

Makes 24-36
Recipe by Bon Appetit

¾ cup (1.5 sticks) of butter
2 10.5 oz bags mini marshmallows
1 tsp. salt
1 small jar Nutella
12 cups crispy rice cereal
½ cup powdered sugar
1 1.2 oz bag freeze-dried strawberries
1 tsp. edible red luster dust

To make the rice crispy treats butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang, and then butter the parchment as well.

Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. As it begins to foam, occasionally swirl the butter in the pan. As the foam subsides, keep watch for the butter to turn a nice amber color and smell toasty.  This means it’s perfectly browned. Add the marshmallows and salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until all of the marshmallows are melted. Add the Nutella and continue cooking and stirring for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add half of the cereal. Stir until well-coated and add the rest. Continue folding the cereal into the marshmallows until the mixture is evenly coated and no spots of dry cereal remain.

Transfer to the mixture to the prepared dish and use a wooden spoon to spread and flatten as much as possible. As it begins to cool you can cover it with another sheet of parchment paper and use your hands to press the mixture into the pan as evenly as possible. Cover loosely and set aside to cool for a few hours.  

To finish the treats remove them from the pan by lifting up on the parchment underneath and peeling it away. Transfer to a cutting board and use a large serrated knife to trim a little bit off each side to square off the edges. Then, cut into perfect cubes, as big or as little as you’d like. Set aside one-third of the treats to stay plain. For another third, pour the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh sieve and dust the treats with it, making sure to coat all sides. For the final third, blitz the strawberries in a food processor and mix with the luster dust. Transfer this to the sieve and coat the treats on all sides with this mixture. Arrange all treats on a platter.