cinnamon cardamom buns

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this past summer, I spent a few days in copenhagen. right down the street from our airbnb was one of copenhagen’s famous bakeries, meyers bageri. each morning, there would be a queue out the door and if we came after 10am, they’d be sold out of just about everything! (so much for sleeping in on vacation.) I loved their fluffy, buttery kanelsnurrer, especially the blueberry version.

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spiral spire at vor frelsers kirke in christianhavn.

since then, I’ve tried a few times now to recreate those pastries. most recipes I’ve found have a denser bread base that is then twisted into a beautiful, chewy cinnamon cardamom cookie-bread hybrid. (I think it might be based on the swedish version of the pastry.) they were good, but not quite what I was looking for.

while “leafing through” the ebook version of steffi knowles-dellner’s lagom, I saw that she included both a kanelsnurre and a blueberry kanelsnurre recipe (called kanel & kardamummabullar in her book) and was instantly reminded of meyers bageri. I’m happy to report that her recipe is definitely the closest I’ve found to what I experienced in copenhagen. the recipe itself was relatively painless, requiring two rise times but very little in the way of complex pastry skills, and the result is so, so good. I loved them so much, I ate three straight out of the oven!

the other pastry I loved in copenhagen was the tebirke, but my last attempt was so time-consuming and traumatic, I’m not sure I’ll tackle it for the next year. in the meanwhile, I guess I’ll just have content myself with these excellent kanelsnurrer.

makes 24 buns

dough
150g (2/3 cup) butter
500ml (generous 2 cups) milk
50g fresh yeast (or 1 tbsp + 2 tsp active dry yeast)
125g (scant 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
635g (5 cups) bread flour (all-purpose will do in a pinch)
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
filling
55g (4 tbsp) butter, softened
37.5g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
2 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp cinnamon
sugar glaze
75g (6 tbsp)granulated sugar
100ml (7 tbsp) water

steffi knowles-dellner. lagom: the swedish art of eating harmoniously. london: quadrille publishing limited, 2017.

dough|1 in a small saucepan, melt the butter. pour in the milk and heat until just warm to touch. slowly add and stir in the yeast until dissolved.
2 in a large bowl, combine the sugar, cardamom, 1/2 tsp salt, and flour. add the butter-milk mixture and mix until you have a wet dough.
3 tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together. add a bit more flour if the flour is too sticky to knead.
4 return to a clean bowl and sprinkle with flour. cover with a tea towel (or plastic wrap) and let rise in in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
5 gently press the dough down a bit, then tip onto a lightly floured surface. knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky to knead. when the dough releases from the surface easily, it is ready. cut the dough in half (another way to check if the dough is ready: you should see evenly distributed air bubbles). roll each half out to form a 12×16-in rectangle with the longest side facing you.
filling & assembly|1 in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom.
2 spread the softened butter over each rectangle, then sprinkle with the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
3 preheat the oven to 450ºF and line several baking sheets with parchment. starting from the left, roll each rectangle tightly and slice into even pieces, about 1 inch thick. pinch or tuck in the ends and place, generously spaced, on the prepared sheets. cover with tea towels or plastic wrap and proof for about 40 minutes, until doubled in size.
4 brush with beaten egg and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden. allow to cool on a wire rack.
glaze|1 while the buns bake, combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. without stirring, bring to a simmer. continue to simmer for a few more minutes, then allow to cool slightly before brushing them over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

 

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zucchini bread

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baking has always been my stress reliever, and it’s much needed this week. I’ve had two zucchinis languishing in my fridge for a while, and figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and bake them into something. I have to say, zucchini bread does not fill me with the same joy that banana bread does (which may be why it’s taken me a while to get around to baking this loaf), but this recipe by tartine bakery, made with apricot preserves, is delightful, a lighter loaf that pairs wonderfully with black tea.

I will also say I did find that I had used a lot of kitchen gear at the end of this recipe – three bowls, one box grater, wooden spoon, whisk, and liquid measuring cup, and all of my cup, tablespoon and teaspoon measurements. normally, doing dishes is also a relaxing activity, and late last night, I suppose it was…relaxing…mostly tiring. anyways, I did sleep better than I have in a while last night!


makes one 9•5-in loaf

270g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
115g (1/2 cup) apricot preserves (or orange marmalade)
285g (2 1/2 cup) grated zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
115g (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sugar for dusting

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly grease a 9x5in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. set aside.
3 in another mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. add the marmalade, grated zucchini, and salt, and beat on low until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. sprinkle evenly with sugar.
6 bake for 60-70 minutes, until golden brown on top and center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the zucchini bread can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*the batter must be baked immediately after mixing. otherwise, the sugar with macerate with the zucchini, pull out all the moisture, and make the batter very watery.

banana bread

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at home, taped to the inside of the spice cupboard are old, yellowed magazine pages and memo notes holding the baked recipes of my childhood. I have often read through the one for popovers and one for banana bread. the banana bread recipe is particularly dear to my family – it comes from my mother’s old college friend, aunt phuong.

when I was younger, we used to visit aunt phuong often for dinner parties and holiday get-togethers. I always looked forward to the loaves of banana bread, sometimes studded with chocolate chips, sometimes laced with shredded carrots, always perfectly moist and suffused with strong banana flavor. for some reason, we could never make it as well as my aunt did, so it remained a treat enjoyed only at her house, and over time, it faded into a cherished childhood memory.

years later, while in college, I saw my aunt again and had a slice of her banana bread. it was delicious, a simple, kitchen sink kind of banana bread stuffed with walnuts and chocolate chips, shredded carrots and coconut flakes. as I ate, I felt a pang of nostalgia, but was reminded again how much my tastes had changed since I was a child.

I once thought that nothing would ever be too sweet for me. but these days, I find myself gravitating towards lighter recipes, searching for ones where a splash of salt or a swirl of sour cream cuts through the sweetness. my aunt’s banana bread was still perfect – still so ridiculously easy to make, still a huge crowdpleaser over a decade later, but I could no longer devour half a loaf as I did when I was young.

I never thought I’d find a banana bread to rival the one my aunt made. but one day, while in my favorite boston bakery, flour, I ended up sampling a little square of banana bread. it had just a bit of a tang, which I later found out comes from crème fraîche, the perfect reconciliation between my grown-up tastes and childhood memories. with an hour-long baking time, it’s a bit of a long project, but absolutely worth it in the end, perfect for late night baking and lazy sunday brunches.

makes one 9•5-in  loaf

210 g (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
230 g sugar (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) sugar
2 eggs
100 g (1/2 cup) canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/3 cups mashed or ~340 g)
2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
75 g (3/4 cup) walnut halves, chopped

joanne chang.
flour: spectacular recipes from boston’s flour bakery + cafe.
san francisco: chronicle books, 2010.

1 position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. butter a 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. set aside.
3 using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. add the bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
6 bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until golden brown on top and the center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days, and can be stored frozen for up to 2 weeks.

 

tahini chocolate chip cookies

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I recently met a lovely girl from sydney, australia, named holly. we ran into each other while skiing and I spent the next three days winded, quads burning, trying (and failing) to keep up with her. the best part of those hours was our time on the lift because 1. I got to rest(!); 2. holly, like all australians I’ve ever met, was extremely well-traveled and had a whole arsenal of interesting stories; and 3. I just liked listening to her aussie drawl.

I’ve always been intrigued by accents – it’s so strange how the minute someone begins talking, you know whether or not they have an accent, and if you’re especially worldly, you know exactly where their accent is from. and yet, when you talk, your cadences, your pronunciation, your slang all sound completely normal.

people have told me I sound like an american tv show. like I over-pronounce all my vowels and consonants. they tell me that american english sounds like people trying too hard to speak english. to me, new zealand english is clipped, fast, full of dropped sounds. some london accents sound posh and elegant, like how I wish I spoke english, others sound like the “t” and the “r” sounds just don’t exist. actually, in a lot of accents, it seems like the “r” sound disappears. it almost makes me feel like us americans are doing english wrong.

while riding on the lift, holly and I shared a chocolate chip cliff bar with our fellow lift mate, a marathoner from london. while we chatted, I began to think that food and accents actually are quite similar. there are so many variations on the same dish – take chocolate chip cookies, for example. christina tosi of momofuku milk bar throws pretzels and potato chips into hers; jacques torres lets his sit for at least 24 hours before baking. they’re all recognizable as a chocolate chip cookie, yet all clearly distinct.

then, by serendipity, one of my favorite dessert bloggers posted a lovely new spin on a chocolate chip cookie that I just had to try. I’ve had a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for a while now, but this recipe really might be my new favorite. in fact, it is so good, tahini may replace peanut butter as my new favorite condiment. and I ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every school day in high school. what can I say, I eat like an american tv show too.

choc tahini cookie 1

makes 12 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup tahini
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (>60% cocoa; I use ghirardelli 70% cocoa chips)
flaky salt

molly yeh. salted tahini chocolate chip cookies. my name is yeh. 6 jan 2016. accessed 16 jan 2015.

1 in a bowl, cream the butter*, tahini, and sugar until light and fluffy, ~5 minutes. add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, then continue mixing for another 5 minutes. (I mixed by hand with a spatula, but you can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.)
2 sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. using a spatula, fold flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. fold in chocolate chips.
3 line a baking sheet with parchment paper. using a 2-oz ice cream scoop, scoop 12 dough balls (I just used the standard-size one I have at home and it worked fine.) wrap baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 12 hours (do not skip!). (if you don’t have enough room in your freezer, you can put them in the fridge until hard enough to move them to a plastic gallon bag without getting squished.) cookie dough can be frozen for up to 6 months.
4 preheat oven to 325ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or save the parchment paper from before and reuse). space the cookie balls at least 3-in apart to allow for spreading. bake for 13-16 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges. they will still look fairly unbaked in the middle. sprinkle with flaky salt immediately after they come out of the oven. allow to cool for ~20 minutes on the baking sheet (the center will set and finish baking).

*if your butter is not room temperature, melt a bit of it at a time and mix with the butter until it becomes a creamy consistency.

köfte

beef kofte

in the last heat of summer, I spent three all-too-short days exploring the streets of istanbul. at that time, the skirmishes on turkey’s eastern border were alarming but distant, easily forgotten amongst the breathtaking beauty of istanbul’s mosques and palaces, in the dripping heat of late summer days and nights filled with delicious food, loud, bustling crowds, and music.

on the first night, we found ourselves in a back alley behind the galata tower, surrounded by jovial dinner parties; we ordered simply by observing what looked delicious on other tables – some pita and delicious dips, a lemony grilled whole fish, and köfte, or turkish meatballs – and lost ourselves in a smokey haze of music played on a turkish stringed instrument and raki, a heady anise-flavored liqueur.

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a myriad of lights in the grand bazaar.

predictably, we woke up rather late the next morning and rushed to begin our day. mosques and museums passed in a history-crammed, sensory-overloaded blur. we jostled our way through the blue mosque, took some hard-won pictures, escaped the stifling crowd within. we paused for a lunch of testy kebab at the excellent aloran cafe. we sped through ayasofya, taking in the gold-tiled basilica and each increasingly-ornate section of the palace, and did some hard bargaining in the grand bazaar.

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folded hands at ayasofya.

between the bustle and the beauty of the city and our breakneck desire to “see it all”, istanbul had left us breathless. on our final day, we found ourselves in the spice market, which was really more like a home goods market where one could find cute cupcake liners and of course, spices for great prices. we wound our way upwards through twisting alleys and steep stairways to the süleymaniye mosque, a quiet, expansive space surprisingly devoid of visitors.

by the entryway, some students proffered educational brochures about suleiman and about islam; they were very open to questions and I learned more from them in a few minutes than I had from the hours-long audio tour at ayasofya. I knew from conversations with my muslim friends at home that the central tenet to islam was peace. however, I was interested and surprised to read a passage about how women should be viewed as equals, an argument for women’s rights way ahead of its time. it forced me to reflect, amidst the shuffling of bare feet on carpet, on the prejudices I had unconsciously adapted against islam even as I thought I had maintained an open mind.

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our view from the café after the rain.

while chatting with the students, we got a recommendation for a nice rooftop cafe overlooking the golden horn. we made our way up a set of dark stairs, past the second floor pool hall/student lounge to an open rooftop cafe. around us, groups of people young and old sat, some in intense conversation, others bent over textbooks or just hanging out. we ordered turkish coffee, sat back, and just stared out in awe of the sprawling size of istanbul, a city whose asian side we had not even visited and whose western reaches remained unknown to us after three days of constant exploration.

a few months later, conflicts that had seemed so distant in the summer arrived in istanbul, first in smaller attacks, then in a suicide bombing incident in the plaza between ayasofya and the blue mosque. the humidity and heat of istanbul and of summer had faded, yet the kind faces and intelligent words of the istanbul university students I met sprang instantly into my mind. I know that the vibrancy of istanbul will return – the city is large and resilient. I pray that their shattered peace returns as well.

beef kofte 2

makes 4 servings

1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup grated onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda
olive oil
2/3 cup tahini paste
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed (make sure there’s no green sprouts!)
1/4 tsp salt

yotam ottolenghi and sami tamimi. jerusalem: a cookbook. new york: ten speed press, 2012.
michael solomonov. zahav: a world of israeli cooking. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2015.

1 combine beef, onion, parsley, garlic, chives, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, sugar, salt, black pepper, and baking soda in a large bowl. mix with your hands until well-blended. (when I’m feeling particularly lazy, I toss the un-minced onion, un-chopped parsley, un-chopped chives, un-minced garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, sugar, salt, salt, and black pepper in the food processor and grind it into a rough paste before mixing with the beef and baking soda. the koftë texture is not as varied, but the flavor is just as awesome.)
2 form meatballs about 2-in in diameter. refrigerate for ~1 hour.
3 whisk together tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt in a medium bowl, adding water as needed until it reaches a pourable consistency.
4 lightly coat a large frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. space the koftës over the pan, making sure they don’t touch, and flatten slightly with spatula. cook for 3-4 minutes each side, until nicely browned. remove to a paper towel-lined plate, blot excess oil, and remove paper towel. spread tahini sauce around the plate and drizzle on köfte. garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

vanilla bean shortbread

vanilla bean shortbread 1

I still remember the first time I read “the love song of j. alfred prufrock.” since I was young, I have been fascinated by the idea of perfection, which morphed later in life into an interest in the literary elevation of the ordinary. in “love song”, eliot captures so many normally inconsequential occurrences, from rolled trousers to thinning hair to life measured in coffee spoons, and imbues them with portentous significance. these moments flow together and against each other into a poem that is at once a dismantling of eternal perfection and a “love song” to the passage of time measured in mundane moments, more specifically to the way that the passing of time slowly but steadily brings about disintegration.

and yet, rather than feel dread, eliot writes with a certain acceptance – after all, the universe inclines naturally towards entropy.

I love too, that in this poem time is not a sequential concept, but instead becomes something more like tangled and bunched string, how at moments we can seem to have enough time left in our lives, or too much; too little, or none at all.

in modern society, the tradition of a formal, mid-afternoon respite has been forgotten by the younger generation. to us, every moment is somehow measured and aging has become something to avoid, to rail against with all of one’s strength. we spin ever-forward, we pause to catch our breath, we commence again.

baking has long been my solace – when I find a free moment, I love to fill my space with the scents of sugar and butter. I roll out some shortbread or cookie dough, I boil a kettle of tea. I sit and I read, and time falls away.

the love song of j. alfred prufrock [excerpt] | by t.s. eliot
there will be time, there will be time
to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
there will be time to murder and create,
and time for all the works and days of hands
that lift and drop a question on your plate;
time for you and time for me,
and time yet for a hundred indecisions,
and for a hundred visions and revisions,
before the taking of the toast and tea.

 
makes one 8•8-in pan

255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 tsp kosher salt
beans scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod
255g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all purpose flour
75g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) cornstarch
70g + 55g (1/3 cup + 1/4 cup) granulated sugar, divided

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 325ºF. butter an 8×8-in glass baking pan.
2 place the butter in a mixing bowl. the butter should be soft – with the consistency of mayonnaise. (if it is not, melt small portions of butter and mix into the rest of the butter, repeating until all of the butter is soft.) add salt and vanilla beans to butter and mix well with a wooden spoon until it dissolves completely.
3 sift flour and cornstarch together into a bowl.
4 add 70g granulated sugar (I used vanilla bean-infused sugar to add more vanilla flavor) to the butter and mix until just combined. add flour and fold into the butter just until a smooth dough forms.
5 press dough evenly into prepared baking dish. (the dough should be no more than 2/3-in deep. bake until top and bottom are lightly browned, ~30 min. very gently shake shortbread loose from the sides of the pan (the shortbread is very delicate, so be careful), then place the pan on a wire rack to cool until warm to the touch.
6 sprinkle shortbread with the remaining 55g granulated sugar. tilt the pan so sugar evenly coats the surface, then tip out excess sugar. while the shortcake is still warm, cut shortbread with a thin, sharp knife into 32 rectangular fingers (1-in x 2-in), or whatever dimensions you prefer.
7 chill pan throughly before removing shortbread. using a small offset spatula, gently lift shortbread out of the pan. shortbread will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for ~2 weeks.

rice crispy treats

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a few years ago, I studied abroad in beijing. I had heard about the air quality and imagined that it would look something like los angeles, but the reality, a greyish-yellow fog that often obscured buildings across the street, was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. within days, I had developed a hacking cough that made it nearly impossible to speak in full sentences, a condition that ex-pats termed the “beijing cough”. 

a few weeks later, my cough had finally disappeared and my abroad program held a food preparation contest judged by our chinese professors. my friend and I, both huge dessert fiends, wanted to do something sweet, but in the hot and humid beijing climate, we did not want to use too much heat. we settled on rice krispie treats, trekking to a large carrefour to find marshmallows and rice krispie cereal, then melting it all together in a giant pot we borrowed from a chinese student. we actually ended up winning the contest because our chinese professors had never seen rice krispie treats before and thought they were really exotic and creative!

the contest took place on one of the few sunny days of that summer. the sky was a clear cloudless blue. the night before, a thunderstorm had hit with raindrops so huge, they hurt when they hit my bare skin. we half-joked that the government could control the weather, could create a rainstorm so ferocious that it washed away all the pollution. whether it was true or not, the day after  a thunderstorm in beijing was always clear and blue.

I cannot even remember what my friend and I won – it was probably some coupons to a local bubble tea store. but I do remember eating warm watermelon in the sweltering heat, happy to be able to see across the street for the first time in weeks and feeling like I could breathe again.

in the wake of dangerously high levels of air pollution that have made the city almost unlivable, beijing has issued its first red alert for the first time. and for the first time, the chinese government has put environmental concerns before its emphasis on rapid economic growth through industrialization and signed on to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

and here in the northeast, global warming has now made it possible to frolic on a beach in december, then head into the city for some outdoor ice skating (because apparently we still are willing to waste energy for “winter traditions”). so save some energy and add these (super-legitimate chinese teacher’s) award-winning, no-bake rice crispy treats into your holiday sweets repertoire. 

rice crispie

makes one 8•8in pan

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1 10-oz bag marshmallows
heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 cups rice krispie cereal

deb perelman. salted brown butter crispy treats. smitten kitchen. 2 nov 2011. accessed 22 dec 2015.

1 grease an 8×8-in square pan.
2 in a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. using a silicone spatula, stir frequently until it turns brown and begins to smell nutty. immediately turn off the heat and mix in the vanilla paste.
3 stir in the marshmallows until smooth. if they are not completely melted, stir over low heat until completely smooth. add salt and stir until well-combined.
4 remove pot from stove and stir in rice krispie cereal. using spatula, quickly press into prepared pan.
5 let cool completely (~1 hr), cut into squares, and serve.