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Brown Butter Marshmallow Popcorn Bars

  We used to host annual Oscars parties, back when we had consistent company/friends that cared about such things.  I remember one occasion when my little sister and I decided to get all "dressed up" for the red carpet.  This consisted of a horrendous amount of cherry-red (and scented) lip gloss, sparkly blue dresses a couple sizes too big, and plastic heels.  The ladies who came lent us their feather-y boas.  We were a couple of very happy and doted upon girls.

  Then one year, sister Carol invited a heck of a lot of people.  I don't remember much of it, besides the fact that you could hardly see or hear the TV, the living room was so stuffed.  While it was fun, I do believe that put an end to our little get-togethers.

  That kind of saddens me, I have pretty good memories from those parties.  Mom would print out ballots, and everyone would make their best guesses as to who would win.  There were friendly bets and prizes, and it was just nice.

  Although, being more of a little girl during those times, I didn't really give a hoot about who won the naked gold dude.  But any excuse for mom to make a spread of junk food was alright with me.  The Oscars have always been our Superbowl, in that sense.

  I remember when I first started contributing—it was around the time that I got my first cookbook, actually.  I was pretty proud of my candy sushi and deviled eggs (there's a contrast).

  For this week's Sundays with Joy recipe, we had a rice krispy treat on the menu.  I was getting all ready to whip them together when I realized something.  We had no rice krispies.  Ha.

  But then, I remembered seeing these earlier in the week.  Now, there is always popcorn to be had in this house.  Always.  And seeing as it's the weekend of the Oscars, what could be more appropriate?  The result was flippin aweosme, sweet and salty at its best.

A few tips:

  If you can, try to pick out any un-popped kernels, and so spare everyone's teeth.

  Apparently, you can brown butter in the microwave.  I've never done this, and I don't know that I'd recommend it, but it works for Audra!  But otherwise, just follow the directions below for the stovetop.

  Not so much a tip as me just trying to sell these to you, but they're super quick!  If you find yourself with a late invitation or unexpected company, hit these up, no matter the occasion.  I mean, they're rice krispie treats, with popcorn.  Pretty awesome.

  These are best eaten fresh.  Like, as soon as they set up fresh.  I've become prone to popping one in the microwave for 15 seconds, letting it become warm and gooey all over again.  Then I pull it apart, piece by sticky piece.  Because these are meant to be savored.

Brown Butter Marshmallow Popcorn Bars
Yield: 9 large bars

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (if popping the corn on the stovetop)
  • 1/3 cup un-popped popcorn kernels
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows, or 30 large marshmallows
  • A dash of vanilla extract


Grease an 8x8 inch pan and set aside.  Pop the 1/3 cup popcorn kernels according to your preferred method.  Below is a stovetop method, for those without popcorn poppers.  

Add the oil to a large saucepan (that has a matching, well-fitting cover) over medium high heat and add 3-4 kernels of un-popped corn, cover the pot.  As soon as you hear those kernels pop, remove the saucepan from the heat, uncover, and add the rest of the kernels.  Count to 30, and then cover the saucepan and return to heat.  While holding on the cover securely, gently shake the pot back and forth on the heat until the popping sound has died down. (It won't take long.) Leave the cover slightly ajar to let the steam out—this will result in crispier popcorn.  Add the popcorn to a large bowl, sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt to taste, and then set aside. (If you have the time, try to pick out any un-popped kernels, for the sake of everyone's teeth.)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Butter will melt, foam, and froth and then begin to brown along the bottom.  Just as it begins to brown, add the marshmallows and splash of vanilla (this will be loud).  Stir immediately with a rubber spatula, to keep anything from burning.  Continue stirring until the mixture is thick and creamy and has no lumps of marshmallow.  

Immediately pour it over the popcorn and stir well to coat.  Press the mixture into the greased 8x8 inch pan and sprinkle with more sea salt to taste.  Let it set for about 10-15 minutes, then cut into bars and serve.

Sources: adapted from The Baker Chick and Joy the Baker's Cookbook