While almost everyone is familiar with the classic recipe for Rice Krispies Treats, slight variations on the original abound. We think our recipe gets them just right, with the perfect ratio of marshmallow and butter to cereal for a bar with the sticky chew that kids love and that adults remember fondly.

The basic procedure is the same as the back-of-the box recipe: Melt butter and marshmallows, mix in cereal, and press into a pan_it couldn't be simpler. But we like a generous portion of these cereal treats; for thick, substantial squares, we pat the mixture into an 8-inch square pan instead of the usual 13-by-9 inch pan. Adding a little salt to the mix kept sweetness in check.

Greasing the knife we used to slice the bars ensured that we were able to produce neat, easy-to-cut squares. These rice crispy treats are delicious as is, but their simplicity also makes them an ideal backdrop for a whole host of flavorings and mix-ins, so we developed several variations sure to please any crowd. Any brand of toasted rice cereal will work in this recipe.

RICE CRISPY TREATS

Servings: 16

Start to finish: 1 hour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

10 ounces marshmallows

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 cups (5 ounces) crisped rice cereal

Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to one another, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Spray with vegetable oil spray.

Melt butter in Dutch oven over low heat. Add marsh-mallows, vanilla, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 6 minutes. Off heat, stir in cereal until incorporated. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into even layer with greased spatula. Let treats cool for 30 minutes. Using foil overhang, remove treats from pan. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

Variations:

— Almond Joy Rice Crispy Treats: Stir 1 cup toasted sweetened shredded coconut; 1 cup toasted sliced almonds; and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips into marshmallow mixture with cereal.

— Chocolate-Cherry Rice Crispy Treats: Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips to pot with marshmallows. Stir 1 cup dried cherries, chopped, into marsh-mallow mixture with cereal. Microwave 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips in bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Drizzle over cooled treats. Let set for 15 minutes before cutting treats.

— Double Chocolate Caramel Turtle Rice Crispy Treats: Add 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips to pot with marsh-mallows. Stir 4 1/2 ounces quartered soft caramels and 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped, into marshmallow mixture with cereal. Microwave additional 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips in bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Drizzle chocolate over cooled treats and let set for 15 minutes before cutting treats.

— Loaded Rice Crispy Treats: Stir 1 cup pretzels, broken into 1/2-inch pieces; 1/2 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts; 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup toffee bits into marshmallow mixture with cereal.

— Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats: Add 1/2 cup peanut butter chips to pot with marshmallows. Stir 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts into marshmallow -mixture with cereal. Microwave additional 1/2 cup peanut -butter chips in bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted. Drizzle melted peanut butter chips over cooled treats and let set for 15 minutes before cutting treats.

— Salty Cashew-Caramel Rice Crispy Treats: Stir 1 1/2 cups salted roasted cashews, chopped coarse, and 4 1/2 ounces quartered soft caramels into marshmallow mixture with cereal.

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Nutrition information per serving: 108 calories; 20 calories from fat; 2 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 6 mg cholesterol; 96 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein.