breakfast, desserts, snacks

good morning sunshine bars.

good morning sunshine bars.

Pre-bathing suit dieters: avert your eyes and avert them now. Go quickly to a health food blog, do an emergency keyword search for things like “quinoa” and “fennel,” and do your best to completely avoid what I have going on here. This is not the post for you. I’m swimming in the sea of early summer fruits as much as the rest of you, but I couldn’t get this out of my head, so here it is. Page one of the newest Baked offering, Baked Elements: The Good Morning Sunshine Bars, finagled by yours truly. And I did do a good amount of finagling here.

I think it’s a widely accepted fact that there’s a positive correlation between loving good food and also loving cereal. I don’t know why, but there’s a large amount of us who spend our days eating salad upon salad, only to lose our minds over cereal flavors. It’s equal parts comforting and disturbing: comforting because I’m not the only one who does it, and disturbing because there’s so many of us who become elated over the newest flavor of Cap’n Crunch.

good morning sunshine bars.

It’s like an epidemic. I’m here to foster that epidemic with these bars. They feature my beloved Rice Chex (I have loved all things Chex since I was small), but they are oh so much more than that. To give you an idea of how good these are, I’ll say this. If Chex cereal were anthropomorphic and had feelings, they would be clamoring all over each other to be a part of these bars. It would be like winning the lottery for them. Not a scratch-off; like the billion-dollar lottery. If a Rice Chex were contestants on a 1970’s game show, it would be like they won all the prizes and the bonus trip to Italy. If you were Rice Chex, being chosen to participate in these bars would probably feel like it does when someone knocks on your door clutching balloons and holding an enormous check. You would dissolve into hysterical tears, call for your little Chex family to steady you so you don’t pass out, and maybe jump up and down a little bit from sheer joy as you slowly realize all that awaits you.

good morning sunshine bars.

And that, my friends, is how incredibly wonderful and perfect these bars are.

Anatomy of a the world’s most perfect cereal bar:

good morning sunshine bars.

You can eat them 24 hours a day. They’re made of cereal, making them acceptable for breakfast (although many of you eat consider most any dessert fair game for breakfast; I should consider my audience.) There’s also honey and peanut butter in there, which I consider to be transitional foods, meaning they also can be eaten for breakfast. I added some things to the original recipe: specifically, pretzel sticks and marshmallows. Result: it’s like they were meant to be in there all along, and they totally amp up the sweet/salty flavor combo, if that’s even possible.

good morning sunshine bars.

If you are hedgy about corn syrup, I get it. I have made my peace with it a few scant tablespoons at a time, understanding that it has a viscosity to it that is unmatched by any product found in nature. But using a cup of it? I don’t love it; I can’t do that to you, because I know it would deter you from making this, and that would be a shame. I substituted half of it out in favor of a good-quality honey, which works very well, holds everything together perfectly, and adds a nice complementary flavor to the peanut butter. Next batch, I’ll try substituting honey in for corn syrup entirely, to see if it works. If it does, I’ll let you know.

Listen, bottom line: these are wonderful. Magically, perfectly wonderful. You will either make them all the time or you will want to make them all the time. Your family and friends will start saying “hey: I’m having a party and I wasn’t going to invite you, but I am now because I can ask you to make something and there’s a distinct possibility you’ll bring these bars.” They will make you intensely popular, so be prepared to make multiple batches. Thankfully, these come together easily and require no baking, so it’s a great summer (or anytime) snack.

good morning sunshine bars.

A few recipe notes before we start (oh, sneaky! I’m throwing them in before the actual recipe), because there’s a few technical things to mention. First, please do read the recipe before you begin; mostly because it’s always a smart thing to do, but also because there’s a point in which you add the hot peanut mixture to the dry goods, and as long as you do it right, your marshmallows will end up melty but not dissolved, like the photos above. Secondly, you’ll notice the nice, clean drizzle of chocolate on each bar: that’s a me thing. If you make these for a gathering and drizzle before cutting, you’re liable to run into a situation where you’re getting chocolate all over the bars as you cut into them. At the very least, your smooth chocolate lines won’t be smooth anymore. To counteract this, drizzle the chocolate after you cut the bars rather than before; it won’t take you but a few seconds more time, and they’ll be that much prettier for your teensy bit of extra effort.

Adapted from one of my Mother’s Day cookbook scores, Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. It is a beautiful book. It’s always a good sign when I get only as far as the first page before being overcome.

Good Morning Crazy Sunshine Bars

  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 cup salted peanuts (I used Planters lightly salted, which are my standby for recipes both sweet and savory)
  • 2 cups mini stick pretzels
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup good quality honey
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I like Skippy Natural, because it’s got a nice salt content which falls in line with my mini pretzels and salted peanuts and kosher salt. salt salt salt. sorry.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (which you may leave out if you wish, but leaving it in really gives you that sweet/salty contrast)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass Pyrex baking dish. Line with parchment paper so that the two wide sides have parchment hanging over (like handles), and butter the parchment on top where it resides inside the dish.

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, peanuts, stick pretzels, and marshmallows. Stir with your hands until everything is evenly distributed. It is fun.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir the brown sugar, corn syrup, and honey together until blended. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for one full minute, then remove it from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt, stirring until mixture is completely homogenous.

This is where the fast-working starts. Deep breaths. I hope you read ahead and have a strategy. If you haven’t, for shame! You know it’s always good form to read an entire recipe ahead of time. Now scoot.

Pour the sugar mixture over the top of the cereal, swinging the saucepan over the dry ingredients as you pour so that the wet mixture hits as much surface area as possible; you’re on borrowed time from now until that mixture is flat against the bottom of your baking dish.

Spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray so you won’t waste precious seconds un-gooing it. Working quickly, using a fast folding motion, distribute the hot peanut butter mixture all over the cereal mixture. Work up from the bottom and over the top, watching closely for dry ingredient stragglers. The marshmallows won’t melt at first, but when they do (like the cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies), they’ll go fast, and you really want those pockets of white softness in these bars. You should see everything evenly incorporated just as your marshmallows begin their melt, and once it is, turn it into the prepared baking dish.

Using the same cooking-sprayed rubber spatula, press the mixture into the pan until the surface is flat and even. Your marshmallows will be gooey and half-melted, but you’ll see them, and you will rejoice. Good work, you. Let cool on a wire rack until they hit room temperature, which I say is easily an hour, if not more. If you want to speed this part up, place them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so, but I recommend the counter cooldown.

Once they’re at room temperature, melt your chocolate. I hate giving you instructions for using the microwave, but for this, you can. It’s almost more appropriate, given we’re making cereal bars and not a haughty little chocolate mousse cake. Place your chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and zap on high for around 15 seconds. Stir a little, then zap at 10-second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.

When ready, pour the mixture into a piping bag or (again, maybe more appropriate, and what I use) a plastic freezer bag. Cut the corner off to your desired size – very small for what you see in the photo, larger for a more pronounced striping) and weave that chocolate over the top in any style you wish. Let set for another half hour or so.

Alternatively, as I mentioned above, I like to keep the stripe part intact for individual servings. This is easily accomplished by first cutting the bars into squares and then drizzling your chocolate on. I don’t feel like it’s any more work, either, as you’ll be cutting them into squares eventually, anyway.

Makes 28 bars: you’ll make 6 cuts lengthwise (to make 7 rows) and 3 cuts widthwise (to make 4 rows).

Store these in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you have to stack them, throw some parchment paper in between the layers and be sure the chocolate has completely set, but you should be good.

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  • Reply Kim Beaulieu June 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Cripes lady these are stunning. I’d totally welcome the sunshine if these bad boys were for breakfast.

    • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

      Kim, thank you! I consider that, because it is from you, a high compliment, because i know how much you love the cereal things. I still consider your Trixies to be one of my favorite treats: that’s some cereal hall of fame stuff right there.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats June 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I wish they were actually here, but, close enough!
    Also, did you see that they have CHOCOLATE CAPN CRUNCH NOW!? (which means I need to finish my cinnamon crunch so that I can buy it!) …
    Yes, reading the whole recipe, I always THINK that I have, but then….. halfway through, “where did that ingredient come from?” or “oops I wasn’t supposed to mix that together!” … so thank you. I saw the note, I will remember, WAIT TO DRIZZLE!
    My mouth is watering, WATERING I TELL YOU!!!

    • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 8:14 am

      they are SO HERE RIGHT NOW FOR YOU!!! this one i may actually try and mail to you (next batch) because i kinda want to see how they travel. I bet pretty well, although i hear it’s actually 115 degrees or something there today, so they may melt. maybe if you do the chocolating upon arrival…

      shut up: chocolate cap’n crunch? for serious.

      i do the same! which is why i warn against it, b/c i start to “assume” everything goes in together when it so does not. sometimes i can fix that, sometimes i can’t. it’s best to overkill it with warnings than have mistakes happen, especially to these: throwing these things out because you messed up would be like, a mini-crisis.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats June 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Oh my gosh, these have like every one of my favorite things in them. I want them NOW!!!! Also, I really want some Cap’n Crunch.

    • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 8:11 am

      omg i know, Amy: i’ve been thinking about Cap’n Crunch ever since i typed the words.

  • Reply Faygie June 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    I’ve had that cookbook since it came out, and the only thing I’ve made yet is the chocolate syrup (which was fab, by the way). I have GOT to make more from it. Like these bars.

    • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

      argh! the curse of having so many cookbooks (me, you, all of us) is like, buying them, drooling over them, then only being able to make one or two recipes before starting the process all over again with another book. it’s hard! Even when i want to make everything in a book, it’s not always easy to accomplish. I’ll have to try the chocolate syrup asap: i bet they make an amazing one.

  • Reply Monica June 9, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Oh boy – who doesn’t love cereal?! I think it’s that crunch – like the next best thing to potato chips and there’s a bit of sweetness involved. These cereal bars look genius and great for a summer snack – all day long! Love your anatomy breakdown. : )

    • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 8:08 am

      you know, monica, since you mention potato chips, i should tell you i almost (almost!) put some crushed ones in here. then i thought “noooo…i can’t do that.” but i wanted to.
      i like to actually give myself reasons to do a graph/chart/breakdown by now: they’re fun to do. 🙂

  • Reply Wendy June 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Shannon, your posts usually make me smile. This one had me giggling out loud, mostly from your writing and a little out of excitement for making these bars! I have a perfect destination for them. My son and 3 friends are driving (this mom won’t be breathing) 8 hours from Chicago to Bonnaroo (a huge music festival in Tennessee). I am bringing my car to him in Chicago next week. Four 20 year old guys need a lot of energy food for such a road trip! These bars will mysteriously be waiting for them in the car when I (gulp) hand it over. I will pack them way back in the farthest reaches of the SUV so that I don’t eat them on the 6 hour trip to Chicago! I will let you know what they say. p.s. Your graph of the bar is great! p.p.s. Have you ever tried Lyle’s Golden Syrup? Its what the English and Australians use instead of corn syrup. Very viscous. Very tasty. I often use it as a sub (simply for flavor preference) corn syrup or honey.

  • Reply shannon June 9, 2013 at 9:38 am

    oh thank you, Wendy! I’m happy to make you giggle anytime; that’s genuine excitement right there, too. I know anytime i have to pack things up and send them forcibly with my husband to his work that i must really love something (because i was in danger of eating every last one of them myself). 🙂
    Bonnaroo! you wouldn’t always know it from this blog, but i’m an epic fan of music; my 20-year old self used to go to music festivals and concerts all the time; they’ll have so much fun! I wish i could go. I’ll tell you something in the hopes it will ease your mind: my sister goes every year (she lives in TN and works in the music business) and she’s going again this year. Every year she’s been dusty and hot or rained on and muddy, and certainly exhausted, but she’s been safe and it’s always been fun. I wish the best for the boys next weekend, and i hope you don’t get too nervous (although it’s easy to say until my Wee One gets old enough to do things like that). VERY sweet of you to pack them something for the trip! and hey, this will be good for them during the festival: peanut protein and some good carbs in there for energy.
    i have heard of Lyle’s! I believe from my Nigella cookbooks: i want to say it’s one of the ones, if not THE brand of golden syrup she recommends in her sources section. I’ve yet to get my hands on it, but i keep a list of things to search for/order online, and i’m adding it to that before i forget.

    • Reply Wendy June 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Shannon, no need to order Lyle’s Golden Syrup online! You can find it easily here in St. Louis. Dierberg’s carries it in their pancake syrup section and World Market also carries it. I go to World Market for several British/ Aussie food items I like to play with like custard powder, certain candy bars,and Lyle’s. They also often have sales on Biscoff and Droste’s cocoa too. 🙂
      The guys made it to Bonnaroo in the wee hours of this morning ( it is the drive that scares me ,not the festival) but I am not sure any of the bars I baked for them still exist. It was a long 9 hour ride. Guys need sustenance. :)Thanks again for the recipe. 🙂

      • Reply shannon June 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        Wendy, you’re a dear: I saw this comment right before heading out to the store the other day, and i decided to do what i always tell my Wee One to do (“Look with your EYES!”) and i FOUND IT! Thank you for the guidance! Dierberg’s is my market, but i suppose i don’t peruse the pancake syrup section much; i’m either there for refills on the one kind of maple syrup i get or the one kind of corn syrup i get, so no need to let the eyes wander. it was right where you said it would be, so thank you! I love World Market for weirdo foods too…that’s my favorite place to browse, and i need to add that to my list of stores to go to to search for speciality items.
        Yay guys! Earlier this week, i saw a big camper on the highway with the words “bonnaroo or bust!” written on the windows, and i thought of the boys. 🙂 I’m sure it wasn’t them (because i don’t think that would be their route from chicago) but it reminded me of their big drive. Happy they made it safe: i hear it’s been pretty awesome so far, and i hope the bars keep them full of energy. It’s one of the nicest weekends for it in AGES, so that’s at least good. You’re very welcome.

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} June 9, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Wowee! I cannot wait. The fun part now is figuring out when these will make their debut appearance. I’m thinking. . . . an upcoming (if we can manage it) road trip to Oxford, Mississippi. Can you imagine being in a CAR with a tray of these? In a CLOSED SPACE where there’s nothing to distract you from their glory? Nothing to compete for their attention? I’m on it.

    • Reply shannon June 13, 2013 at 5:43 am

      i can not at all imagine how glorious these would be if you were trapped in a car with them. Certainly they wouldn’t be there for long.
      I knew you would like this one, by the way. just because of our shared love for the pretzel crunch. just saying, they’re that crazy and maybe a few notches further up the crazy scale. if you want to get really junk food retro summer about it, get some coke. i mean the soda. TO DRINK.

  • Reply Brianne June 10, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Oh, my gosh. RICE CHEX FOR THE WIN!!! These are, far and away, the most supreme of all the cereal bars that could exist. These are happening in my kitchen as soon as humanly possible. Thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of my Chex-loving heart for sharing these. I’ve had to put a stop to adding more cookbooks to my collection, as we just don’t have the space for them, and I’m only home half the time these days (since I work where we used to live), but I would love to own the Baked series. I always read through at least one when I see them at the bookstore. Love. Also? Cap’n Crunch makes my mouth hurt. But I did enjoy some Fruity Pebbles when I was home a few weeks ago!

    • Reply shannon June 13, 2013 at 7:28 am

      YES!! seriously, i am equal parts wanting to make these again RIGHT NOW and never wanting to make them again considering how fast they would be gone. they were honestly like, outstanding. The Baked series is a great set of books: i’m really liking this newest one (Elements) now…i’ve loved the other two, but this one really seems to hit the mark on very interesting desserts. like you know how someone sort of hits their stride and you can see it? that’s how i feel about this book for them. Worth it if you can scramble up some room on the bookshelf, for sure. 🙂
      here’s my gross trick for cap’n crunch: my sister and i make it and then let it “rest” (a la meat) for 5-7 minutes. no more mouth hurt, and it makes the milk really flavorful. Fruity pebbles! another favorite, which is so embarrassing but so what. I heart cereal BIG TIME.

  • Reply Ashley June 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Woah. Just woah. First, love all Chex cereals. Second, love sweet/salty combos. Third, love your diagram! (woo! so awesome!). Fourth, love your gentle yet firm admonition to read the recipe ahead of time (I know, it’s the right thing to do…and sometimes, hopefully only once in a blue moon, I am still guilty of not reading. And it always bites me in the butt.). Fifth, love the Baked Elements cookbook! I have SO MANY things bookmarked in it, from the entire pumpkin chapter (ahem, obsessed) to the poppy seed bundt cake (I may have purchased a bulk bag of poppy seeds for it…) to brooksters (uh, genius!)…. Sixth, love what you do and your words, as always.

    Also, I’ve spotted Lyle’s Golden Syrup in Fresh Market and some other nice grocery stores. In case you’re on the lookout.

    • Reply shannon June 13, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Go Team Chex, right? they are wonderful. (Dang it! i have a work day today – the wee one is with her grandma – and now all i can think about is stopping in to the store for cereal.)

      it’s always important to read the whole thing prior, right? even if you don’t want to. i’ve made many a mistake by NOT doing that, and i still do it when i think “oh…no need, this will be easy” and then i screw it up somehow. I just always tell myself it takes that much longer to go back and fix something if i don’t read it.

      everything you said, i mirror your sentiments on. where do you get bulk poppy seeds, btw? i was going to check at trader joe’s but hadn’t had the chance yet. i know my market doesn’t sell them except for in the little jars, but that cake…OH THAT CAKE.

      i’m going to look for the Lyle’s now, actively, just because i feel like that’s a really good pantry edition. I told myself at the beginning of the year i was going to take a day, sans toddler, and go to all the different markets around town, pen and paper in hand, and make lists of where to source things. i still haven’t done it, but it’s still on the agenda.

      • Reply Ashley June 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

        I found bulk poppy seeds (and pretty much any other spice or herb or seasoning) at Penzy’s. They recently opened a store near me in Cincinnati. If you want anything, holler! I know how to fed-ex/ups! 😉

  • Reply Emma June 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    You almost lost me up near the top, somewhere deep in the annals of Rice Chex anthropomorphism. But then you diagramed it up and I was back on track.

    I’m not a huge cereal person, but I do love Rice Chex, and also, I didn’t bring dessert with me to the cabin this week, so I think I’m going to grab a handful of cereal right now. And SLATHER IT WITH BISCOFF.

    • Reply shannon June 13, 2013 at 5:30 am

      wait: i almost lost you FOREVER? *dear lord no* I will never give Rice Chex human characteristics again. ever.

      i hope that biscoff-slathering happened for real. because you deserve it, and that would be WONDERFUL.

  • Reply movita beaucoup June 23, 2013 at 7:00 am

    First off, I loved this post top to bottom. THE DIAGRAM? Mother of pearl. Second, I had Baked Elements out from the library a few weeks ago and instantly fell in love – I think it’s my favourite in the series, and I’m seriously considering the purchase of it. (Mostly because I’m pretty sure the library is going to start putting limits on the number of times one person can keep signing the same cookbooks out.)

    I’m pretty sure these bars are going to change my life.

    • Reply shannon June 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      diagrams are my favorite thing. if i work for you, i feel like i could do that sort of diagram for all of the baked goods you offer? sort of like a visual nutritional information chart, only containing no nutrition, and mostly just for fun.

      that’s a must-buy for you, i feel: baked elements sort of reminds me of you, in a way. i say go for it, because i fear the same of my own library (although I don’t think they would do that to me now after my very public display of affection with them this past april. bad form).

      serious. make them. they’ll change all the lives they come into contact with.

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