Nostalgia for the Whatchamacallit Candy Bar
In terms of candy bars, it is hard to beat the Whatchamacallit. While the name of the bar is either genius or grating depending on your worldview, the bar itself is nearly a perfect execution of peanut/caramel/chocolate/crisp. You can’t argue that.
Large parts of my life were fueled entirely by M&M’s (preferably the plain kind) and Whatchamacallit’s – though the Whatchamacallit was almost always more difficult to procure. It did not share the same omnipresence as M&M’s – which made it all the more alluring. To put it bluntly, Whatchamcallits were cool. They were the cult B-side (think Fleetwood Mac’s Silver Spring), not the overplayed hit single.
Turns out my friend Shauna Sever also has an affinity (or had an affinity) for the Whatchamacallit. Thankfully. In Shauna’s new book, Real Sweet, she describes her Chocolate-Slicked Chewy Crispy Bars as “reminiscent of the American Whatchamacallit bars”. YES! By the way, this is the same Shauna that took another iconic American dessert, the Twinkie, and turned it into a gorgeous Bundt cake.
Shauna’s new book is a gem. It is a book that showcases natural sweeteners and alternative sugars in a whole array of delicious desserts. Of course, the real beauty of the book is that it does not take an aggressive or moralistic tone towards the oft-maligned white sugar. It just offers some nifty replacements in a friendly, breezy way. As if you were talking to your pal over coffee.
A few brief notes about the bars:
- Shauna mentions that you can easily double this recipe and place in a 9×13 pan.
- These bars come together quickly. Perfect for last minute needs.
- I found all of the alternative sweeteners in this book at my local Whole Foods.
- Per the original directions don’t compact the crispy rice cereal when pressing into the pan. Chewier bars are better bars.
Chocolate-Slicked Chewy Crispy Bars by Shauna Sever from her book Real Sweet
2 ½ cups crispy rice cereal
⅓ cup brown rice syrup
⅓ cup firmly packed dark muscovado sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup natural peanut butter (go chunky-style)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut, grapeseed or canola oil
Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Pour the cereal into a large mixing bowl.
In a small saucepan, stir together the brown rice syrup, sugar, and salt. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir gently as the syrup heats. When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup just begins to bubble aroound the edges, remove the pan from the heat – do not let the syrup boil. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract, stirring until the peanut butter is completely melted.
Pour the goo over the cereal. Stir a few times with a large flexible spatula. Once the syrup has cooled enough to handle, spray a bit of nonstick spray on your hands and use your fingertips to lightly toss the mixture until the cereal is completely coated. Turn the coated cereal into the prepared pan and press it lightly and evenly, being careful not to compact the cereal too firmly, or the bars will come out hard instead of chewy. Let cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the chocolate chips and oil in a heatproof bowl. Melt together in the microwave with 30-second bursts of high heat, stirring well after each interval until smooth. Pour the chocolate over the bars. Using a pastry brush, “paint” the surface of the bars with the chocolate for a thin, even coating. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 20 minutes, before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.