Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: Rice Krispie Science

Why do Rice Krispies make that crackling noise in milk?

Inquiring minds at our house wanted to know...So I found out. Without either merrying-up or messing-up the breakfast table. I think they might be pretty much the same thing actually.

But anyway.

Kellogg's Rice Krispies (which are called Rice Bubbles in Australia), first appeared in 1928. They are, not surprisingly, made of rice.

The rice is Krispied by popping it in a way quite similar to the popping of corn (oh look, a little connection with yesterday's post!). The rice grains are cooked, dried and toasted. This gives them a hard outer layer. Then they are popped by being exposed to steam.

The steaming process moisturizes the starch inside the toasted outer layer of the Krispie, and they pop. The popping produces little air chambers inside the Krispied rice - little air chambers and tunnels which have very, very thin walls.

Then you come along, slap them in a bowl and surprise them with an onslaught of milk. They get wet, of course. When the milk reaches the inside of the Krispies, the teeny inner walls collapse very quickly. The sound of the collapsing Krispie walls is the snap, crackle, popping business.

Of course, if you are eating these in another country, you will get a slightly different noise. For example, if you are in Quebec, you will hear "Cric! Crac! Croc!" (That is louder than snap, crackle, pop, I believe. These are intense Krispies).

In Germany: "Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!" (They are whispering secrets, obviously. What exactly do they know?)
In Finland: "Riks! Raks! Poks!" ( Why not "Roks!" - ? No idea.)
And in Spain they go "Pim! Pum! Pam!" (rather like little drums, no?)

Let's end up with a recipe that uses this noisy cereal - one that is NOT a marshmallow square. This is from To The Bride, a 1956 cookbook/household guide. I think the Chase and Sanborn Coffee people had a hand in it, since every menu suggestion includes - well, you know. This is one of the few recipes that does not involve a certain brand of coffee:


1. Take a cup of semi-sweet chocolate and melt in double boiler.
2. Take off heat and add 1/4 butter or margarine and 1/4 cup light corn syrup.
3. Stir in a tsp of vanilla and a cup of sifted confectioner's sugar.
4. Add three cups of Rice Krispies!
5. Mix "lightly" - otherwise those Krispies will suffer! (And they will say more than cric, crac, croc about it, too).
6. Spread it all out in an 8 inch square pan. I think you ought to butter it, though they don't say that.
7. Let it cool off and then cut it up - in squares! The Krispies' favorite geometric shape.
8. I wonder what the "Wonder" part of this fudge is.
9. Maybe that's it - nobody really knows. It's an enigma wrapped in a mystery, Krispies wrapped in chocolate and corn syrup.

Oh, and I know the advertisement is off-season. All the good Krispie ads online are all rights reserved etc., or they seemed like it. And this is what I had.

Next week, tune in for another edition of Enquiring Minds Want To Know! (And I might change that title, we'll just see about that). I do have a few questions in the pipeline - but obviously, if you think of something I would be glad to know about it.

Anything, really - any pop culture stuff, trivia, slang, urban legends, old movies, old TV shows - you name it, I'll try and find out about it, write it up, and link to you, too.

* I rewrote the directions, because we don't have all day, do we? Right.


Well, first of all I ran like the wind to Wikipedia

Rice Krispie explanation on How Stuff Works

Live Science
also delves into the Rice Krispie


loosecannon said...
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Relax Max said...
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bluecocktail said...

i thought rice krispies were just elfen magic, like an offshoot of the keebler elves who didn't agree with the keebler doctrine and broke free to avoid the tyranny of an elfen regime.

dang, science ruins everything!

RE Ausetkmt said...

I shall be making the Chocolate version of this confection. when I arrive at a suitable concoction, I will immediately post and photograph a version to utilize as my response to your recipe.

and you thought you were the only scientest here.

Ha ! I'm gonna cook your recipe and then tell you how it tastes.

looks like a fun night experiment. I'm buying fresh chocolate rice krispies today just for this.

wonder how it will taste if I add pecan meal to the mixture ?

oooooo You are reallly starting something here Miss Lidian.

Amy said...

oh my goodness. I grew up on rice bubbles in the 70's and now my own children eat them too. I remember going to birthday parties as a kid and there would always be a plate of those yummy chocolate rice bubble cakes

Da Old Man said...

Rice Krispies are like the blank canvas of breakfast cereals.

I used to eat the politically incorrect Rice Krinkles. They were discontinued around early 1970's or so, probably to inprove diplomatic relations with China.

Lidian said...

Max - A mystery indeed.

bluecocktail - Oh, sometimes science can be fun!

RE - I can't wait to see your scientific findings! I'm sure they will be quite delicious. Pecans sound excellent, too. I have no idea what I may have started, but if it includes chocolate and pecans, it'll be just fine.

Amy - I love the name Rice Bubbles!

Da Old Man - They are rather a tabula rasa. Tabula rice-a? No, that's not any good. I had a faint memory of them being in all sorts of other recipes, but I was hard pressed to find the Wonder Fudge. I thanked my lucky Chase and Sanborn that it was there!

Slapinions said...

What I've never been able to understand is why Rice Krispies, and Rice Krispies alone, have no decent generic equialent. Every store brand tastes like poo compared to the Kellog's version.

Jennifer L Price said...

What a fun and interesting post--something I had never really thought of, but am now glad to know!

I especially like the info on "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" in different languages!

ettarose said...

Yes, the different language was so interesting. I love Rice Crispies.

Nairobian Perspective said...

sounds so scrumptious, thanks for sharing ! youshould actually get paid for what you write.I discovered a social network site that just does that at : PayingPost blog network

Relax Max said...

"The steaming process moisturizes the starch inside the toasted outer layer of the Krispie, and they pop."

Wouldn't you?

Always the chemist, aren't you? :)

Carol @SheLives said...

Rice Krsipies are multilingual!?!? Who'da thunkit?

Very informative post on one of my all time fave cereals!

Bill said...

I make my mom's cheese cookie recipe (an appetizer, not a sweet cookie) with sharp cheddar, butter, flour, and cayenne pepper. The secret ingredient is Rice Krispies, which gives them a nice crunch.

This is an interesting post, although I feel overly-educated about Rice Krispies. Maybe I'll pull out my newfound knowledge at a party to see how quickly I can clear the room.

Lidian said...

Slapinions - That is one mystery I am going to leave well enough alone.

Jennifer - There are more fun Krispie noises over at Wikipedia, I didn't list them all (most of them but not all).

ettarose - They are in our cereal lineup too, along with the cornflakes and bran flakes (we are quite the thrill-seekers at breakfast!)

Nairobian Perspective - I am actually pursuing a couple of writing leads, but thanks.

Max - I knew you'd appreciate the chemistry part!

Carol - Yes, I had no idea that other countries translated this sort of thing. Or that Rice Krispies were so widespread.

Bill - If you do try talking about this at a party, I want to know exactly what happens@!

Maria said...

My breakfasts could use a little merrying-up, but does that have to involve a creepy Clown Krispie pop?

I loved this post so much, Lidian! It was very educational, though I am disappointed to learn that there's no Rice in my Krispies.

Lidian said...

Maria - Oh, but there is Rice in those Krispies! It's just been Krispified beyond all recognition.