Tinkering with a Midwest favorite: Cinnamon Scotcheroos shake things up

Every once in a while I’m reminded that not everyone lives life the way we do in the upper Midwest. And nowhere is that more evident than in the kitchen. Not everyone calls that bubbly stuff we drink “pop.” In most of the world a casserole – while warm to the touch – is not called a “hotdish.”

Then there’s the case of the scotcheroo. Certainly people all over the country make that sweet, delectable and very easy dessert bar created with rice cereal, peanut butter, sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and butterscotch chips. But as a matter of degrees, the upper Midwest has almost made it it’s own food group – visible at family gatherings, church potlucks and school bake sales.

I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago, when my nephew, Drew – now living in New York City – brought a friend home to Minnesota (in true upper Midwest fashion, he actually brought her “to the lake”).

As is the case for most family gatherings, I’m assigned to bring dessert because my sister repeatedly tells us “I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t eat sweets.” (I’m thinking of ordering a DNA test as I clearly am not related to this crazy woman…) Anyway, I chose to make scotcheroos because my nephew and niece – despite their warped upbringing in the land of no sweets – seem to enjoy a good scotcheroo. My nephew’s friend Clarice, who grew up in Vermont, looked at the pan and asked, “What are these?”

Wow. That’s like looking at a hamburger and not knowing what it is.

“You should try them. My aunt is on point with these,” Drew explained earnestly. Thank you, my boy. I’ve never been more proud of a compliment.

Taking Drew’s advice, Clarice cut off a small piece and returned to her seat. Then, this Northeastern young woman did what nearly all of us Midwesterners do – she went back to the pan and cut off “just a little bit more,” repeating that pattern several times.

(An old co-worker used to joke that repeatedly going back for just another small bite meant the calories didn’t count the way they would if you just cut a larger piece to begin with. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

I started thinking that as good as the scotcheroo is, maybe there’s a way to switch it up a bit. My scotcheroo-loving husband didn’t understand why I’d try to improve upon perfection. “You can’t top the original,” he said.

But I thought I’d try. The result is something I’m calling Cinnamon Scotcheroos. They’re basically like the original but made with cinnamon cereal instead of rice cereal, cinnamon peanut butter instead of regular and white chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Because the cinnamon cereal is already sweetened – unlike the rice cereal – I didn’t add any additional sugar. (Watch how we made the scotcheroos on our video at Inforum.com.)

This is just as easy to make as the original, and I loved the flavor. It was sweet, creamy and very cinnamony. As good as the original? Maybe. Maybe not. But darn if I didn’t want to give my fellow pop-drinking, hotdish-eating Midwesterners (and other Americans, too) another option for their next bake sale.

Readers can reach Tracy Briggs at 451-5632.

Cinnamon Scotcheroos

Serves 16

1 1/2 cups light corn syrup

1 cup cinnamon peanut butter spread

5 to 6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

Pour corn syrup into large pan and heat on medium until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add the cinnamon peanut butter. Stir until peanut butter dissolves. Add cereal and stir.

Pour mixture into greased 9 1/2- by 11-inch pan. Set aside.

In microwave, melt white chocolate chips in one bowl and butterscotch chips in another. Heat just 15 to 30 seconds at a time to avoid burning.

Pour melted white chocolate on top of cereal mixture. Top with butterscotch mixture. Run a knife through the butterscotch and white chocolate to create swirled designs. Set aside and let cool. Topping will harden. Cut and serve.