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Puffed rice balls bring back childhood memories

Thursday, October 25, 2001

No tricks to this Halloween treat. Easy-to-find ingredients make these homemade confections a snap.


Puffed rice balls are made up of sugar, corn syrup or molasses and a few other ingredients. Years ago they were popular treats to hand out on Halloween or just fun treats to make with the kids. But having tested these, we wouldn't let a child near this concoction until it's cool enough for young hands to handle. And because the cereal mixture is quite hot when removed from the stove, we suggest that adults wait just a few minutes before plunging into this mixture.

It's also good idea to butter your hands so the taffy-like mixture doesn't stick to them.

If you decide to use these as Halloween treats, look for colored plastic wrap or orange cellophane-type wrap (usually available in craft stores.).

Marianne Beck of Reserve requested a recipe for puffed rice balls.

The first recipe was sent by Billie Marx of Brentwood: "This recipe has been in my family for years. My mother made it, her mother made it and I've been using this recipe for over 40 years."

Puffed Rice Balls

6-ounce box puffed rice cereal
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place puffed rice in a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan and cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (see note). While stirring constantly, pour mixture over puffed rice. Continue to stir until cereal is completely coated. Grease hands with butter and roll mixture into balls when cool enough to handle. Cover with plastic wrap.

Note: Soft ball stage means to heat the syrup to 234-240 degrees. It is at this point that a small amount of syrup, when dropped into very cold water, forms a soft ball that flattens after it's removed.

Here's another puffed rice ball recipe sent in by Ann K. Gunnin of Jasper, Ga. "Thanks to the generosity of a gentleman who had a Quaker Puffed Rice box from the 1930s listed on eBay, I now have the recipe for the famous Puffed Rice Balls Marianne Beck is looking for (the one her Mom used to make for Halloween). The recipe was listed on the back of the box and he was kind enough to send it to me, although I lost the bid on the box. And since one good turn deserves another, here it is."

Quaker Puffed Rice Balls

1/2 cup corn syrup (light Karo syrup will do)
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
About 6 cups puffed rice cereal

Boil syrup, molasses, sugar and vinegar until it snaps when tested in cold water (see note). Remove from heat, add butter, allow bubbling to die down, then pour over puffed rice. Mix well with a spoon and when slightly cool, form into balls.

Note: This recipe refers to the "hard crack" stage in candy making. Cook the syrup to 300-310 degrees (using a candy-making thermometer). To test, drop a small amount of syrup into very cold water. If the syrup separates into hard, brittle threads, it's ready to be removed from the heat.

Makes about 10 baseball-sized balls.

Recipe correction

We goofed and we're sorry! We omitted the last paragraph of the Harvest Loaf Cake recipe from last week's Kitchen Mailbox. So, for those of you who wanted to make this delicious cake but couldn't because of our blunder, we're running the recipes again in its entirety.

Harvest Loaf Cake

1 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin (we used pure canned pumpkin)
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
2 eggs

Combine flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

Cream butter in a large bowl; add sugar and beat at high speed on mixer until fluffy. Blend eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 to 75 minutes or until tested done (ours took only 55 minutes) in a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan that has been greased on the bottom. Cool and drizzle with the glaze.

Let cake stand for six hours before slicing.

Spice Glaze

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 or 2 tablespoons cream

Blend all ingredients until desired consistency.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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