Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bring it back to the old school



My parents have come and gone in a whirlwind of Roger's golden syrup and jam, sightseeing and dinners out. After a week of eating well (both in terms of quality and quantity), the dust and my stomach are slowly beginning to settle. In search of a light, easy snack to begin the new week, I dug deep into the recipe archives to bring it back to the old school.

I had a tentative childhood relationship with Puffed Wheat Squares, unable to come down clearly for or against the sticky treat. Sure there was the sweet cocoa coating, but fundamentally my mother was trying to pass off grains as dessert. Then we moved away from the farm and, as a city kid, Puffed Wheat Squares disappeared from my lexicon.*

Thanks to S., my Saskatchewan housemate at university, the square and I were reintroduced. This time, I had no qualms about declaring my affection. You could chalk it up to nostalgia, but let's give taste and texture the credit they're due. Think Rice Krispie squares, but chocolate and chewy.

Puffed Wheat Squares

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups puffed wheat

Measure out puffed wheat in a heatproof bowl. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Set both aside.

Combine butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes before removing from heat. Add vanilla and stir briefly to combine.

Pour the hot mixture over the puffed wheat and quickly stir to coat evenly. Pour the coated cereal into the greased baking pan and use a damp spoon or hands to press the mixture evenly into the pan.

Cool and slice.

*Strange but true: In my experience, Puffed Wheat Squares (also called Puffed Wheat Cake) is a distinctly rural Canadian phenomenon. Nearly everyone I meet who is familiar with the square hails from Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba. Discuss.

19 comments:

Donna said...

Add NWT to your list, although my mama hails from SK so I guess that explains it. I grew up eating this stuff and make it now. Mmmm good. My mom's recipe is very heavy on the chocolate (when she read it out to me she reiterated HEAPING tablespoons of cocoa) . . I think that's key!

Anonymous said...

hmm, I grew up in Northern Ontario and puffed wheat squares were a staple. I still make it today but for a time had trouble finding the original "prairie maid" puffed wheat, finally found it at Safeway,,,

Val said...

I agree, I love this snack and was born and raised in Alberta, In fact, I can't remember a single famliy get together that didn't have a pan or two of these wonderful treats.

Am about to go make a batch right now..

Mary Lou Weidman said...

Oh my goodness, I just did a search for one of my childhood favorites and here it is on your lovely blog. I live in Washington State but my Grandparents lived in a teeny town in British Columbia. I loved these bars! Thanks so much because now I can make them for Christmas!
Mary Lou
Marylouweidman.blogspot.com

clabbtre said...

Yahoo for Saskatchewan!! I was born there and spent 18 glorious years "on the farm"...moved to Alberta for 32 years and now call Virginia (temporarily) home. PUffed Wheat Squares were definitely a staple and my children have grown up on them also. Over the years I have tried many recipes but have found my favorite and HEAPING tablespoons of cocoa are the secret! Americans (most of them) have never heard of this treat so it is my mission to educate them and I'm going to start right now...

Colleen Smith said...

I grew up in Kelowna, BC and now live in FL and had a craving for these yummy squares, searched for the recipe and came across yours. Thanks so much!

"Kreative Karma" said...

It's true... I came online looking for the recipe... I live in Colorado now, but grew up in Alberta! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

i add peanut butter to mine and its so yummy. i was just craving these and s your recipe. thanks for posting it!! i usually add a couple of tbsp of peanut butter.

Anonymous said...

I was recently introduced to them when I went back to Brandon, Manitoba for my Grandfather's funeral. My mom and I loved them! I'm going to make some and send them to her out in Nova Scotia. :D Thanks for posting this.!

Cheers!

Holly

Anonymous said...

They're great without chocolate too! I like them both ways.

agirlandherdot said...

I made them the other day. I live in CA and no one new what Puffed Wheat squares were. I had to go to 5 different stores to find plain puffed wheat. Yummy!!! I'm originally from Edmonton AB and they are very popular there.

downhillnut said...

An experienced puffed wheat square maker tells me one has to press it quite firmly into the pan for it to not fall apart when it's cut. Mine always fall apart, but they're good anyway.

Thanks for the recipe!

*Born, raised, educated, and still resident in Alberta.

Jennifer said...

YUM! yes, I had the same experience- I'm from central Alberta and grew up with these...I made these out on van island for a bakesale thinking everyone would know then, and maybe 3 of 60 people did...but they all loved em!!! thanks for the recipe :D

My name is Sarah said...

I grew up in the Kootneys and puffed wheat squares were in every lunch box. In my case my parents both grew up in Alberta and my maternal grandparents are from Saskatchewan. Regardless, I always have, and always will LOVE puffed wheat squares!

Anonymous said...

ok gotta get winnipeg in here. i too have had the chocolate puffed wheat squares when growing up, that and rice krispies squares.boy does this take me back. it was such a simple snack and good too. i just found this site while looking for the company that makes puffed rice cereal here in winnipeg as it seems to have disappeared from the grocery stores, including the no name brands.if anyone has any info, could you make a comment/post. thanks

Kristen | Cottage Modern said...

I'm originally from Saskatchewan and have lived in Minnesota, USA for the past 3 years. I can't even find puffed wheat cereal here, much less find someone who's heard of the treat. Imagine my delight when my parents came for a visit two weeks ago and showed up with 2 economy sized bags of puffed wheat cereal! I've been making puffed wheat squares and forcing them on anyone who will try them ever since!

~ lo ~ said...

Today I am sitting here longing for the Canadian Prairies of my youth... and the local decadent treats! Actual puffed wheat is NO WHERE to be found here in Oklahoma... but I did find puffed rice that looks a lot like puffed wheat at a local Asian Grocery store...

I am about to give it a whirl - and see if I can at least stave off my raving for "REAL" puffed wheat until I can return to my beloved Alberta!

Thanks for the recipe... I can't wait to bite into one of these chewy decadent's!

Karen said...

Yes! Loved this post. I am a fervent Puffed Wheat Square evangelist, bringing the delicious news to my transplant city of Ottawa. Everyone who tries them loves them.

Anonymous said...

Living in Saskatoon and summering with the Grandparents in rural Manitoba made these practically a staple when I was a child.

Best. Treat. Ever.

My mother used half vanilla and half maple flavouring which, when mixed with the chocolate, gave it a special warmth and sweetness.