Photo by Stacey Ballis

Forks are for the weak, maple sugar is for the clever

Breakfast on the go can be super boring. If you are a commuter in need of a one-handed morning meal that you don’t acquire in a drive-through, your choices can be limited. The usual suspects like protein or granola bars, bottles of shakes or liquid yogurts, and of course, toaster pastries can fill a need, but they aren’t often something you might actively crave. So how do you improve your breakfast lot when you don’t have time for a sit-down meal?

Pancake sticks. They're a whole breakfast in a neat package that's easy to eat with your other hand on the wheel or the hanging strap. [Ed note: Extra Crispy in no way condones eating on the subway.]

But pancakes, you say, they are so boring if they don’t have their deliciously drippy gilding of syrup to help them slide down.

To this, I have a two-word response: Maple sugar. Boom. (Okay, that’s three words, but the self-congratulatory ending is optional.)

Maple sugar is just crystallized maple syrup, available at grocery stores; usually where they keep the other alternate sugars like coconut sugar, date sugar and the like. If your local doesn’t carry it, it is widely available online. Maple sugar has a clean maple flavor that comes through beautifully even when mixed into pancake batter, so you get all the maple sweetness you need, without the sticky drizzle. I swapped out maple sugar for regular sugar in my buttermilk pancake recipe, and then made the pancakes in long stick shapes instead of unwieldy floppy circles, but they still needed better structure.

Bacon and sausage to the rescue. They're the two-by-four and rebar of the pancake building world because by placing a strip of pre-cooked crispy bacon or pre-cooked breakfast sausage in the middle of the pancake stick, you get a cake that stays straight enough to successfully aim at your open facehole while reading your book club novel on the train [Ed note: Again, we do not condone this.], or navigating your way through rush hour traffic.

You can make them ahead and pop in a microwave or toaster oven to reheat in the morning, or make the meat of your choice and the batter the night before and assemble fresh off the griddle while your coffee brews. If you aren’t a fan of the morning meat products, I recommend a stick of slightly underripe banana, or apple or pear for the needed support. If you don’t love maple, try other flavored sugars, vanilla, lemon or orange work great, or even crystallized honey for a new taste thrill.

Portable Pancake Sticks

Makes about 8 pancake sticks (this is a generous breakfast for 2 adults, you can double the recipe if you want to serve additional humans or have a week's worth of breakfast ready to go)

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3-1/2 cup maple sugar (this depends on how sweet you like your pancakes, if you are a syrup drizzler, use 1/3 cup, if you are a syrup douser, go for the full half-cup)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled plus more for the griddle or pan
8 slices bacon (cooked crisp) or 8 breakfast sausages (cooked through and lightly browned) or 8 slices of a firm fruit

Directions

1. Pat your breakfast meat or fruit very dry with paper towels to ensure good pancake adhesion.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl until well mixed. Beat the egg into the buttermilk, then pour the combo into the flour mixture and blend until just barely combined, there will still be lumps and a few streaks of dry flour. Add in the butter and stir until just distributed, then stop, you don’t want to overmix. There can still be some small lumps in your batter but there should be no dry streaks. Set aside to rest while your griddle heats up, or refrigerate overnight.

3. Heat a griddle or a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Brush lightly with butter, then make long thin pancakes about 1/4 cup of batter each, and press a slice of bacon or a sausage link into the center of the pancake. Cook until you see bubbles on the surface of the cake, and the underside is browned and the sides are dry, about 2 minutes, then flip. If you are using sausage, you might need to press down on the sides of the cake so that they hit the griddle or skillet. Cook on the second side another two minutes or so, until the cakes are cooked through and the underside is browned. You should be able to do this in two batches in a skillet, or all in one depending on the size of your griddle.

4. If you are making these ahead, cool completely on a rack before sealing in a container for reheating in a microwave or toaster oven. If you pack them up while hot, the condensation will make them soggy. If you are hitting the road with them hot, wrap in a paper napkin or paper towel to avoid the same issue.

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