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Bisquick Hacks: Chocolate Maple Pecan Pancakes

I make pancakes pretty regularly on the weekend and I have since I was in my teens. Candice would often wake up hungry and asking for banana chocolate chip pancakes, but my mom was usually already out running errands or on a vacuuming spree, so I'd make them. My pancakes were always more like chocolate morsels and chunks of overripe banana barely held together by an out-of-the-box mixture... Aunt Jemima or Bisquick. During and since college, I've tried making a variety of pancakes from scratch, and still will if I have tons of eggs or ricotta in my fridge, but I've sort of given over to the perfection that is Bisquick's recipe. There's something within every food-lover or cook that eats away at us until we eliminate shortcuts and try making things from scratch. But then there are those few things that are just not worth making from scratch. Puff pastry is one that most chefs will agree to buy, not make. And I'm going to throw pancake batter into the mix (at least when cooking at home).

When I was working at the Good Housekeeping Research Lab, we were testing a ton of skillets for a few weeks. One of the tests was the pancake test. We poured pancake batter into each of the 9" skillets to test browning, cooking times and stick (in the nonstick versions). By using Bisquick and a timer, we were able to very precisely tell where a hot spot on a pan might occur. The Bisquick was the great equalizer. And that's true taste-wise too. You have to commend a company that is able to produce a dummy-proof product that tastes the same no matter what. Anyway, I've been Bisquick loyal ever since.

That said, it is fun to play around, so every once in a while, I come up with a Bisquick hack and this Chocolate Maple Pecan version has to be my favorite. It began by caramelizing pecans on the stove top-- melt 3 Tbsp unsalted butter in a small sauce pan over low heat and, when butter is melted, pour in 1 1/2 cups of pecans (I like to use whole pecans that I smash up a bit). Once coated in melted butter, pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of REAL maple syrup. Stir and continue to heat for 5 - 10 minutes. I like to just leave my pecans in there, heating, while I cook my pancakes, but if you want to save these for later, pour out onto some parchment paper and cool. BEWARE: These will be incredibly sticky while cooling and will stick like a mother to aluminum foil on an ungreased baking sheet. Similarly, they will turn to a hard brittle if you let them cool in your saucepan, so if you make that mistake, simply heat them back up and the sugars/syrup will melt, allowing you to work again with them.

As for the pancakes, simply add 1/3 cup of cocoa power to your pancake batter (this is assuming you're following the back-of-the box recipe, which calls for 2 cups of Bisquick powder). Also add in an additional 1/2 cup of sugar since the cocoa powder is unsweetened and will make your pancakes super bitter without more sugar. That kind of sounds like a lot of sugar, but pancake mix isn't very sweet to begin with. Don't let it bother you! Plus, if you weren't adding the sugar/chocolate in this form, you'd be adding it in chocolate chips (obviously; plain pancakes are practically unbearable if you ask me), so you're simply choosing your evils here. Mix and cook as directed otherwise and, once cooked, top with your pecans and some additional maple syrup!

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