Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Homemade Fast Food Fun

So, yesterday I threatened you with cooking insanity and today I am pleased to bring you that full color.

Now, because I am food obsessed and always starving by the time I go to bed, I often spend my pre-sleep minutes thinking about what I can cook for dinner the following evening. And sometimes I consult Boy.
So yes, food is frequently our pillowtalk.
Sad but true.
He started out requesting breakfast for dinner, specifically pancakes, but somehow we ended up on the subject of Crack, code word for our mutually most obsessed-about fast food favorite, the sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle from McDonalds.
We sort of got hooked on them during all those early morning weekends of housebuilding, despite the fact that I did and still do think said combination of foods sounds disgusting (I seriously need to talk to the person responsible for the cheese+pancake combo). And I didn't really even like them at all at first, but somehow, it's now my chosen fast food addiction and from time to time I crave one just addict craves crack. It's my desert island fast food item.

Anyway, being that: A. there's no McDonalds close to our house, and B. We almost never get up early enough on the weekends to make Crack last call, we pretty much never get to have Crack anymore. Which is prolly a good thing, given that they are less than nutritious and low-calorie and if you really wanna know the truth, I'm still trying to rid myself of the evidence of all those early morning Crack scores from three years ago.
But somehow the other night with Boy's help, I got it in my head that trying to replicate the sausage, egg and cheese McGridle at home would be a fun project.
And I went to sleep fantasizing about how I was going to get the little syrup blobs into the pancakes. Because that is the holy grail of the McGriddle.

Fast forward to the next day, and I've made the requisite grocery run, complete with the first package of American cheese singles I've bought since like the 80's. (They only come in a 16 pack. Anyone need some cheese singles?)
And then I come home and attack the syrup blob issue...which, considering the other elements are just basic breakfast foods, is really the only question mark in the McGriddle make-at-home challenge.
I poked around on the internet a bit, thinking someone had certainly solved this mystery already, but the best I could find was the suggestion to buy maple syrup "candies" and add them to the pancake batter. I vetoed this idea on the grounds that it seems like they'd stay hard, and what's in the McGriddle pancake is like syrup jello bits.

So I decided to try making syrup jello...with gelatin, despite my suspicions that syrup wouldn't ever really solidify when cold because of the sugar content, and knowing that anything thickened with gelatin melts when heated. And as you'll see, that's exactly what happened, but this approach did get me to the point of having syrup that was solid enough that I could at least get it into globules and into the batter.
I added 1.5 packages of Knox gelatin to 1 c. of pure maple syrup, heated to disolve the gelatin and then poured into a 1/4 sheet pan well coated with cooking spray. The result I was hoping for was something firm enough (like a Knox block, remember those?) to be able to be cut into a small dice, but what I got was gloppier and sticky. It could be cut, but didn't hold it's shape enough to not stick right back together, so after trying in vain to "dice"with a knife, I ended up using a pizza cutter like a rolling food processor, running it through like crazy until it my syrup gel looked like craggy pile of goo:

And when I put the big blobs of goo into the pancake batter and whisked, it conveniently broke back up into little blobs:

I put in about half the syrup goo blobs, so about 1/2c. of syrup to a batch of batter. I used the Joy of Cooking Buttermilk Pancake recipe, but any would work, you just want it fairly thick, ideally to yeild about a 1/2" thick pancake. I ended up cooking a off few tests and then adding a bit more flour. I was going for about a 3" diameter cake.
A nonstick griddle is a must, here, because as I predicted, the jello bits basically melt and run out once they're heated. With a bit of nugding, however, I was able to get my pancakes cooked and flipped fairly decently but I did have to stop to wash the maple syrup goo off my spatula once or twice.
Here's what they looked like:

The ingredients all ready to go:

And the assembled product:

I was taking great pains to get the scrambled egg cooked in a thin layer and then folded ala the inspiration sandwich, so it was funny to find that when I went to look at the ingredient list for the actual McGriddle, it lists "folded egg". If you want them puffy and spongy like the original, whisk in a little baking powder before cooking. I used 1 egg per sandwich.
My sausage rounds ended up a little too thick and small. Basically, what you want to do is take any brand of pork breakfast sausage that comes in a tube, slice it into about 1/2" thick rounds and then flatten until they're 1/4" thick or less, and maybe 4" diameter.

I found that it worked just fine to cook off and reserve all of these individual ingredients. Once we were ready to eat, I just assembled the sandwiches without the cheese, and reheated for a few seconds in the microwave. Put the cheese on afterward, otherwise it gets infernally hot and melts completely away.

I'm calling this little adventure a win, because despite the melting syrup blob issue the pancakes still came out pretty close to the real Crack pancakes, and Boy and I both thought the final product was delicious. Plus, that it was being consumed fresh and hot at 7pm with no driving around bleary-eyed in pajamas seemed like a victory.

It won't end here though. Thanks to molecular gastronomy, there are now any number of food additives and thickeners with properties beyond that of ordinary gelatin that are avaliable to the home cook, so as soon as I figure out which one I can use that doesn't melt under heat, I'm going to get some and try again with the gelled syrup thing. My research and speculation so far points to sodium alginate or modified tapioca starch, but if you're a M.G. buff or a food scientist, please feel free to advise...

That looks fantastic. But I love the crack.
OMG! The ONLY thing I ever buy at McD's! Now you've given me the key to totally boycott the place! Definately keep us updated on your further experiments, but I'm going to try this this weekend!
Looks sinfully delicious! Maybe these could thicken & keep the shape: agar-agar, (powdered) arrowroot, carrageenan
I have never had a McGriddle. I dunno, it would have to be pretty damn good to convince me to make maple jelly to add as bits into pancake batter. And I make everything from stock to pastry from scratch. You can't just add a little bit of maple butter after it's cooked? Is that sacrilege?
I make these at home all the time! I just spread maple syrup on a pair of frozen pancakes before I microwave them, and it kind of soaks in but isn't soggy. Then I slap an egg on there--usually just cooked in the microwave--and a slice of processed cheese. I'm a vegetarian so I skip the sausage. :)
You might try large grained maple sugar. I found some at a natural foods store and when mixed in with pancake batter it melts while the pancake is cooking. Not quite the same effect as a maple chip type thing, but it might be the effect you're going for.
I've made these myself professionally working at a McDonald's. I always preferred them with the "round egg" as they are real eggs, cracked and cooked on the premises. The "folded egg" is made by pouring PWE (Pasteurized Whole Eggs) from a carton into big rectangular forms and folding them after they are cooked.

Your idea is fantastic though. I will definitely have to attempt these at home. I had already perfected the breakfast burrito from the original recipe, this would be another to have for sure.
I know if you want to make maple syrup jelly you have to use something called Genugel. It's available from maple syrup manufactures but you could probably get it online somewhere.This may be something you could fiddle around with. Karla
Try not mixing the syrup cubes into the batter and adding them as late as possible in the cooking stage, i.e., when you're about to flip them. That may contain them a little better.
Love ya, love your blog- I really do.

But you need an intervention.

My brother is a civil engineer. Why does this matter? He's the one who got the machine that makes those little maple-studded pancakes to work in the factory where they're made. I don't believe he's ever tried a McGriddle.

I like the concept, but crack-like? No thanks!
my husband and I often fantasize about this crack as well. I couldn't wait to share your post with him. He suggests freezing your little gelatin maple globules before adding to the batter ( our thinking is they'd take longer to melt?)
"my husband and I often fantasize about this crack as well. I couldn't wait to share your post with him. He suggests freezing your little gelatin maple globules before adding to the batter ( our thinking is they'd take longer to melt?)"

Correct me if im wrong but I believe the 4th law of physics, regarding inertia being a property of all matter, would state that if they were colder at the start they would heat up much more quickly when the heat was applied, and i believe that would cause you to arrive at your melting problem sooner. Im no food expert but I do know science.

Keep me posted I would love to know how you end up making it work...
I know I am a couple years late...but while looking on the internet to find out how to make these I stumbled upon your site. Upon further looking for idea on the syrup pockets I found this:

It seems like a pretty good idea although I have yet to try it.
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