Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill New Hampshire
By Elizabeth Navisky
Let’s play word association. I saw New England, you say…snow, cold mountains. Biscuits, however, probably do not come to mind. But they should, especially if you happen to find yourself in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Then you should run, don’t walk, to Polly’s Pancake Parlor, a mecca for all things breakfast, including their fluffy, crispy, salty and sweet maple bacon biscuits.
Though Polly’s has been serving pancakes since 1938, the biscuits didn’t appear on the menu until eight years ago. That’s when co-owners Kathie and Dennis Côté wanted to find a use for the extra buckwheat, whole wheat and corn flour that Polly’s stone grinds itself for their various pancake mixes. Not all of it fit into the bags they sell both in-store and online, so after some tinkering, the maple bacon biscuit recipe was born. It also incorporates Polly’s maple sugar and maple syrup, making it “a representation of everything we do here in one little biscuit,” according to the Côtés’ daughter, Emily, great-granddaughter of the Polly who started it all.
In the early 1900s, Pauline “Polly” Taylor, a professional violinist, summered with her parents in Sugar Hill where she met Wilfred “Sugar Bill” Dexter. They married and ran his farm and maple business together. Eventually they opened a tea room in a former carriage shed across from the farm as a way to market their maple products. At that time, Polly’s seated 24. Polly and Will’s daughter, Nancy Aldrich, and her husband Roger took over in 1949 and Kathie, Dennis, Emily, her brother, Chris, and her boyfriend Scott Carmichael gradually became involved as well, making it a true family affair. The restaurant was only open summers until 2015 when they demolished the old building and built a new one. Now the antiques-laden, rustic, wood structure accommodates 110 hungry people year round.
In the airy, red and yellow tiled kitchen, baker Samantha Cargill makes the maple bacon topping first. It’s a combination of Polly’s maple sugar and syrup, flour, butter and New Hampshire’s own North Country Smokehouse bacon. She spreads it quickly over the bottom of the parchment-lined pan.
Next she moves on to the biscuit dough itself, gently kneading with her hands until the mixture just barely comes together. She uses a biscuit cutter to make an even dozen and places them on top of the maple bacon goodness.
After baking for 20 minutes, she takes them out of the oven and flips the pan over. She peels the parchment off and quickly separates the biscuits to prevent them sticking together.
Because of the low ratio of topping to biscuit, these beauties are more savory than sweet, making them ideal for breakfast and beyond. “People often order four biscuits to go if they’re going hiking or camping. They’re as good as energy bars!” Emily says with a twinkle in her eye.
On an average day, Polly’s sells two dozen biscuits, but the number varies, especially during busy times like Columbus Day Weekend 2015, when visiting leaf peepers managed to eat almost seven dozen!
Maple Bacon Biscuits
by Kathie and Dennis Côté
Polly’s Pancake Parlor
Makes 12 biscuits
What you need:
1 lb bacon
¾ cup Polly's Pure Maple Syrup
¼ cup flour
4 TBS melted butter
2 cups white flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup of chilled butter (1 stick)
2 cups of cold milk or buttermilk
How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line the 9x13 pan with parchment paper.
2. Cook the bacon just enough to lightly brown it. You want limp bacon so that it doesn't burn in the oven later. Remove bacon from pan and allow to cool.
3. Chop bacon into ½- ¾ inch pieces.
4. In a bowl blend the rest of the topping ingredients until well combined, and add bacon.
5. Spray the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan with a light coating of nonstick spray. Pour the topping mixture on top of the parchment in the pan, and spread out the mixture until evenly dispersed (it doesn't have to be perfect).
6. In a mixing bowl combine original pancake mix, white flour, salt, and baking powder.
7. Cut butter into ½ inch pieces. Add to dry ingredients and work them in gently by pressing the butter pieces with your fingers until they are combined. It should look crumbly with some larger pieces of butter left intact. Be careful not to handle it too much, or too briskly- this will overwork the dough and make the biscuits tough.
8. Add the milk, mix with a fork or spatula until just combined. The dough should be sticky and wet.
9. You can now either gently roll out the dough and cut it (although you may need to add a little more flour to the dough) OR use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to “drop” the biscuits into the pan. You should be able to fit 12 biscuits in the pan, they will expand.
10. Bake biscuits at 475 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through and tops are golden brown.
11. Remove from oven and immediately flip the tray of biscuits over (so the topping is on the top) onto a parchment lined cutting board. Remove the tray and remove the parchment paper right away! This step needs to happen carefully and quickly, so that you end up with the topping on top. Be careful not to burn yourself. If there is a lot of topping left on the parchment paper, scrape it off and pile it on top of your biscuits.
12. Cool slightly but split biscuits apart while they are still warm so that the topping doesn’t stick them together.
These biscuits taste great just on their own without the topping mixture to accompany a stew or chowder! Simply mix up the biscuit dough and “drop” the biscuits into a greased pan. Cook at 475 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown on the top. Drop out of the pan, pull apart, and serve!
Visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor
672 Route 117 (Sugar Hill Rd)
Sugar Hill, NH 03585
f Polly’s Pancake Parlor
Elizabeth Navisky grew up in a household with frozen vegetables and low-sodium cooking but had an epiphany when she discovered Julia Child at age 5. She hasn’t looked back since. Elizabeth has her Masters in Gastronomy from Boston University and has been a freelance food writer for over a decade. She has written for The James Beard Foundation and the Boston Globe among other publications. In addition to food writing, Elizabeth teaches people how to cook and is a personal chef.