Monday, April 19, 2010

Gee Winz!

Mom gave me some old letters last weekend. I don't think they are bake-a-lite, but could be made from the earliest form of plastic invented. Thought I'd spell out a little message:

Here's the link to my WIN on youtube:

There were many food bloggers covering the bake-off this year. Food bloggers carrotsandcake captured exactly how I felt. 

Weeee GE!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Road to the 44th Pillsbury Bake-off

My interest in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® contest began in 2004 when I saw an Oprah episode featuring the million dollar prize winner. She smashed a wrapped granola bar with a hammer to make a pie.  Two years later the next winner used waffles to make a chicken stuffing dinner. Hmmm. What could I do? I'd developed simpler, easier version of Todd English's turkey meatloaf that my family loved and thought I could enter that...until I read the rules. You needed to use one ingredient from list A and one ingredient from list B. List A was mostly Pillsbury rolls, doughs and mixes. List B contained flour, nuts, chocolate chips and jellies and more. How do I adapt my recipe to work? I wrote this e-mail to my friend in March of 2007: "I finally figured out my angle for the Pillsbury Bake-Off®. Turkey Meatloaf Burgers. Everyone gobbles up my meatloaf. So if I bake or fry mini-patties and use biscuits for the bun, that might work!" My friend wrote back: "Yummy! I'd add the word Mini. Mini is cute." But the meatloaf is so good on its own. Why make it more difficult? I shelved it.

The contest is every two years so I got another chance in March of 2009. Pillsbury publishes mini-cookbooks and magazines to keep the Bake-Off® "top of mind". I saw one at Cub foods and decided to finally do it. I approached it like a graphic design problem. I read the rules, highlighting ingredients that interested me. I brainstormed, sketching out ideas that combined my repertoire of recipes and unused equipment in my cupboard. I made a special trip to Cub and spent 30 bucks on ingredients to "play with" that weekend. But I was sidelined with the flu. The deadline was looming so I pulled myself out of bed early Monday morning and cranked out 3 recipes and entered them online. No one in my family ever saw them. The brownie recipe needed improvement and the other two recipes were OK, but being sick--I tossed it all out. I just wasn't in the mood to eat pesto at 10am. I never thought about it again. 

Fast forward to the Minnesota State Fair. I was touring the sauna barrels in the grandstand when I got a phone call from my husband: "I just got the strangest phone call for you. She wouldn't leave her name wanted to know what time you'd be back. The caller ID said GENERAL MILLS...did you apply for a job there?" Nope, but I had been to their website after reading Star Tribune's article about them being the best company on the planet to work for. Nope, I wasn't qualified for the co-pilot position that I saw on their website. Maybe it was a word of mouth thing. Did a former co-worker recommend me to the BIG G? My employment fantasy fizzled when it finally dawned on me---THE Bake-Off®....OMG THE Bake-Off® IS CALLING ME! And yes, my dreams always have registered trademarks in them.

It was the Pepperoni-Pesto Popovers that had gotten their attention. I wanted to tell the world, but I had a long questionairre to fill out and legal documents to sign. It paralled being pregnant. What if I loose the baby? I kept it secret for 6 weeks until I got the official word. 

Being a Bake-Off® finalist is great because it makes for great conversation at cocktail parties. If I'm having a bad day, I can daydream about winning the big prize. I can empathize with movies stars. "It's great just to be nominated," they always say. It really is. I have a trip to Orlando to look forward to and I've already made some new friends. And someday when I die my obit will say "this Pillsbury Bake-Off® finalist divided time between her riverfront condo and the dusty sands of Idaho..." (i made that up).

There are five Bake-Off® finalists from Minnesota. Some of us met for first time in Mill City Museum's test kitchen on Feb. 14th. Left to right: Michele Gauer of Spicer (Double Chocolate-Orange Scones). Laura Stanke of Maple Grove (Pepperoni-Pesto Popovers) and Cathy Wiechert of Mound (Pecan Cookie Waffles with Honey-Cinnamon Butter)

Betsy Chan, of Bloomington (3rd from left) has entered Rachel Meatball Poppers. Not pictured is finalist Carole Holt of Mendota Heights (Chocolate-Caramel Crumb Cupcakes). For a complete list of finalists go to or click here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

All in the Family

No sitting in librarys hunched over microfiche machines. No flying across the country to find the info you need. Just google it and it appears! I had always thought that great Aunt Hilda was in the Bake-off in the 40s. Well, I was wrong. Her great accomplishment was that she was the first female pharmacist to graduate from the University of Minnesota. How cool it that. But I wasn't too far off with the story. It was her son John that was in the Bake-off. He got second place in the 17th Busy Lady Bake-Off, Junior Division. He won $1000 at the age of 16. His recipe had a creative name: Gold Rush Brunch. They lived in Alaska at the time and lived through the earthquake. Here's the clipping I found online--and wow, that's a lot of sour cream!

Here's the recipe:

Gold Rush Brunch   
John Forrest Edwards
$500 Junior Second Prize Winner and $500 
Bright Idea Bonus Award Winner in Pillsbury's 17th Busy Lady Bake-Off

1 pkg. Pillsbury Hash Brown Potatoes
1/2 cup (1 medium onion) chopped onion
2 Tblsps. chopped parsley
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Pillsbury's Best Flour (Regular, Instant Blending or Self-Rising)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 pepper
1 1/2 cups dairy sour cream
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. sliced Canadian - style bacon
8 eggs

Prepare potatoes according to package directions; drain well.  Stir in onion and parsley.  Place in well-greased 13 x 9 baking dish.  Melt butter in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Remove from heat; blend in sour cream.  Pour over potatoes, lifting potatoes lightly to permit sauce to mix well.  Arrange bacon in an overlapping row down center of dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Make 4  indentations on each side of bacon; slip 1 egg carefully into each indentation.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Bake 15 to 20 Minutes longer or until eggs are set.

Hilda's comments:
4 cups of cubed fresh potatoes which I prefer using, cook them partially.
Sliced ham works well. I've also made it without eggs.

I heard from John shortly after the I was in the Bake-Off and wanted to add his comments here:

    I don’t remember them having category winners when I attended in 1966.  For comparisons sake, then the top prize was $25,000.00 and second place overall was $5,000.00.  There were also, a first place Junior Class prize of $2,500.00, and a second place Junior Class prize of $500.00.  Back then those were the top winners of the contest.  They also had a theme that year and it was ‘Busy Lady’ of which they gave away three more bonus prizes of $500.00 each for the recipes they judged to be the best that went along with that theme.  The idea was to be able to throw together a recipe quickly without much muss and fuss for the lady that was on the go.  So, a total of seven people were awarded prize money, out of the 100 contestants that participated in San Francisco.
            Only the two top prize winners appeared on TV when Pat Boone (the show’s host) announced the winner’s and presented them with their awards, while the other 98 contestants stood in the background singing the Pillsbury ditty, ‘Nothing says loving like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best’ accompanied by a full orchestra (very corny).  This was a 1/2 hour show broadcast live from the San Francisco Hilton’s ballroom. 
            The best thing was my mother got to fulfill one of her life long dreams, and that was; to attend the Pillsbury Bakeoff.  She really didn’t care if she was in the contest, she just wanted to go and see it live.  Because, I was still a minor at 16, she accompanied me as my guardian.  Laura’s news brings back very fond memories of, sharing that experience together with mom.

think i need a!