>You would think that four hours is plenty of time to bake the Pillsbury Bake Off entries three times, but when you consider that contestants are constantly interrupted by media for interviews and questions about their recipe, the fact that they manage to cook anything at all is a small miracle. But yet these men and women, for the most part, were calm, collected, and happy to chat as they competed for a million dollars with their creation.
Covering the Pillsbury Bake Off is as competitive as entering it. Getting to taste a contest entry is actually a science as the samples are few and far between. Contestants make their recipe three times: once for the judges, once for the cameras, and once for samples. We walked around chatting with the contestants but keeping a close eye on the timers on their stoves to time our next visit at an opportune time. When the monkey bread lady pulled out her sample batch, a huge circle was gathered, waiting for a hot fudgy bite. I can only imagine how eagerly her friends await her contributions to pot luck brunches. I already had a head start as she let me lick the bowl of one of her batches!
When the four winners were announced at the awards ceremony last night, I hadn’t tasted a single one. And I missed the media final four tasting this morning due to an obscenely early flight. So I really can’t comment on the prize-worthiness of the Tomato-Basil Eggs Alfredo in Bread Baskets, the Salmon Pecan-Crusted Tartlets, the Zesty Lime-Fish Tacos, or the Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups. The grand prize winner will be announced by Oprah tomorrow. I can tell you that the judging was most definitely impartial, with a process cloaked in secrecy, complete with burly security guards with ear pieces guarding the sequestered judges. I don’t know if American Idol is rigged, but the Pillsbury Bake Off certainly is not.
As I walked around with fellow food bloggers, we took our own notes, and held our own very biased, very informal contest to choose our own Pillsbury Bake Off Blogger Choice Awards. Our finalist recipe booklets were dog-eared from so many heated debates on the most interesting entries well before we walked into the ballroom yesterday morning. We made beelines for our favorite contestants, and made sure to taste their entries. So it is with great pleasure that I announce my personal Pillsbury Bake Off choices today. Neither won any official award, but I hope my selection is some consolation for them.
My Grand Prize Winner award goes to Stephanie Lemus from Westlake Village in California. Her Candied Bacon and Apple Canapes were an incredible mix of sophisticated flavors. She cut Pillsbury pie crust into little rounds and topped them with blue cheese spread, candied bacon with a dash of cayenne, and green apple. They were beautiful, so easy to make, and a perfect mix of sweet, spicy, and savory.
This was Stephanie’s second time entering the Pillsbury Bake Off, but her first time as a finalist. She was really hoping to win to pay for her dog’s chemotherapy.
This recipe has already been taped into my favorites notebook.
Candied Bacon and Apple Canapés (makes 40)
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 EGGLAND’S BEST egg
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/3 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
20 thin slices center-cut bacon (about 12 oz)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 small Granny Smith apples
4 oz cream cheese (half of 8-oz package), softened
1 1/4 cups crumbled blue cheese (6 oz)
- Heat oven to 400°F. Line large cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper. Unroll pie crusts on work surface. Using 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 20 rounds from each crust, rerolling dough if necessary. Place on cookie sheet; prick each round twice with fork. In small bowl, beat egg and 1 tablespoon water until well blended; brush on rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool while preparing bacon.
- Line 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking parchment paper. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and red pepper. Place bacon with sides touching in pan; sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until sugar is hot and bubbly. Remove bacon from pan to a plate; let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using sharp knife, cut each bacon slice into 4 pieces.
- Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Cut each unpeeled apple into 20 (2×1/4-inch) slices; place in water mixture and refrigerate.
- In another small bowl, mix cream cheese and blue cheese with wooden spoon, leaving small pieces of blue cheese visible. Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with 3/4-inch tip; pipe onto each cracker. Drain apple slices; pat dry. For each cracker, place 1 apple slice between 2 bacon pieces; press at an angle into cheese mixture.
My second award is the Creativity Award and it goes out to Chris Caston of Jonesboro, Maine. His Chai Brownie cupcakes were light and exotic and the frosting was easy, smooth, light, and not too sweet. I loved hearing about how he came up with the recipe, first choosing to do a cupcake because they’re so popular, and then playing around with different spices including cardamom and cinnamon, before settling on Chai.
Chai Brownie Cupcakes with Creamy Froth (makes 12)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Start to Finish: 1:40
10 tea bags spiced chai-flavored black tea
1 cup boiling water
1 box (19.5 oz) Pillsbury® Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
3/4 cup Crisco® Pure Canola Oil
3 EGGLAND’S BEST eggs
3/4 cup frozen (thawed) extra-creamy whipped topping
3/4 cup marshmallow creme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups.
- In 2-cup glass measuring cup, steep tea bags in boiling water 5 minutes. Using back of spoon, press tea bags against side of cup to make 3/4 cup tea. Discard tea bags. If necessary, add enough water so tea measures 3/4 cup.
- In large bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, eggs and tea with wooden spoon until well blended. Divide batter evenly among cups (cups will be almost full).
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out almost clean. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat whipped topping and marshmallow creme on medium speed about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Refrigerate while cupcakes cool. Generously frost cupcakes with topping mixture; sprinkle with cinnamon.
Coconut-Filled Chocolate Delights
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Start to Finish: 1:40
3/4 cup Fisher® Roasted and Salted Almonds
1 1/2 cups coconut
1/2 cup Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk (from 14-oz can)
1 package (16 oz) Pillsbury® Ready to Bake!™ refrigerated sugar cookies (24 cookies)
1/3 cup Hershey’s® baking cocoa
1/3 cup Hershey’s® milk chocolate baking chips
- Reserve 20 almonds; set aside. Chop remaining almonds. In medium bowl, stir chopped almonds, coconut and milk until well blended. Refrigerate mixture 25 minutes for easier handling. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, knead cookie dough and cocoa with hands until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside.
- For each cookie, press 1 rounded tablespoon dough into 3-inch round. Place 1 tablespoon coconut mixture on center of each round. Wrap dough around filling, pressing edges to seal; shape into a ball. Place balls 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press each ball with fingers into 2 1/2-inch round. Press 1 whole almond on each cookie.
- Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until puffed and edges are set. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips uncovered on High 10 to 20 second, stirring every 10 seconds, until smooth. Place in resealable food-storage plastic bag; cut small tip from corner of bag. Drizzle chocolate over cookies. Before storing, let cookies stand at room temperature until chocolate is set. Store in airtight container.
I’ll be updating this post with the summaries of the other food bloggers as they put them up. Each of us will bring our own angle to the experience. Here are:
- Jaden’s from Steamy Kitchen,
- Carol’s from NYCityMama
- Jessica’s from Food Mayhem
- and Tina’s from Carrots’nCake.
Tina wins her own award as most prolific blogger at the event – putting up a steady stream of content not only on her blog, but also on Eggland’s Best blog and tweeting in a dizzying number of personas, never losing her smile and willingness to squeeze the dough boy.
Jennifer Perillo has promised to feature the baked from scratch entries, but for now you’ll just have to bide your time with her olive oil lemon poppy muffins recipe with which she kicked off our blogger mayhem in style.Tina wins her own award as most prolific blogger at the event – putting up a steady stream of content not only on her blog, but also on Eggland’s Best blog and tweeting in a dizzying number of personas, never losing her smile and willingness to squeeze the dough boy. And I can’t wait to see what Marc from NoRecipes, Amy from Cooking with Amy, and Lori from a Cowboy’s Wife dish up.