Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

Jan Norris: Food and Florida header image 1

EatBeat: Covering the Pillsbury Bake-Off 2012 in Orlando; Watch Martha Live on Tuesday to See Winners

March 26th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The Doughboy and Martha Stewart are cozying up this weekend in Orlando at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off. He’s the sponsor’s mascot – she’s the sponsor’s grand celebrity pooh-bah. My, how the contest has changed.

Cakes, breads took first prizes

Art Linkletter and Eleanor Roosevelt were on hand to congratulate the winners at the first 'Grand National' contest in 1949.

Art Linkletter led the celebrities who’ve hosted the show, and kicked it off in 1949, announcing the winning contestants of the “Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest.” The event was dreamed up by ad execs to celebrate Pillsbury’s 80th birthday, and was held in New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Media at the event coined the “Bake-Off” moniker and it stuck.

The grand prize winner that year was Theodora Smafield of Rockville, Ill., who took home a whopping $50,000 – a fortune for a homemaker in those years. Two other runners-up won $10,000 each. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was there to congratulate the winners.

Smafield’s recipe was for No-Knead Water-Rising Twists. It called for the dough to be wrapped in a tea towel and put in a pot of warm water to rise. Pillsbury has updated the recipe (see it below) for modern cooks.

In those early years, from-scratch baking was the norm, and flour was a required ingredient in all recipes.

An annual contest was born

The contest was such a success, Pillsbury latched on to it as a marketing vehicle. Prize money was dropped to $25,000 in the early years. During the 1950s and the post-war boom, flour was the only required ingredient. Most of the recipes were for fancy cakes or breads and baked goods in the first decade of the contest.

Top prize money was adjusted to $25,000 for the annual Bake-Off. This is the 10th winner celebrating in 1959.

According to Pillsbury’s history of the Bake-Off, “The economic boom of the postwar years led to a belief that America had abundance in all things. The good life was evident in rich, filling meals and glamorous desserts. Since women rarely worked outside the home, housewives spent hours in the kitchen.” Fancy desserts and more involved recipes were prevalent.

Art Linkletter with 1961 winner Alice Reese. /photo from pillsbury.com

Women back to work

Of the many radical changes in American society brought by the ’60s, perhaps none changed the way we cooked like women returning to the workforce and gaining self-independence.

Meals became simplified and convenience foods were used to get dinner on the table for two-paycheck families.

In 1966, Pillsbury added the “Busy Lady category” – and cake mixes, frozen vegetables, canned products and refrigerated doughs dominated the contest ingredients.

Peacheesy pie, using refrigerated pie crusts and canned peaches, won the top prize for Melbourne, Fl., contestant Janis Risley in 1964.

Exploring new flavors and experimenting in the ’70s

Cooks in the ’70s took on ethnic cuisines that previously had been deemed exotic. The Bake-Off had a number of entries that represented Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern foods.

The natural diet guru Euell Gibbons and the earth mothery Moosewood Cookbook were stars of the decade, and had followers in the contest who used natural products – fruits, nuts and vegetables – in their dishes that had a homey appeal. Chocolate cherry bars became a national favorite after it won for Francis Jerzak of Porter, Minn. in 1974.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off changed, too and became a biennial event.

’80s cooks entertained and were health conscious

Entertaining with wine and taking cooking classes was entertainment for 1980’s cooks. Chefs were beginning to gain TV ground and the food vocabulary became more sophisticated. Gourmet shop sprouted and supermarkets hurried to keep up with ethnic and upscale cooks.

Cholesterol was the health buzzword – so the ’80s Bake-Off saw more chicken dishes and fewer red meats in the contest.

Millicent Nathan of Boca Raton won the 1980 Bake-Off with her Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie.

Kurt Wait won the first $1 million Bake-Off prize for his Macadamia Fudge Torte /photo courtesy Pillsbury

$1 million prize in the ’90s

More men were cooking in the 1990s, and in 1996, the first year that Pillsbury upped the prize money to $1 million, the contest was won by Kurt Wait of California.

Recipes in this decade were casual-gourmet, yet simple, with more varied ingredients to choose from. Pillsbury added to its eligible list of products salsa and taco shells.

A new century of cooking

Cooks in the new century are taking on bold flavors, and mixing sweet and savory on the same plate. Chicken with waffles and spinach stuffing, a $1 million winner in the 2006 Bake-Off, is an example. The dish mixes baked savory baked chicken with sweet peaches and maple syrup along with frozen waffles and spinach as a stuffing on the side.

Unusual use of ingredients will continue, as well as flavorful, sweet endings to meals, according to Pillsbury trend watchers. Convenience will be matched to sophisticated palates and the globalization of foods.

Watch Martha live for this year’s winner

Matha Stewart will reveal the Bake-Off winners live on Tuesday, March 27, at 10 a.m.

Martha Stewart will announce the winners of the Pillsbury Bake-Off live on her show Tuesday morning (March 27, 10 a.m., on the Hallmark Channel). A special studio was built to accommodate the large audience at the Peabody Hotel, host of the Bake-Off in Orlando. She’ll have film from the event. She’ll also be promoting her new cookbook, Martha’s American Food.

Check back to JanNorris.com for the winning recipe and photos from the Bake-Off 2012. Follow tweets from the Bake-Off at JanNorrisDotCom, #Bakeoff.

The Bake-Off online

For more information about the Pillsbury Bake-Off, including how to enter, tips from Pillsbury, and endless recipes, go to pillsbury.com/bakeoff/

Here are grand prize winning recipes from past Pillsbury Bake-Off contests.

No-knead water-rising twists (1949 winner)

  • 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose or Unbleached Flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, salt and yeast; blend well.

In small saucepan, heat milk and margarine until very warm (120 to 130°F.). Add warm liquid, vanilla and eggs to flour mixture; blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in remaining 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups flour to form a soft dough. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80 to 85°F.) until light and doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. (Dough will be sticky.)

Grease 2 large cookie sheets. In small bowl, combine nuts, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; blend well. Drop about 1/4 cup dough into nut mixture; thoroughly coat. Stretch dough to about 8 inches in length; twist into desired shape. Place on greased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover; let rise in warm place, about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover dough. Bake 8 to 16 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool on wire racks. Serve warm.

Makes 12 rolls.

(Recipe courtesy Pillsbury)

Peacheesy pie (1964 winner)
  • For filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 can (28 oz) peach slices, drained, reserving 3 tablespoons liquid
  • For crust:
  • 1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
  • For topping:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
In medium bowl, mix all filling ingredients except peach liquid; set aside.
In 1-quart saucepan, mix 2 tablespoons of the reserved peach liquid, 1/3 cup sugar, the lemon juice and eggs. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
In small bowl with electric mixer, beat sour cream and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in hot egg mixture until well blended; set aside.
Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in 9-inch glass pie pan as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie. Spoon filling into crust-lined pan. Dot with butter. Spoon topping mixture evenly over filling.
Remove second pie crust from pouch; place flat on work surface. With floured 3-inch round cutter, cut out 8 rounds from crust. Brush tops of rounds with remaining 1 tablespoon reserved peach liquid. Arrange pie crust rounds over topping.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. After 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Store in refrigerator.
Makes 1 9-inch pie.
(Recipe courtesy Pillsbury)

Chocolate cherry cake bars /photo courtesy pillsbury.com

Chocolate Cherry Cake Bars (1974 winner)

  • 1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 1 (21-oz.) can cherry pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Frosting
  • 1  cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1 (6-oz.) pkg. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 15x10x1-inch baking pan or 13×9-inch pan. In large bowl, combine all cake bar ingredients; stir until well blended. Pour into greased and floured pan.
Bake at 350°F. until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. For 15x10x1-inch pan, bake 20 to 30 minutes; for 13×9-inch pan, bake 25 to 35 minutes. In small saucepan, combine sugar, milk and margarine. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Pour and spread over warm bars. Cool 1 1/4 hours or until completely cooled. Cut into bars.
Makes 48 bars.
(Recipe courtesy Pillsbury)
Macadamia Fudge Torte (1996 winner)
  • For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • For the cake:
  • 1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3  cup oil
  • 1 (15-oz.) can sliced pears in light syrup, drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts or pecans
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • For sauce:
  • 1 (17-oz.) jar butterscotch caramel ice cream topping
  • 1/3 cup milk
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9 or 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. In small saucepan, combine filling ingredients; cook over medium-low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, cinnamon and oil; blend at low speed for 20 to 30 seconds or until crumbly. (Mixture will be dry.)
Place pears in blender container or food processor bowl with metal blade; cover and blend until smooth.
In another large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the cake mix mixture, pureed pears and eggs; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Spread batter evenly in sprayed pan. Drop filling by spoonfuls over batter. Stir nuts and water into remaining cake mix mixture. Sprinkle over filling.
Bake at 350°F. for 45 to 50 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Cool 1 1/2 hours or until completely cooled.
In small saucepan, combine sauce ingredients; cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until well blended, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, spoon 2 tablespoons warm sauce onto each individual dessert plate. Top each with wedge of torte. If desired, serve with ice cream and garnish with chocolate curls.
Makes 12 servings.
(Recipe courtesy Pillsbury)

Chicken with waffles and spinach stuffing /photo courtesy pillsbury.com

Chicken with waffles and spinach stuffing (2006 winner)

  • 3 tablespoons maple-flavored syrup
  • 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (1 lb)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 frozen plain or buttermilk waffles
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon beaten egg white
  • 1 box (9 oz) Green Giant® frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate or 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix syrup, preserves and Worcestershire sauce. Place chicken, skin side up, in pie plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon syrup mixture over chicken. 2 Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, toast waffles until golden brown. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Cut waffles into 3/4-inch cubes; set aside. Spray 1-quart casserole with cooking spray (or use 9×5-inch nonstick loaf pan; do not spray). In 10-inch nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir about 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in waffle pieces and broth, breaking up waffle pieces slightly to moisten. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and sage. Remove from heat; cool about 5 minutes. Stir in egg white and spinach. Spoon stuffing into casserole. Sprinkle pecans over top. 3 Twenty minutes before chicken is done, place casserole in oven next to chicken in pie plate. Spoon syrup mixture in pie plate over chicken. Bake chicken and stuffing uncovered 20 to 25 minutes longer or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (170°F) and stuffing is thoroughly heated. Spoon remaining syrup mixture in pie plate over chicken. Serve chicken with stuffing.
Makes 4 servings.
(All recipes and recipe photos courtesy pillsbury.com.)

Tags: Contests · Today in the World of Food · What's Happening Here

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 construction in crown hill // Oct 8, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    certainly like your website however you have to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.

    Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very
    troublesome to tell the reality on the other hand I will surely come again again.

Leave a Comment