It’s all over but the baking – that is, for those at home who want to try to winning recipe. The Pillsbury Bake-Off has crowned its winner and awarded its not-insignificant prizes. The winner is Carolyn Gurtz (pictured, below) of Gaithersburg, MD, who won for her Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies.
For her efforts, Gurtz received a cool $1 million and a GE Profileâ„¢ Double Wall Oven with PreciseAirâ„¢ Convection plus $7,000 in additional GE Profileâ„¢ kitchen appliances.
Ed Levine, the self-professed Serious Eats overlord, was there and offers this first hand recounting of the event. He says, “I watched all one hundred contestants over the last two days make their recipes, doing something they clearly love, hoping for the best, but happy just to be here. They were young and old, predominately white (there were two African-Americans and a small number of Latino finalists), and all passionate about cooking and baking. There was nothing politically correct about the event, but there was something honest and real about it that was beguiling.” (Read more of his review, here).
The Bake-OffÂ® awards show was hosted by Sandra Lee, who handed over the dough and other prizes.
Gurtz’s recipe combines PillsburyÂ® Create Ã¢â‚¬Ëœn BakeÂ® Refrigerated peanut butter cookies with JIFÂ® Creamy Peanut Butter and FisherÂ® Dry Roasted Peanuts to create, as one judge stated, â€˜A new twist on an old classic.â€™ Contest judges talked about the recipe’s simplicity and approachability, allowing the home cook to take a convenience product and turn it into an unexpected cookie – one that combines two classic cookies â€“ a snickerdoodle and a peanut butter cookie.
A homemaker with a passion for baking inspired by her parents, Gurtz still has the mixer her mother bought her more than twenty years ago. Now 59, she fondly recalls the day her parents first introduced her to cooking at age seven. Fulfilling a lifelong dream to reach the Bake-OffÂ® Contest, she literally cried from joy upon learning she’d been selected as one of the 100 finalists. â€˜This is like winning the gold medal,â€™ said Gurtz, who has been entering recipes in the Pillsbury Bake-OffÂ® Contest for the past 15 years. This Sunday School teacher and mother of two knew she was on to something when her son smelled them cooking and declared them a â€˜winnerâ€™ after just one bite.
While a panel of nine judges determined the $1 million recipe, America selected one winner in the 43rd Contest. Consumers logged onto http://www.bakeoff.com to vote for their favorite recipe among the 100 final recipes. The $5,000 America’s Favorite Recipe Award went to Gwen Beauchamp of Lancaster, TX, for her Toffee-Banana Brownies.
Four additional category winners each earned $5,000 in cash and a GE Profileâ„¢ Double Oven Freestanding Range with PreciseAirâ„¢ Convection and two self-clean ovens for their recipes. The winner in the Breakfast & Brunches category was Pamela Shank of Parkersburg, WV, for her Mascarpone-Filled Cranberry-Walnut Rolls. Niki Plourde of Gardner, MA, captured the Pizza Creations category with her Apple-Jack Chicken Pizza with Caramelized Onion. The winner in the Entertaining Appetizers category was Edgar Rudberg of St. Paul, MN, for his Salmon Pastries with Dill Pesto. The Old El PasoÂ® Mexican Favorites category was captured by Vanda Pozzanghera of Pittsford, NY, for her Mexican Pesto-Pork Tacos.
Phyllis Weeks-Daniel of San Diego, CA, won the GE Imagination At Work Award for her Blue Cheese and Red Onion Jam Crescent Thumbprints.
The finalists, 92 women and 8 men, ranging in age from 27 to 72 and representing 35 states, each won a trip to the contest finals, including airfare, a two-night stay at The Fairmont Dallas, TX, daily event-sponsored meals, a GE microwave with enhanced cooking performance and $100. On April 14, the 100 finalists simultaneously prepared their recipes for judges at 100 GE mini-kitchens set up in The Fairmont Regency ballroom. The contest judges consisted of a panel of nine food experts who worked in jury room secrecy to evaluate the entries based upon taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal.
Visit http://www.bakeoff.com to see prize winners and all the recipes from this year’s competition, plus many favorites from throughout the contest’s 59-year history. All 100 winning recipes with color photos are also featured in The PillsburyÂ® ClassicÂ® Cookbook available at supermarkets and discount stores now through May 5, 2008 for $3.99.
See our earlier interview with the youngest finalist, Alison Strunk (pictured left with the Doughboy and with the oldest finalist, Eva Hukalo, age 72, from Toledo, OH). Alison’s recipe for Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bites is also online.