All You Need Is a Recipe and a Dream
I promised myself I wasn't going to tear up when the Pillsbury Bake-Off million dollar first-prize winner was announced, but I did, and I'm not sure why. Of course it should be noted that I used to cry at the end of every Party of Five episode, too.
The winner, Carolyn Gurtz (right) of Gaithersburg, Maryland, seemed like a lovely lady, dressed in her powder-blue pantsuit, talking about how much she loves her family, husband, and baking. Gurtz's winning recipe for Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies [Recipe appears after the jump] was mighty tasty and certainly wasn't overly complicated or overwrought—though there were a number of those at the Bake-Off.
It isn't the peanut butter cookie that will change my life, but the million dollars she won might very well change hers. And maybe that's the point.
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.
What did I learn watching all hundred finalists do their thing? I learned which food trends had made their way into the mainstream: mole, cilantro, pesto, ganache, even mascarpone. I asked Pamela Shank from Parkersburg, West Virginia, who won $5,000 and a GE Profile Double Oven for her Mascarpone-Filled Cranberry-Walnut Rolls, where she learned about mascarpone cheese from. "Watching Giada on the Food Network, where else? I live in West Virginia."
What to Do with the Winnings
Sandra Lee announced the winners (perfect, I know), and she asked all the category winners what they were going to do with their money. Spend it, they all said. I would do the same.
And I've figured it out. A million dollars will buy me 285,714 Gray's Papaya Recession Specials (two hot dogs and a medium half-papaya, half-piña colada drink). My wife and I can eat three meals a day there for the rest of my life and still have plenty of money left over to throw lots of Gray's Papaya dinner parties. Hey, that just gave me an idea. What if I created a recipe for pigs-in-blankets with a mango-papaya salsa and entered it in the Entertaining Appetizers category? (This year's winner in that category, Edgar Runberg, made Salmon Pastries with Dill Pesto.)
Next year I'm definitely planning to enter. I know my odds aren't good (the hundred finalists are selected from tens of thousands of entries). But, hey, all you need is a recipe and a dream. Speaking of which, here's Gurtz's million-dollar recipe.
- 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix chopped peanuts, granulated sugar, and cinnamon; set aside.
In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely blended. Shape mixture into 24 (1-inch) balls.
Cut roll of cookie dough into 12 slices. Cut each slice in half crosswise to make 24 pieces; flatten slightly. Shape 1 cookie dough piece around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough and balls.
Roll each covered ball in peanut mixture; gently pat mixture completely onto balls. On ungreased large cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart. Spray bottom of drinking glass with Crisco original no-stick cooking spray; press into remaining peanut mixture. Flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness with bottom of glass. Sprinkle any remaining peanut mixture evenly on tops of cookies; gently press into dough.
Bake 7 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store tightly covered.