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The Pillsbury Bake-Off®

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Oatmeal Carmelitas

Oatmeal Carmelitas

Linda Larsen
This is the cooking contest biggie. The Pillsbury Bake-Off® has been around since 1949; it took place every year for the first 20 years, then was changed to every two years. Visit Pillsbury for the most current information.

As someone who worked behind the scenes on this contest for many years, I can tell you that the Home Economists, Marketing Managers, photographers, Assistants, and the cookbook publishers are all as excited as the contestants. It takes a solid year of work to choose the winners, involving mailroom organization, grocery shopping, triple-testing in the test kitchens, taste panel presentation, cookbook search, and food photography. Plus, the work that goes into setting up 100 mini-kitchens at a hotel ballroom is amazing! It's all worth it, both when the talented winners are announced, and when the Bake-Off® Cookbook appears on store shelves.

Keep an eye on The Bake-Off® Site for information on when and how to submit recipes. Look over the winners, and you'll find that some of the simplest recipes can make it to the top 100.

Meanwhile, browse through these adapted variations of some of my favorite recipes through the years. I worked on the first two, either testing in the Pillsbury kitchens, or searching for originality through thousands of cookbooks and the internet.

Lemon Truffled Pie
This recipe is my variation of my all-time favorite Bake-Off Contest recipes - at least it's in the top five! Everyone I've ever served it to absolutely loves it.

Chocolate Praline Layer Cake
I remember testing this recipe in the kitchens. It was a huge favorite among the staff. One of the editors walked by as I was finishing the cake for taste panel, and said "that cake is absolutely going to be a winner." Boy, was she right - it won the Grand Prize in 1988.

My Inspiration Cake
This cake won $25,000 in 1953. It is so beautiful - chopped chocolate sprinkled over the batter forms a swirl of chocolate in the layers, and chopped pecans baked into each layer make it delicious.

Dilly Casserole Bread
This batter bread, flavored with dill seed, is really wonderful. It won the Grand Prize in 1960. I often make it and serve it for dinner with vegetable dip and a selection of cheeses.

Hungry Boy's Casserole
This casserole is so good, and really pretty, with flaky biscuits topping the savory meat mixture. It was the Grand Prize winner in 1963.

Nutty Graham Picnic Cake
This wonderful cake, which was the top winner in 1978, is even great for breakfast! The graham cracker crumbs give it a rich, nutty flavor and beautiful texture. I use a cream cheese frosting in my version of the cake.

Oatmeal Carmelitas
The original recipe used caramels melted in cream as the filling along with chocolate chips. To make the recipe easier, Pillsbury substituted caramel ice cream topping. But I think this version, with melted caramel and even more chocolate, is best.

Chicken Salad Focaccia Sandwiches
These wonderful sandwiches use pizza dough to make focaccia, and are filled with a creamy, crunchy chicken salad. Yum.

Candy Bar Cookies
This cookie is the forerunner of Turtle candies. The tender cookie crust is topped with a chewy caramel nut filling, then dolloped with smooth chocolate cream.

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