The odds of winning the lottery are slim, so if you like to bake and want to increase your odds of taking home a big cash prize, you just might want to think about entering the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off. The contest is the biggest, longest-running cooking contest in the US and it is so popular that what was once an annual event now takes two years to organize because there are so many entries. Every recipe that is entered is screened (to make sure it meets the requirements of the contest), tested and retested to narrow the field down to 100 entries that are baked live, for judges at the Bake-Off itself to determine the million-dollar winner.
The general rules are simple: you must include two qualifying products in an original recipe that fits into one of the contest’s categories. The categories are Breakfast and Brunches, Entertaining Appetizers, Dinner Made Easy and Sweet Treats. You can enter each recipe only once, but you can enter multiple recipes. Entries will be accepted at Bakeoff.com from until 11:59 a.m. (central time) on April 18, 2011.
Some of the qualifying products are packaged foods that are designed to allow you to be creative with some convenience, but many of them are things that you would use regularly in from-scratch baking, such as flour, spices and peanut butter. When I attended the Bake-Off a few years ago, I found that the finalists were mostly very avid home cooks that came up with recipes specifically for the contest, streamlining favorites to make them easier and use a few of the qualifying products. Last year’s top prize winner was a recipe for Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups – a great idea, but one that was so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t come up with it first. The round before, the winning recipe was for some peanut butter-stuffed Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies. I made a from-scratch Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies after the contest.
So, flex your culinary muscles and come up with something amazing. At worst, you’ll have some fun and come up with some tasty dishes. At best, you could be the one who walks away with the grand prize during the 2012 finals in Orlando, FL! If you need a little inspiration, check out some of the finalist recipes from past Bake-Offs: