A few weeks ago, I was asked by Smucker’s if I would like to be their guest at the Pillsbury Bake Off. It took me less than 2 seconds to say YES! Something you should know about me – I love watching cooking competitions on TV. Build-A-Better-Burger, The Gingerbread House competition, Cupcake Wars, Chopped, Top Chef, you name it. I love to play armchair quarterback and just know that I could do it better. Yeah, not even a chance. It was never more apparent to me that it takes a special kind of person to enter cooking competitions. You have to have amazing recipes, cook under intense pressure, in a weird environment, with cameras everywhere, and have people staring at you. These contestants were nothing short of amazing. And the prize? A MILLION DOLLARS.
The people that have the tough job of choosing recipes sorted through thousands and thousands of submissions, narrowing it down to just 100. These recipes used 7 ingredients or less, which is not easy to do. I also am pretty sure that there was a time limit as well, I think that with prep and cook time it could only take 45 minutes. The recipes that these contestants came up with were nothing short of amazing. Creative, imaginative, fun, and most all – delicious.
The event was held at the Aria in Las Vegas. On of the things that I was most interested in was the logistics. How could they have 100 people cook at the same time with hot ovens and lights and it not be 1,000 degrees? How does the whole thing work? Well, the room was perfectly comfortable, and it was a well-oiled machine. It was so much fun. The contestants were given about 30 minutes to get started in peace before they opened the room to press. We walked around, sampled, talked to everyone. I even got a hug from the Doughboy.
If you have ever considered entering, I say do it. Even from a bystander’s perspective, it is a truly amazing experience. Start working on some recipes and get ready to head to the 2014 Bake Off in Nashville! What do you have to lose?
I walked around with Kim from Lovin’ From the Oven and one thing that both of us loved were the Almond Cafe Cookies. We kept going back for more. They remind me of my favorite Swedish Visiting Cake in cookie form. These cookies are incredible. Easy to make and pretty, my favorite combination. I also love almond anything. I will be making these over and over. Side note - I just went to Kim’s website and she posted about these cookies too! See, they really are amazing!
Thank you again to Smucker’s for hosting me. They took such good care of us, and I truly appreciate the opportunity.
2 packages Pillsbury Ready to Bake sugar cookies
8 ounce tube almond paste
2 Tablespoons Smuckers Apricot Preserves
1 cup flour
2 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sliced almonds
Add the cookie dough, almond paste, preserves, and flour to the bowl of a mixer.
Mix until everything is combined. (Or you can do this by hand, just knead it together.)
Pat the dough into a rectangle, about 6×9. Cut into 24 pieces.
Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl. Put the almonds on a plate.
Roll the dough into balls. Flatten into 3-inch disks.
Brush the tops with egg whites. Sprinkle generously with almonds.
Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 13 to 18 minutes. Cool on the sheet for two minutes, then cool completely on a rack.