The 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off

This past weekend I had the honor of attending Pillsbury’s 45th Bake-off®. There was a small handful of bloggers that got to attend along with some amazing food journalists from around the country. The weekend started off Saturday night with a dinner at one of our local restaurants, Luma in Winter Park.

The next day was our Food News seminar. We started with breakfast in bed. And then made our way into one of the ballrooms to learn all about new trends in food and flavor. Some of the chefs from McCormick took time out of their busy schedules to talk to us about new trends in spice pairings. We got to sample some amazing flavor combinations. Some of my favorites were ginger with coconut, and vanilla with butter.

Then we left for lunch which was sponsored by Progresso. Here’s our starting salad, mixed baby greens, endive, plums, brie, candied walnuts and port wine vinaigrette.

The patio was set up for us to sample some amazing entrees all made with Progresso ingredients.

I just loved all the duck shaped butter at the Peabody.  Did I mention the soap is also duck-shaped? It’s too cute.

That afternoon we got to meet Chef Jeff as he showed us all the new appliances available from GE, along with a few killer recipes I’ll be sharing next week on Babble. We also got to sample his good cooking along with some afternoon cocktails. By the end of the day I was in a very happy food coma.

The next morning started off with nervous excitement. GE equipped all 100 little cooking stations. The behind the scenes electrical and setup equipment and all the people that made it happen was so incredible.

Then the contestants marched in with nervous excitement as all of us, along with their adoring families cheered them on. Then the ladies, and a few men, quickly got to work.

They had to prepare their dishes three times, one for judging, one for us to sample, and one for viewing and photographing at a large table.

Martha was also at the event, making her rounds and interviewing the contestants.

The contestants were so busy making their recipes. Some of them had practiced their recipes at home over 50 times.

This is Linda. I had lunch with her and her husband the morning before the awards show. This was her 3rd Bake-Off. She was so sweet and super excited!

I loved these Key Lime Pie Rolls she’s making here.

I thought these should have won most creative, cute aren’t they? They actually did win a most innovative award from GE.

There were lots of forms of pizzas being made that all looked so good.

This lady was the most cool, calm and collected looking contestant there.

This contestant also looked very calm. I don’t know how when a million dollars is at stake!

There was even some guys there working intently on their creations.

As the contestants finished up, one went to the judges, one went to a viewing table, and another was left at their station for tasting.

This lady is being ever so careful not to trip while taking her dish to the viewing table.

The viewing table quickly filled up with some of the prettiest plates of food I have ever seen!

I thought this lady might in, she was cooking right beside the winner. Her little lemon puffs looked divine!

And the dishes kept coming!

These also looked wonderful, I wanted to sneak one off her plate.

After all the contestants had turned in their recipes, the judging started. It took them several hours to reach a decision. But we all had to wait until the next morning during the taping of the Martha Stewart Show Live from The Peabody to hear the results. Yes, we also got to be in a live studio audience!

Here were the four finalists:

Entertaining Appetizers: Asparagus, Artichoke and Red Pepper Pizza

Dinner Made Easy: Chicken Empanada Cones

Breakfast and Brunches: Sausage-Pomodoro Brunch Bake

Desserts: Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel

There was a drum-roll, and Martha announced the winner, Christina’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel

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She was so happy, and so was her husband and two beautiful daughters.

Here’s her winning dish:

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This was an incredibly simple and elegant dish. You can find the recipe here. We were all so happy for the finalists and the grand prize million dollar winner. Afterwards we got to have a press conference with Christina and Martha. Christina was incredibly humble and gracious.

You can find all the winner’s recipes here.

I would like to thank Pillsbury again for letting me be apart of this historical event.

Here’s a highlights reel: