Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pillsbury Bake-Off - Then and Now

I bet you know what April 15th is, right? You have the date marked on your calendar, no doubt. All eyes will turn to Dallas when the winner of the one million dollar prize for the Pillsbury Bake-Off will be announced. Oh, you thought I meant tax day, huh. Well, no matter, now you have something good to watch for on that day.

The Bake-Off has been going strong since 1949. It started as a one time affair to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Pillsbury and it was held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, but its popularity ensured that it became a yearly event. The winning recipe of that first contest was No-Knead Water-Rising Twists, created by Theodora Smafield of Rockford, Illinois. Ms. Smafield won fifty thousand clams, no small prize then or now.

Into the 1950s, the entries were mostly desserts, often cake, and focused on fancy "company's coming" type sweets. French Silk Chocolate Pie was the winning recipe in 1951 and is typical of the era.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a shift in focus. Women were entering the workforce and time was suddenly important. Time-saving recipes and shortcuts were the focus. International flavors began to come into the entries, as well as entrees. Poppin Fresh Barbecups from 1968 (the winner was Peter Russell) and Zesty Italian Crescent Casserole from 1978 were two favorites.

The 1980s and 90s brought in fusion cuisine and an emphasis on healthy food. More men were entering the contest and the winner of the first million dollar prize, in 1996, was a man. Brocoli-Cauliflower Tetrazzini from 1988 and Seven-Layer Chinese Chicken Salad from 1998 are good examples.

Which brings us to the 2000s. Panini, pie and pasta have all been winners. And in just a few short days, all eyes will indeed turn to Dallas for the big winner and his or her 15 seconds of culinary fame. I raise a tube of crescent rolls and salute you, winner of the 2008 Pillsbury Bake-Off.


Lorraine said...

Pillsbury crescent rolls are one of the great achievements of the 20th century.

forsythia said...

Back in the 50's, Mom tried out one of the prize-winning cookie recipes. I was called "Dough Boys," I think. I remember slab of baked shortbread with a slash of jam in the middle. Sunny, our boxer, just about turned herself inside out to snag one off the cooling rack, but the rest of us couldn't understand how this cookie got to be one of the finalists.