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(article, Kim Carlson)
It's been media circus week for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Last Friday, former Bake-Off winner Ellie Mathews was on NPR, talking about her winning recipe for Salsa Couscous Chicken. Mathews reminisced about that magic moment in 1998 when the judges announced hers as the million-dollar recipe; she thought for sure they must have made a mistake. She also gently hawked her new memoir about competing at the stove, [%bookLink code=9780425219454 "The Ungarnished Truth"]. (After the broadcast, we actually made Mathews' winning recipe, substituting Emerald Valley Kitchen salsa for Mathews' Old El Paso salsa; the results were quite tasty.) [%image reference-image float=right width=350 caption="Do you bake cookies from scratch or from a tube?"] Next, Tanya Steel, the editor of Epicurious, blogged about being a judge at this year's contest. Ed Levine at Serious Eats also posted about the event. What is the Pillsbury Bake-Off? According to a Culinate article from last fall, it's the "big dance," the mother of all cooking contests. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives a good overview of this long-running contest, and the Dallas Morning News offers a video glimpse. And you get a sense of the "oven floor," as Cathryn Michon calls it, in a hilarious Salon piece from six years ago. But for all its glitz and big-money, the modern-day Pillsbury Bake-Off leaves me wanting. Mathews' Salsa Couscous Chicken called for only one packaged ingredient, and it's a fairly innocuous one: salsa. The winning recipe for 2008, however, relies on a log of Pillsbury Create 'n Bake Cookie Dough. That's right: no fresh eggs, no butter, no flour. Moreover, this premade cookie dough supplies 1 gram of trans fats per serving — too much for me, thanks. Next up: a trip into the kitchen to add some chopped peanuts, confectioners' sugar, and cinnamon to a Culinate cookie favorite, turning it into a million-dollar treat I'd actually want to eat. Maybe I can come close to recreating what Steel hails in her blog post as bq."a seemingly humble creation that is a twist on a classic. Its intense peanut butter flavor, moist inside and crisp outside, dusting of cinnamon sugar and nuts, and innovative yet easy preparation method won the day; it definitely deserves to become a new classic American cookie." Want to join me? I hope you'll report back with your successes here; I'll do the same.