Do you have an original recipe you think is worth a million bucks?
If so, it's time to do some home testing and enter it in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. Previous contestants or Bake-Off hopefuls will find that other than the $1 million grand prize, there isn't much the same about the rules this year. The biggest changes are that there are only three categories and recipes will be accepted in stages. Also, for the first time, the public will decide which 100 recipes will compete for the biggest payoff in all of amateur cooking. Votes will be cast online at BakeOff.com and then the ultimate winners will be determined by a panel of judges.
For this year's competition, which will be Nov. 10-12 in Las Vegas, recipes will be limited to seven ingredients, not including table salt, black pepper or water, and must take less than 30 minutes to prepare, not including baking and cooling time.
The three categories and the entry periods are:
Amazing Doable Dinners: This category is open now through Feb. 7.
Simple Sweets and Starters: Entry period runs from April 4 to May 9.
Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts: Entry period runs from July 4 to Aug. 8.
What started as a scratch baking competition in 1949 has morphed into a contest of convenience, and this year's rules thrust it even further into that realm. (The Bake-Off went from an annual event to about every 18 months after 1976, which is why this is just the 46th in 64 years.) Early on, the single required ingredient was Pillsbury flour and the first winners were all baked goods: yeast rolls, cakes and pies. In the past 10 years, winners have reflected contemporary cooking trends and tastes: a pie made from granola bars and pumpkin ravioli with salted caramel whipped cream that starts with canned pumpkin and Pillsbury crescent dough sheets.
In recent years, the list of eligible ingredients has been long and varied, representing the many brands owned by General Mills, Pillsbury's parent company. So on the list of possible ingredients for this year's competition are lots of refrigerated rolls, bread and cookie doughs; frosting; flour; Green Giant vegetables; Jif Peanut Butter; Smucker's and Crisco products; plus Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk.
More than a cooking contest, the Bake-Off is an original recipe contest, and the winning recipes often become part of Pillsbury cookbooks and could end up on the backs of boxes.
Besides the $1 million grand prize, which has been awarded since 1996, other prizes include cash and GE appliances. For more information and the complete rules, go to BakeOff.com.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.