It starts almost the second the winner of the Pillsbury Bake-off contest is announced.
"A million dollars for ... a PIE with GRANOLA BARS?"
"A million dollars for ... CHICKEN with WAFFLES in the stuffing?"
And the latest...
"A million dollars for ... a PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE???"
And I wonder ... what possible recipe would live up to the expectation of a million dollars? How about one that has flecks of 14K gold in it, like the vodka my brother-in-law drinks ... AND tastes decadent but has a negative calorie value ... AND cleans the kitchen as it bakes? Do you think that would put an end to the snarkiness (or is it sour grapes) that ensues every time the winner of the Pillsbury Bake-off contest is announced?
Let's be real about what the Pillsbury Bake-off contest is all about. The Pillsbury Bake-off is to promote products. That's what it was created to do in the 1940s, and that's what it does now. ALL company-sponsored recipe contests exist to promote products.
So why don't you see recipes "from scratch" in the Pillsbury Bake-off contest any more? Let me give you a lesson from Marketing 101 (the following is my unsubstantiated theory, but I'm pretty sure I'm right). General Mills sells a Pillsbury branded flour, but flour verges on being a commodity product. There's little way to differentiate between brands and therefore little wiggle room when it comes to price. Yes, there are some avid bakers who buy based on protein content, and some people who will buy from a smaller company based on their values, but I'm willing to bet that most people reading this blog will admit that they buy flour based on price. Selling a commodity product does not make for a very profitable company (and let's remember that profitable companies do nice things like provide jobs, provide wealth to shareholders, pay taxes, support communities, and help our economy). Convenience products like prepared cookie doughs are far more profitable -- and people buy them and happily use them. And that's why General Mills has prepared products as "qualifying ingredients" for entering the Pillsbury Bake-off contest. Its flour was also on the list this year, but I'm pretty sure that every recipe that they selected to be the 100 finalists used a convenience product (like prepared cookie dough, prepared pie crust, etc.)
Getting back to Carolyn Gurtz's recipe, I've seen comments criticizing her for making her recipe from refrigerated cookie dough. These people need to get a clue. Had Carolyn made her dough from scratch, she would not have been selected to be a finalist in the contest, and she would not have been in the running for the million dollars. End of story. I didn't meet Carolyn at the contest, but I will bet you that she makes a darn good batch of peanut butter cookies from scratch. She entered the recipe with the refrigerated dough to get her to the contest.
I made the million dollar recipe for Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies yesterday. When they first came out of the oven, they didn't taste much different from a regular peanut butter cookie. When they cooled off, however, I understood why they won. The creamy center, chewy cookie, and crisp coating gave it a great contrast of textures. The flavor was enhanced by finely chopped roasted peanuts. I can't decide about the cinnamon flavor with the peanut butter, but all-in-all, the cookies were delicious. I definitely had a "why didn't I think of that" moment when I tasted them.
If you're going to make them, here are a few tips:
- I think it may be easier to handle the filling if you refrigerate it (or put it in the freezer) for a bit after forming it into balls. The balls should be the size of a large marble.
- Serve/eat these the day they are made -- within a few hours, if possible. The chewy texture doesn't last long.
- My personal preference would be not to flatten these to 1/4 inch as the recipe indicates. The filling has such a nice flavor and texture that I'd rather have the filling be a bit thicker. I'd flatten them to 1/2 inch or so.
- Don't substitute unsalted peanuts or unsalted peanut butter in this recipe. You need the salt.
- If you want to make this recipe, but don't want to use a refrigerated tube of cookie dough, don't! Substitute your favorite "scratch" peanut butter cookie recipe.
So in the end, is this recipe worth a million bucks? On April 15, nine judges evaluated all 100 recipes (a job I wouldn't want) and picked this recipe as the winner. That's the way it works, folks, and that's good enough for me. Congratulations Carolyn Gurtz! Enjoy your winnings and don't let the naysayers get you down!