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Associated Press, Published April 12 2013

Pillsbury Bake-Off puts premium on fast, easy

ST. PAUL — The operators of the Pillsbury Bake-Off are shaking up their venerable contest, requiring its entrants to submit fast and easy recipes that will appeal to time-pressed home bakers.

Pillsbury will reject any recipe that requires more than seven ingredients or takes longer than 30 minutes to prepare for the oven.

Contest manager Shera Balgobin told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the reason is simple: Pillsbury's core customers are busy moms who want quick and easy dishes, not elaborate creations.

"When we look at the most popular recipes on Pillsbury.com, what we see are easy recipes. And the way we can make it easy is less ingredients and less prep time," Balgobin said.

The Bake-Off was created in 1949 by Minneapolis-based flour miller Pillsbury, which is now a division of General Mills Inc. The winner gets $1 million.

The contest has evolved over the years, but the changes for this November's Bake-Off in Las Vegas are sweeping. For the first time, all 100 finalists are being chosen in a public vote at BakeOff.com, after the thousands of entries were first screened by food professionals.

"We are definitely inspired by the 'America votes' culture that we live in," Balgobin said, "whether that's singing or dancing or, in our case, cooking."

Wendi Wallerstein of Canyon Country, Calif., near Los Angeles, is among the finalists. She was thrilled when she was named a semifinalist for her Naan Greek Pizza, but knew she then would have to promote her recipe to advance to the next stage.

"We got a nice little packet of information that gave ideas and things that were OK to do: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even YouTube," Wallerstein said. "I used my Facebook and just good, old-fashioned email, if you can call that old-fashioned."

The Bake-Off's new seven-ingredient limit may simplify this year's entries, but it also would have barred legions of previous winners.

That includes Peanut Butter Blossoms (circa 1957), the "Tunnel of Fudge" Bundt Cake (circa 1966) and even last year's $1 million winner, Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream, which had 14 ingredients and took 70 minutes.

The Bake-Off is also returning to its roots as an annual contest. Since 1979, it had been held only every other year.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.