Start the fireworks early!
There are big changes this year for the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off.
I've been covering local contestants at the Pillsbury Bake-Off since 1993 and attending the event to shadow our regional finalists since 2004.
Launched in 1949, for the first quarter of a century the Pillsbury Bake-Off was held annually. But beginning in 1976, it was changed to an "every other year" schedule. The event, produced by General Mills, is now going to return as an every year competition.
In 2010, Julie Beckwith of Crete competed at the 44th annual baking event in the "Entertaining Appetizers" category with her "Caprese Pesto Margherita Stackers."
Beckwith, her husband Jim and sons Jamie, 18, and Josh, 16, (at the time) headed to Orlando. Oprah Winfrey agreed to announce the $1 million grand prize winner live on her talk show.
Beckwith, who had lots of students also cheering her on because of her association as a speech language pathologist at Talala Elementary School in Park Forest, Ill., has been a familiar face in recent years at the Bake-Off. She didn't win the top spot in 2010. But in March 2012, Beckwith headed back to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando in the hotel ballroom of The Peabody Orlando Hotel when it was Martha Stewart who had the honor hosting the event and announcing the $1 million winning recipe, which unfortunately, was not Beckwith's Italiano Chicken Sliders recipe.
This year, she was named a semi-finalist for the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off for her recipe for Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tartlets, which she's shared here today for Times readers. Her recipe is included in the "Simple Sweets and Starters" category, and among the new rules this year, online voting of the general public is determining who will compete among the semi-finalists for the chance at this year's $1 million.
The narrowed down 100 finalists will compete at this year's Bake-Off Contest finals, November 10-12, 2013, at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Also new this year, to encourage simpler, original recipes, submissions like Beckwith's were limited to seven or fewer ingredients and must take 30 minutes or less to prepare, not including baking or cooling time. There's also now only three contest categories to compete in, "Simple Sweets and Starters," "Amazing Doable Dinners" and "Rise and Shine Breakfasts." For more information, visit bakeoff.com.
A happy and safe Fourth of July to all Times Readers!
Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tartlets
1/3 cup Crisco 100 percent Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper and garlic seasoning blend
1/2 cup finely chopped deli rotisserie chicken breast
3 sticks (1 ounce each) tomato basil string cheese, finely chopped
8 thin plum (Roma) tomato slices (1 medium tomato)
1 can Pillsbury Place 'n Bake refrigerated crescent rounds
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 375 degrees. In small bowl, mix olive oil and 2 teaspoons of the seasoning blend. Let stand 5 minutes to blend flavors. In another small bowl, mix chicken, cheese and 2 teaspoons of the seasoning blend. Generously grease 8 nonstick regular-size muffin cups with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil mixture. Blot excess liquid from tomato slices with paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the seasoning blend. Place one tomato slice, seasoned side down, in bottom of each muffin cup. Remove dough from can but do not separate. With serrated knife, cut dough evenly into 16 rounds. Press each into 3-inch round. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon seasoning blend over 8 of the rounds. Press seasoned rounds, seasoned side down, over tomato slices and partially up sides of muffin cups. Evenly divide chicken mixture into each cup. Top each with remaining crescent rounds. Press rounds so tops are even and tartlets will sit flat when removed from muffin cups. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until deep golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Run knife around edges to loosen. Invert muffin pan onto heatproof platter to remove tartlets. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture or use for dipping. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 Serving, Calories 230 (Calories from Fat 160), Total Fat 18 g (Saturated Fat 4 1/2 g, Trans Fat 1 1/2g ), Cholesterol 15 mg, Sodium 570 mg, Total Carbohydrate 12g