Pillsbury Bake Off – Part 2

Last week, I basically stopped writing when I was getting to the good part of my Pillsbury Bake Off story, which was pretty cruel. Sorry!

So, the first day of the planned activities (which was the day before the Pillsbury Bake Off contest) began with an introduction to the ovens that we would be using. I felt pretty confident, since I have almost the exact same GE oven at home. Phew!

Then, we had lunch in a big ballroom, buffet style….

Pillsbury Bake Off Lunch Buffet
Great food at the Pillsbury Bake Off

It was yummy! Especially the triangular carrot cake…

Now, the order of events is a bit fuzzy for me, but I believe that following lunch I had a recorded (video) interview with the lovely people at Pyrex which is also known as World Kitchen. They make those fantastic glass baking dishes and measuring cups that you got from your grandma and use everyday. Yeah, big time! This is the video they made:

And this one, too!

Then, I believe we had the famous briefing about all of the rules and regulations pertaining to the contest. And there are a lot of them. The finalists are not allowed to go to bathroom without an escort. They are serious, people! Have I mentioned that a MILLION dollars is at stake?!?

That evening we were treated to a lovely dinner reception. I remember hanging out with the wonderful Janet Gill and Kim Van Dunk and their guests. I was feeling a bit awkward to be solo at this point, but everyone was so nice to include me with their group. I just want to stress that EVERYONE was nice. There was really none of that obnoxious competitive vibe that you would expect at a contest with such high stakes.

Here are some photos of the dinner:

Pillsbury Bake-Off Ceremony Dinner Sculpture
A sculptural food presentation.
Pillsbury Bake-Off Award Dinner Hors d'oeuvres
Of course I only took pictures of the food.
Pillsbury Bake-Off award dinner cheesecake bar toppings
This was the best idea ever! A cheesecake bar with different toppings and sauces. Genius!
Pillsbury Bake-Off award dinner cheesecake
My cheesecake

That night, the most important thing was sleep. A melatonin and a NyQuil later, I was in dreamland. We had an early wake up call for a quick (nervous!) breakfast before the actual Pillsbury Bake Off contest began. We were not allowed to take any phones/cameras on the floor with us. Luckily, Some professionals got some good shots for me!

We marched in to the beat of the Pillsbury band, and I was lucky enough to be #100. The last one. I was also at the last range, which was great, since no one was on my left….Plenty of elbow room.

Pillsbury Bake-off competition room stations
It is truly amazing to think about the task of setting up all these stations!
Pillsbury Bake-off competition Lauren Katz Closeup
Note my gold nails. They were in honor of my sweet, 10 year old friend Gabriella Miller, that had just passed away the week before the trip. Gold is the color of pediatric cancers, and I was trying to raise awareness.

I baked my butt off (not really, it is still there, but you know what I mean). My oven was super-hot! They preheated all of our ovens for us, so I became convinced that my pie was baking too quickly. I messed with the temperature. I second guessed myself. It turns out that having 3.5 hours to bake something that needs a good two hours to cool down was a bit of a mistake. I waited and waited for the darn thing to cool, but alas, I served it a bit too warm. I found out later that a blogger had talked to a judge who said that my pie was too hot when served to them. You can’t imagine how many times I have kicked myself for not waiting until the last moment to serve… Oh well!

Anyhow, the next three hours were the longest of my life. I tried to kill time before the awards ceremony by shopping for souvenirs and looking at the art all around Vegas. I saw:

Las Vegas Scuplture 1

Las Vegas Sculpture 2

Las Vegas Sculpture 3

And of course, this:

Love me some Chihuly glass!
Love me some Chihuly glass!

Then it was time for the main event! I was sitting in the first row, dead center in front of the stage. Was this a sign? Apparently not, but I felt a little sick anyway…

Padma Lakshmi was the host, and I can honestly say that she is stunningly beautiful in person. I stopped her on the way to the bathroom to shake hands and introduce myself. I am such a dork!

Pillsbury Bake-Off award ceremony Padma Lakshmi 1
In my next life, I would like to come back as someone who looks like her…

They excruciatingly announced a couple awards in between each course. The winners received these adorable golden doughboys. I want one, like, seriously. Karen Harris, who quite deservedly won the Eagle Brand award for her amazing Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream, has one. She is my friend. That will have to be good enough…for now.

Finally, Padma (who was chewing every time she was called up to the stage! She eats….) called the top three, one of whom was about to suddenly become a millionaire. Here is what it looked like:

Pillsbury Bake-Off award ceremony Padma Lakshmi 2

Then, she announced that my friend Glori Spriggs won the grand prize for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels! Here is the recipe, in case you want to taste a million dollars…

Confetti exploded all around me! It was in my dessert, which was gorgeous, btw…

Pillsbury Bake-Off award ceremony dessert
My fancy, schmancy dessert!
Pillsbury Bake-Off award ceremony confetti
This is what a lot of confetti looks like.
Pillsbury Bake-Off Glori Spriggs award ceremony winner
The happy winner!

So, Glori won and I was happy for her. I really didn’t feel jealous at all, and I was proud of myself for that. I am annoyed that I served my pie too hot, though.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast and a ride to the plane, I saw this craziness:

Las Vegas Airport flavored air
It is flavored air. You can buy it to inhale. I have seen it all, now.

Lastly, on the plane home, I switched seats to sit next to one of my fellow contestants, Jen Beckman. This was one of the highlights of my trip. She is amazing, a friend now, and talked me through some wicked turbulence on the way home. Our kids play together, and we have hung out a few times. This is what it is all about! The friendships are the big take away. Not the million. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn it away, but Pillsbury made all of us feel like a million, and that is what I will remember.

Here is my recipe, in case any of you are curious.

Pillsbury Bake Off recap Part 1 – New Blog Pour Moi!

Hi friends, I am very excited to (finally) start this new blog, since my last (very short-lived) blog locked me out and threw away the key. Being the tech-challenged right-brained gal that I am, I decided to start a new one rather than bother tech support (otherwise known as my husband, Rob). After wracking my brain over a worthy first post topic, I have decided to talk about my trip to the Pillsbury Bake Off Contest last November.

A tourist in Vegas

So, it is a bit embarrassing that during the months leading up to the Pillsbury Bake Off, the thing I was most looking forward to was to sleep in a hotel room for three nights BY MYSELF. So I went a day early to get acclimated to Vegas time. Good thing I did, because I was likely the only one in Sin City at 8pm drifting off to a re-run of Everybody Loves Raymond. That’s just how I roll. I awoke at the crack of 4am. I stayed at the Aria resort and casino, thanks to General Mills. It is stunning there, and the room had a remote that worked the blinds. After 20 minutes of struggling with how to work the remote, this is what I saw:

Pillsbury Vegas View from my room
The view from my room

So, I have three kids. I am not used to being alone. I thought it would be cool- The freedom, the quiet, the going potty by myself…but it was weird. So I went people watching at the gorgeous Patisserie at the Aria.

Pillsbury Vegas Jean Phillipe Patisserie
The beautiful Jean Phillipe Patisserie at the Aria
Pillsbury Vegas Jean Phillipe Patisserie
More shots of the amazing Pastry Bar
What I got from Pillsbury Vegas Jean Phillipe Patisserie
What I bought at the Jean Phillipe Patisserie

Then I went to the Bellagio to take in the sights. Mostly to see the Chihuly glass and the chocolate fountain and the amazing fall display they had out:

Bellagio - Chihuly glass
The beautiful Chihuly glass at the Bellagio
Bellagio - Chocolate Fountain
The amazing chocolate fountain at the Bellagio
Bellagio - Fall Display 2014
The cornucopia (horn of plenty) from the Bellagio’s Fall Display
Bellagio - Fall Display 2014
Bellagio Fall Display 2014

The first day of the Pillsbury Bake Off

When it was time for me to head to the convention center to check out the 46th Pillsbury Bake Off setup, my nerves took ahold of me. To my surprise, as soon as I went up the escalator, the Pillsbury doughboy appeared like a beacon of hope in the distance. I had to run up and squeeze him. Wouldn’t you?

Pillsbury Dough Boy and me
Here we are. Just the two of us.

Then I looked over and saw this:

Pillsbury 2014 Lauren Katz Recipe
This blew my mind…so cool!
Pillsbury 2014 Recipe Board
Another shot of the recipe board

After signing in and getting some awesome swag (a pillsbury tote bag filled with goodies from various sponsors, the cookbook(!), our schedule, and name tag), I met my first fellow Pillsbury Bake Off finalist Helen Fields. She was as nice as could be, and she ended up being someone who had been to the Bake off before. She gave me lots of tips, and we got to be friends over the course of the weekend, along with some other amazing people. In retrospect, the big take away that I “got” was some amazing, supportive friends that have the same (obsession) interest that I have in cooking, baking, and creating. It was priceless!

Pillsbury 2014 - Lauren Katz and Sandy
Another wonderful woman I befriended, Sandy!
Pillsbury Bakeoff 2014 Cookbook - Lauren Katz Recipe
My recipe in the 2014 Pillsbury Bakeoff Cookbook!

The rest of the experience was kind of a blur, and I realize that this is getting long, so I think it will have
To be continued in Part 2….