Glori Spriggs of Henderson won $1 million in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest on Monday. And it was, it seems, the culmination of an it-takes-a-village effort.
Talk to Spriggs and you’ll hear her repeatedly express gratitude for the encouragement she received from family and friends. First, Spriggs said, she had the unending support of her daughter, Jennifer, who lives in Las Vegas and who has helped Spriggs evaluate the dishes she created over the years as to whether they were “good, but not Bake-Off good,” or “Bake-Off good.” The first time Spriggs prepared her Loaded Potato Pinwheels for her daughter, there it was:
“I think,” Jennifer Spriggs said, “this is going to be Bake-Off good.”
And was it ever.
The award was announced late Monday night. Last week, Glori Spriggs said the recipe came about through inspiration. This year’s Bake-Off had only three categories, and entries were limited to seven ingredients and had to be prepared in 30 minutes or less. The recipes also had to use some of the ingredients from a list of Pillsbury partners; Spriggs tried Green Giant Seasoned Steamers Backyard Grilled Potatoes and thought they had potential.
“They tasted pretty good,” she said. She likes small plates and potatoes, and decided that was the direction she would go.
“I wanted something that would appeal to kids and adults, to the average household,” she said. “When I tried that package of potatoes, it came to me.”
She also wanted a recipe that didn’t require a minuscule amount of an obscure, expensive ingredient.
“You spend a lot of money, and you’re never going to use it again,” she said.
And she thought dough might be a good idea. “What’s better than croissant dough?”
So she tinkered, experimented and sought the opinions of family and friends and finally arrived at her recipe.
“From Day One, everybody liked it,” she said.
The people at Pillsbury, too, it seemed. A month after Spriggs entered her recipe, she received an email that she had been chosen as a semifinalist. She called her daughter, her mother and her best friend of 45 years.
“You enter your recipe and you’re proud of it, but you never think they’re going to choose you,” she said.
Next would come the online voting. The company told the semifinalists that they should spread the news about their entries, actively promoting their recipes. Spriggs, who moved to Henderson five years ago after 35 years in the offices of the California Highway Patrol, is a member of the Desert Newcomers, and a group event was coming up. She asked the hostess if it would be OK if she brought along the ingredients and prepared her dish there, and got not only an affirmative answer but advice that she should provide information telling people how to vote for it. The event also gave her a chance to try the recipe in an oven other than her own, which she would have to do at the Bake-Off.
“I’ve gotten really good support from friends and family,” she said. “My good friends who live in this area are so positive.”
The voting started two weeks after she was nominated and lasted two weeks. And then on July 3, she got the big news: She was a finalist.
“I’m not kidding,” Spriggs said. “If I could have turned cartwheels, I would have. This is the Academy Awards of baking.”
The tinkering had ended; by contest rules, nothing could be added to a recipe, even if it had just been forgotten. Spriggs had neglected to list cooking spray, although she said that because she uses parchment paper, it wouldn’t matter. Of more concern was the baking pan she would be provided at the Bake-Off, which was an air-pocket type, unlike Spriggs’ own. She went out and got one, and found that it didn’t bake the pinwheels as evenly as hers.
“That makes me a little nervous,” she said before the event.
Although she couldn’t tinker she could practice. And practice she did, including trying to prepare her recipe in a space similar to the 2 feet by 3 feet she was to be allotted at the Bake-Off.
“I’m really excited,” she said last week. “I’m happy for this chance to represent Nevada.”
When the big morning came Monday, the contestants were literally drummed into the competition, loud bass beats providing fanfare for a parade that included the Pillsbury Doughboy. It started a few minutes before 8 a.m., but because the contestants weren’t settled at their stations until 8:02, they were given an extra two minutes. The last submission to the judges could be no later than 11:32. By 8:20, the aromas of cooking food were in the air.
Most of the contestants were ready long before 11:32; each time a finalist presented her or his dish for judging, applause carried through the ballroom, where 100 stoves and 100 work spaces were arranged in rows, with microwaves at the end and refrigerators along one wall. Motivational slogans — “Bake it like you mean it” — surrounded them.
At about 8:30, Spriggs stood calmly rolling out dough at stove No. 19.
“This morning at breakfast, I was just …,” she said, gesturing with the international symbol for “nervous wreck.” “But now I’m feeling pretty good.”
The contestants were given enough ingredients to prepare their recipe three times. Spriggs said she was relatively happy with the first batch, but was going for No. 2 because she wanted them to be perfectly formed, and some of the filling had bubbled up in the first group. Those rested on a tray with a sign proclaiming, “Please sample.” (“Do not eat” was the other sign provided to contestants.) As the timer rang for the second batch, Spriggs peeked into the oven and then added a few minutes; tasters at home, she said, had told her they liked the pinwheels when they were thoroughly golden brown.
She pulled them out of the oven.
“Yes, this is it,” she said, adding sour cream, green onions and bacon bits. “I’m taking it.”
And then it was time for Spriggs to be applauded as she walked her entry to the judges’ table.
Although “Bake-Off” and “Nevada” may not seem like they belong in the same sentence because we’re such a low-population state — and Spriggs was the only Nevada finalist this year, while Pennsylvania and Texas each had 10 — there have been 15 finalists from our state over the years, eight of whom were from Las Vegas. They include Mari Petrelli, the grand-prize winner of $25,000 in 1966, who was at the Bake-Off on Monday with her son, Jon.
“I found out it was in Vegas,” Jon Petrelli said. “I said, ‘We have to get her there.’ ”
He said that took only one email to the Bake-Off. “We’ve had the red-carpet treatment since we got here.”
Petrelli said when his mother competed in 1966, she was one month pregnant with him; waking up feeling nauseated, she told her husband her suspicions but he waved it off as pre-Bake-Off jitters. Now 81, she attended the 46th Bake-Off in a wheelchair pushed by her son.
“I love being here,” Mari Petrelli said. “I’m happy to be invited.”
Her showing at the 1966 Bake-Off in San Francisco was her second consecutive time as a finalist; in 1964 she competed with Confetti Cream Torte, and said she still makes both recipes.
“You bet I do,” Petrelli said.
As she toured the ballroom, Petrelli met last year’s winner, Christina Verrelli. As the two champions compared notes, “Top Chef” host and cookbook author Padma Lakshmi, who hosted Monday night’s awards dinner and ceremony, stopped to talk to them.
Petrelli’s Bake-Off winning recipe, Golden Gate Snack Bread, is an illustration of how the event has changed over the years. It had only eight ingredients, but the flour-and-yeast formula took some time to prepare, and the jar of pasteurized process cheese spread and dry onion soup mix were all the rage in those days.
“I would say in general, the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest has really changed through the years to essentially reflect the way America is cooking and baking,” Shera Balgobin, Bake-Off Contest manager, said this past week.
When the contest started in 1949, she said, the primary ingredient in the recipes was Pillsbury flour.
“You start to see trends reflected both in the products and the categories,” Balgobin said. “At one point there was a microwave category. At one point there was a Busy Lady category.”
How things have changed.
“I think that every category today is a Busy Lady, or a Busy Person,” she said. “That’s really reflected in the new seven-ingredient, 30 minutes or less.”
But Balgobin pointed out that “short time” needn’t equate to “short shrift.”
“It’s the dish you bring to the party that everyone’s talking about,” she said. “You want it to look like you spent hours making it but you didn’t, and that’s the beauty of a lot of the dishes today.
“Glori’s recipe is a great example of that. Instead of having to mash up all of the potatoes, she uses those Green Giant potatoes as a nice shortcut to get there, and they still deliver on that great loaded-mashed-potato flavor that people love.”
Balgobin said this is the first time the Bake-Off has been in Las Vegas.
“That is something that we’re very excited about,” she said. “We say it’s ‘all-new’; part of ‘all-new’ meant that we were going to an all-new city.
“One of the things our team loves about Las Vegas is it’s a city that really understands the thrill of competition. Like the larger-than-life Bake-Off event, it’s larger than life in so many ways.”
A week before the competition, Spriggs said that because finalists got an all-expense-paid trip to the Bake-Off city, her friends had teased her that she doesn’t get to travel for it.
“I honestly do not care,” she said. “To me it’s less stress.”
“I’m going to the Pillsbury Bake-Off!”
And winning it.
1 bag (11.8 ounces) Green Giant Seasoned Steamers frozen backyard grilled potatoes
1 1/4 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
1/2 cup cooked real bacon bits (from a jar or package)
3 tablespoons milk
1 can refrigerated seamless crescent dough sheet
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion tops (3 medium)
Heat oven 350 degrees. Spray large cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Microwave frozen potatoes 3 to 4 minutes to thaw. In medium bowl, with fork, mash potatoes, leaving some small pieces. Stir in cheese, 1/3 cup of the bacon bits and the milk until well blended.
Unroll dough on cutting board; press into 14-by-8-inch rectangle. Cut into two rectangles, 14 by 4 inches each. Spread half of the potato mixture on one rectangle to within 1/4-inch of long edges. Starting at one long side, tightly roll up dough; pinch seams to seal. Using serrated knife, cut roll into 14 slices. Place slices, cut side up, on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake 17 to 21 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to serving plate. Top each pinwheel with sour cream, remaining bacon bits and the green onions. Serve warm.
— By Glori Spriggs of Henderson, Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest 2013 winner
3 1/2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup water
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 8-ounce jar pasteurized process cheese spread
1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
3 tablespoons dry onion soup mix
Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar and yeast; blend well.
In small saucepan, heat water and 2 tablespoons margarine until very warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add warm liquid to flour mixture; blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Beat in cheese until blended. By hand, stir in remaining 2 cups flour to make a stiff dough. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees) until light and doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup margarine and onion soup mix; blend well. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. Punch down dough. On floured surface, roll out dough to a 20-by-14-inch rectangle. (Be sure sides are straight before rolling.) Spread with filling. Starting with 14-inch side, roll up, pressing edges and ends to seal. With knife, carefully cut lengthwise down center to form 2 loaves. Place cut side up on greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
— By Mari Petrelli of Las Vegas, winner of 16th Pillsbury Bake-Off contest