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Smart Cookies: How Home Cooks Became Finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

Smart Cookies: How Home Cooks Became Finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

by Mary Beth Protomastro
Smart Cookies: How Home Cooks Became Finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

Smart Cookies: How Home Cooks Became Finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

by Mary Beth Protomastro


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The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is the most competitive cooking and baking contest in the United States. Home cooks have a fraction of a chance of becoming one of the lucky finalists who compete for a variety of enticing awards.

SMART COOKIES tells the stories of 27 people who beat the odds, most of them more than once. In conversations with author Mary Beth Protomastro, the finalists explain how they came up with their ideas, how they increased their chances of winning, and why the best prize turned out not to be the money after all.

Some of the finalists tried for decades to get into the Contest; several were accepted every time they entered. Five finalists who bounced back from adversity—depression, cancer, grief—reveal the resilience that took them all the way to the Contest floor. Three finalists who won the million-dollar grand prize describe their strategies.

You’ll read about:

• Mary Hawkes, who tried for nearly 30 years to get into the Contest—then changed her approach and was accepted three times in a row.

• Brenda Watts, whose recovery from a near-fatal illness inspired her to fulfill her grandmother’s dream of becoming a finalist.

• Beth Royals, whose inventive use of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust earned her the million-dollar grand prize.

• And 24 other home cooks who became finalists or winners.

Whether they’ve participated once, twice, or the maximum three times, all the finalists describe competing at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest as a unique experience that has enriched their lives in myriad ways. Their stories of perseverance, ingenuity, and resilience will inspire cooks and noncooks alike.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998993508
Publisher: Springform Press LLC
Publication date: 08/15/2017
Pages: 172
Sales rank: 344,751
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.37(d)

About the Author

Mary Beth Protomastro is a freelance copy editor and writer who lives in New York City. She has worked on staff at magazines such as TIME and MORE and is the founder of COPYEDITING newsletter. An avid baker, she was a finalist in the 2014 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Perseverance Pays Off

It takes a special kind of tenacity to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest for decades in the hope of getting in. How Marie Sheppard, Mary Hawkes, Heidi Givier, and Marie Bruno persisted—and ended their dry spells.

Chapter 2: Batting a Thousand

Yes, it is possible to beat the odds and become a finalist every time you enter. Arlene Erlbach, Marie Valdes, and Victoria Croce have proved it.

Chapter 3: Resilience, Their Secret Ingredient

Depression. Cancer. Grief. How the ability to bounce back from adversity made finalists out of Shana Butler, Michele Kusma, Carole Resnick, Brenda Watts, and Linda Drumm.

Chapter 4: Three Times and Out

Becoming a finalist for the maximum three times is a rare achievement. What home cooks can learn from Cathy Wiechert, Laureen Pittman, and Pamela Shank.

Chapter 5: Last Dance With the Doughboy

Two-time finalists have just one more chance to compete in the Bake-Off Contest, under current rules. Taking stock with Kim Van Dunk, JoAnn Belack, Kellie White, Amy Siegel, Lise Sullivan Ode, and Sindee Morgan.

Chapter 6: A First Taste of the Bake-Off Contest

Compete once, and you’re hooked. Lesley Pew, Kim Rollings, and Becky Pifer tell what it was like to become a first-time finalist.

Chapter 7: Winners’ Circle

Beth Royals, Christina Verrelli, and Anna Ginsberg, all winners of the million-dollar grand prize, discuss their strategies and experiences.


A. Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Winners

B. Bake-Off Recipes That Repurposed Pillsbury Products

C. Three Award-Winning Recipes From the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest

D. Further Reading

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