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Testing Pillsbury's $1M Winning Bakeoff Recipe

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In early December, Pillsbury announced "Peanutty Pie Clusters" as the grand prize-winning recipe of its 47th Bakeoff contest. The $1M recipe, submitted by Beth Royals of Richmond, Virginia, is particularly distinctive for its incorporation of toasted pie crust squares.

This innovation in combination with a short, ostensibly simple ingredient list prompted me to test it for a holiday cookie exchange. The Huffington Post didn't think much of the look of these clusters, but whatever.

Here's where my troubles began.

Actually, they began specifically in the baking aisle at H-E-B while I was searching for one particular ingredient: "white vanilla baking chips." There were white chocolate chips. There were some generic "white chips." No "white vanilla baking chips." Isn't white vanilla sort of redundant? And "white chocolate vanilla" soft of oxymoronic? Also, are "morsels" the same as "chips"?

This recipe is not for neurotic language scholars.

This story continues on the next page.

The directions also proved a bit tricky. Here are the official instructions:

STEP 1 Heat oven to 450°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with Reynolds® Cut-Rite® Wax Paper.

STEP 2 Unroll pie crust on work surface. With pizza cutter or knife, cut into 16 rows by 16 rows to make small squares. Arrange squares in single layer on large ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove squares from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 5 minutes.

STEP 3 In large microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips, shortening and peanut butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring once, until chips can be stirred smooth. Add pie crust squares, peanuts and toffee bits; stir gently until evenly coated. Immediately drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lined cookie sheets. (If mixture gets too thick, microwave on High 15 seconds; stir.) Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until set. Store covered.

The transition from Step 1 to Step 2 leaves one vulnerable to a costly error. For maximum clarity, Step 1 should instruct you to gather THREE cookie sheets, two of which are lined with wax paper and one of which is left ungreased.

Because some people (though definitely not this author) over-analyze the ingredient list language, then ironically don't read the instructions carefully and end up cooking a batch of pie dough squares on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper causing a smoky, burnt mess.

Anyway, God bless Pillsbury for including two pie dough crusts in each box.

Second time was the charm for making the Peanutty Prize Clusters, which are essentially the equivalent of crack for peanut and toffee addicts like myself. Worth a million dollars? Maybe not, but cheers anyway to winner Beth Royals for reifying her sweet-salty dream.

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