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Bradenton woman enjoys Bake-Off

Though last week’s $1 million Pillsbury Bake-Off prize fell through Bradenton resident JoAnn Belack’s hands, that hasn’t kept her down. She’s already started preparing recipes in hopes of returning to the next bake-off two years from now, especially after tasting the fanfare from the 44th Pillsbury Bake-Off finals.

“This was the most exciting experience in my whole life,” Belack, an avid cook, said last week. “It was just an honor to do this.”

Belack’s “Mamma Mia” Ravioli bBites recipe for the contest’s entertaining appetizer category helped her become one of the 100 finalists in the bake-off — a longtime dream of hers.

As a bake-off finalist, Belack was treated like a celebrity. She was invited to perform cook segments on Tampa Bay-area TV news programs and was a featured subject in local newspapers.

The cook-off itself, held in Orlando, was “hair-raising” at times, Belack said. Imagine trying to cook while being interviewed by television crews. But she was pleased with how her dish turned out. In fact, after cooking for judges, TV crews and other tasters, Belack’s didn’t have to worry about packing up leftovers. Everyone ate them all.

When asked if she would do anything different, she said no.

“My recipe was simple and very cute,” she said. “It followed Pillsbury’s guidelines.”

She did note, however, that 63 percent of the winning recipes have been deserts. The winner was New Jersey’s Sue Compton for her Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups.

Belack wasn’t sure how she placed in the contest, since only category winners were named. And though she didn’t win, she has had the luxury of seeing pictures of her “Mamma Mia” Ravioli Bites displayed in the Pillsbury section of local grocery stores like Winn-Dixie.

“Mamma Mia” Ravioli Bites

q 2 cans (8 ounces each) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet

q 1 container (15 ounces) whole-milk ricotta cheese

q 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)

q 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

q 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves

q 1/2 teaspoon pepper

q 1/4 teaspoon salt

q 1 Eggland’s Best egg

q 2-1/2 ounces thinly sliced salami, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

q 1-1/2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, finely chopped (1/4 cup)

n Prep Time: 30 minutes

n Start to Finish: 1:15

n Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray.

n On work surface, unroll 1 dough sheet; cut into 24 (2-inch) squares. Place 1 dough square in bottom and up side of each of 24 muffin cups, letting points of dough extend over edge of cup.

n In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each cup.

n Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pans 3 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough and filling, cooling pans between batches. Serve warm.

n Makes 48 appetizers

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