They loved Willard. And why not? Willard Scott, NBC's ebullient weatherman was the man of the hour early Tuesday for the 99 finalists in the 34th Pillsbury Bake-Off held Monday at the Pointe on South Mountain resort in Phoenix. Willard was the man handing out the prize money.
Sweets and chocolate dominated among the winners. And California cooks dominated also, taking six of the 24 prizes awarded, including the grand prize of $40,000, two of the $10,000 category prizes and three of the $2,000 prizes.
Linda Rahman, a Petaluma tax accountant, took the top prize money for an elegant, yet simple, Blueberry-Poppy Seed Brunch Cake, which was not too sweet and was loaded with blueberries and poppy seeds.
Nancy Woodside of Sonora, a three-time finalist in the contest, won $10,000 in the Canned Vegetable and Mashed Potato Flake category for an unusual Chocolate Fudge Snack Cake made with potato flakes. It's a rich, moist brownie-like cake that is topped with a sprinkling of walnuts.
And Paula Cassidy of Berkeley won $10,000 in the Refrigerated Pie Crust category for a rich, totally decadent Fudge Crostata With Raspberry Sauce.
Other $10,000 prize winners were Sharon Richardson of Dallas who won the Crescent, Biscuit and Pizza Crust category with country french apple crescent casserole, an apple dumpling-like dessert ideal for a brunch or light supper.
Christine Vidra of Maumee, Ohio, won the Cake and Brownie division with a chocolate mousse fantasy torte that combined a brownie mix with several different kinds of chocolate as well as coffee granules. It is a chocolate lover's delight.
Scott Wolf, 21, from Salem, Ore., and one of 12 men finalists, won the $10,000 prize in the Frozen Vegetable category for a non-chocolatey, non-sweet chicken dish called garden rice-stuffed chicken breasts. His sister, 20, Debra Wolf, also a finalist this year, won $2,000 in the Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Roll category. Debra, who won $15,000 at the 1986 Bake-Off was returning as a contestant for the third time.
Californians who won $2,000 this year were Ellen Nishimura, a medical technologist from Fair Oaks, who entered a trendy Mediterranean Corn Salad in the Canned Vegetable and Mashed Potato Flake category.
Mary Lou Cook of Fallbrook won $2,000 in the same division for a quick and easy soup, Creamy Chicken-Vegetable Chowder.
Janice Weinrick of La Mesa, who was persuaded to enter the contest by a friend, Arlene Schlotter of El Cajon, won $2,000 in the Cake and Brownie Mix division for an original version of a Costa Rican Cream Cake. Schlotter also attended this year's contest as a finalist, but placed out of the money.
BLUEBERRY-POPPY SEED BRUNCH CAKE
Grand Prize Winner,
Flour Category, $40,000,
Linda Rahman, Petaluma,
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and egg. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer.
Combine flour, poppy seeds, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add butter mixture alternately with sour cream.
Spread batter over bottom and 1 inch up sides of greased and floured 9- or 10-inch springform pan, making sure batter on sides is 1/4 inch thick.
Spoon Filling over batter. Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 55 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool slightly. Remove sides of pan.
Drizzle Glaze over top of warm cake. Serve warm or cool. Makes 8 servings.
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
If blueberries are frozen, thaw and drain on paper towels. Combine blueberries, sugar, flour and nutmeg in medium bowl.
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons milk
Combine sugar and enough milk in small bowl until glaze is of desired drizzling consistency. Blend until smooth.
FUDGE CROSTATA WITH RASPBERRY
Refrigerated Pie Crust
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 teaspoon flour
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 egg, separated
Sweetened whipped cream, optional
Chocolate curls, optional
Whole raspberries, optional
Prepare pie crust according to package directions for 2-crust pie using 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom or 9-inch pie pan and flour. Place 1 prepared crust in pan. Press in bottom and up sides of pan. Trim edges if necessary. Set aside. Reserve remaining crust.
Melt chocolate pieces and 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter with sugar in medium bowl until light and fluffy.
Add almonds, egg, egg yolk and melted chocolate. Blend well. Spread mixture evenly over bottom of pie crust-lined pan.