I’m currently on my way back from Pillsbury Bake-Off 2010 in Orlando, riding in the back seat of my personal “contract killa’s” car.

Yes, on my laptop, trying to get this post up before the winner is announced in a few hours, just so we could say “We told you so!”

More on him later, the contract killa, that is. That post on him will come, I promise.

A few of us fellow bloggers were invited by Pillsbury for the weekend to catch the mother of all cooking contests, the Pillsbury Bake-Off 2010, where the grand prize is $1 million dollars (oh yes, I just did say that in my Austin Power voice!).

So, if you’ve never ever been to a cooking competition, let me set the scene. The room is packed. 100 contestants. 200 fans, supporters, media, staff. The Bake-Off begins with a parade of the contestants.

I’m in the back. And I’m short.

So I threw my camera up in the air hoping to catch a shot. Oooh such excitement!

So orderly. They all line up in front of their kitchen stations. If I was a contestant and there was a cool million at stake, I think I’d get lost in this sea of talent.

Blogger’s Choice Award

But I’m here to talk about one finalist today, her name is Stephanie, and we bloggers who attended, chose Stephanie as our Blogger’s Choice Award.

Which isn’t an official award at all.

In fact, we didn’t even give her a prize other than our silly stamp of approval and a pat on the back.

Oh, and really, there was only a handful of us bloggers who had made this Blogger’s Choice Award decision: Marc of No Recipes, Lori of Cowboy’s Wife/My Wooden Spoon, Vanessa of Chef Druck, Jessica of Food Mayhem, Tina of Carrots N Cake, Carol NYCityMama, Jennifer of In Jennie’s Kitchen

Do you want to know why we chose her? Take a look. This is candied bacon.

But no Stephanie to be found! There’s evidence that she’s been hard at work at her station:

But…but…but…no more samples. Boo.

As I was giving the others my sad-pout – this beautiful angel shows up! This is Stephanie Lemus of Westlake Village, California. What a smile!

Do you want a taste?

Oh, I love her. And to top it all off – she’s a Steamy Kitchen reader. {heart}

Candied bacon joy. Salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy, sour.

Category winner will be announced tonight 10pm EST, the four category winners will be flying to Chicago to be on Oprah’s show, who will be announcing the Grand Prize $1 million dollar winner!

We’re predicting Stephanie, our Blogger’s Choice Award Winner! Stephanie works at Microsoft and this is her very first contest. She loves to bake, and in fact has an archive of over 300 recipes on her hard drive. Honey, that sounds like a future food blog to me!

Right after the dish was delivered to the judges, I recorded a little message from Stephanie with a little heartbreaking news about her dog {prayer}.

UPDATE: Full list of Pillsbury Bake-Off category winners (while Stephanie didn’t win – WE STILL LOVE HER!)

(photo courtesy of Pillsbury Bake-Off)

Candied Bacon and Apple Canapés Recipe

recipe by Stephanie Lemus
Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest 20101 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/3 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
20 thin slices center-cut bacon (about 12 oz)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 small Granny Smith apples
4 oz cream cheese (half of 8-oz package), softened
1 1/4 cups crumbled blue cheese (6 oz)

Heat oven to 400°F. Line large cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper. Unroll pie crusts on work surface. Using 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 20 rounds from each crust, re-rolling dough if necessary. Place on cookie sheet; prick each round twice with fork. In small bowl, beat egg and 1 tablespoon water until well blended; brush on rounds. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Cool while preparing bacon.

Line 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking parchment paper. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and red pepper. Place bacon with sides touching in pan; sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until sugar is hot and bubbly. Remove bacon from pan to a plate; let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using sharp knife, cut each bacon slice into 4 pieces.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Cut each unpeeled apple into 20 (2×1/4-inch) slices; place in water mixture and refrigerate.

In another small bowl, mix cream cheese and blue cheese with wooden spoon, leaving small pieces of blue cheese visible. Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with 3/4-inch tip; pipe onto each cracker. Drain apple slices; pat dry. For each cracker, place 1 apple slice between 2 bacon pieces; press at an angle into cheese mixture.

40 canapés

1 Serving: Calories 90 (Calories from Fat 50); Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 2 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 15mg; Sodium 370mg; Total Carbohydrate 8g (Dietary Fiber 0g, Sugars 3g); Protein 2g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 0%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 2%; Iron 0% Exchanges: 1/2 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1/2 *Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Look who else came with me to Pillsbury!

Cooking with Amy
No Recipes
Chef Druck

Food Mayhem
Kitchen Scoop
Carrots and Cake
Official Pillsbury Bake Off blog
NYCityMama (pre and post)
Stephen (in New Haven Post)