On Sept. 9, Freda Smith was posthumously inducted into the Village of Gibsonburg Community Hall of Fame, which was initiated in 2016 to celebrate great achievements by the town’s residents, said Mayor Steve Fought.
“To be quite honest,” Mr. Fought said, when Mrs. Smith’s name was brought up during deliberations about this year’s nominees, it “didn’t ring a bell.”
But then he found out that she’d created Peanut Blossoms: those rich, delicious, crackly peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s Kiss on top that had earned Mrs. Smith an invitation to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1957. He thought it “was pretty cool” that a woman from a small town in Ohio could be “the cookie lady” whose treats are so famous and beloved.
Mrs. Smith’s niece, Wendy Shuman of Fremont, had nominated her aunt, who passed away in 1963, and also represented the family at the induction ceremony. “I thought the cookie kind of put Gibsonburg on the map,” she said. “And it should be celebrated,” along with her aunt.
Another niece, Sue Strasel, said she will “always remember how shiny and wonderful [the] prize stove looked” in her aunt’s kitchen. Mrs. Smith had come in third at the Bake-Off, winning “a [General Electric] range, a mixer, and $100 cash,” said Ms. Shuman.
But Mrs. Smith isn’t the only talented Pillsbury contestant who’s made northwest Ohio proud.
Audrey Madyun went to the Bake-Off in 2008, the first time she’d submitted an entry to the contest, with her recipe for Tropical Sunshine Flatcakes with Orange Cream. She was in disbelief when she got the phone call that she’d been named a finalist and “wrote the number on the wall, so I wouldn’t lose it,” she said. “And it’s still there,” she said of the memento.
Jean Gottfried from Upper Sandusky was named a Bake-Off finalist in 2006 for her Italian Cream Pie with Strawberry Sauce. It was “the first thing I ever, ever entered” in a contest, she said.
She was dieting at the time, following a dairy industry regimen that promoted milk products. The pie that was permissible on the diet also met the criteria for eligibility in a special contest category for one of that year’s sponsors, 3-A-Day of Dairy. Then, Mrs. Gottfried said, “I noticed that if I used Splenda instead of sugar,” the recipe would qualify in two different specialty divisions.
She made the simple substitution and found hers was the only recipe that met the terms of the latter category. So Mrs. Gottfried won the $10,000 Splenda Pure Magic Award for best use of the ingredient.
A third woman from the area, Suzanne Conrad of Findlay, was also named a finalist with her very first entry into the Bake-Off.
In 2004, Mrs. Conrad and her husband, Mike, “were thrilled just to get that far,” she said, as going to the live cooking competition would enable the couple to take a trip — a luxury for parents with two children under the age of 2 — with most of the expenses paid.
Her recipe was an Amish-inspired Oats and Honey Granola Pie with several noteworthy aspects, officials at the Bake-Off told her. It’s “simple” and “all in one bowl,” Mrs. Conrad said. Another perk was that the recipe used the company’s just-introduced rolled pie crusts, rather than folded ones. “Making my own pie crust — I never do that,” Mrs. Conrad said with a chuckle.
Although, as she humbly said, she “just fooled with some stuff” to create her pie, the judges were impressed by its creative use of ingredients and, especially, its taste. Mrs. Conrad won the $1 million grand prize in the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off.
“It’s still shocking,” Mrs. Conrad said of her big win. “The odds are so against you.”
But, as the saying goes: You can’t win if you don’t enter.
So get ready, because the Pillsbury Bake-Off is back for 2018 after a three-year hiatus. For all the rules and other information, go to pillsbury.com/bake-off-contest.
Maybe this time, the winner will be you.
Freda Smith, right, uses a tray of cookies to make Joe E. Brown grin in this 1957 photo.
Pillsbury Mills, INC. Enlarge
Freda Smith of Gibsonburg won third prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off of 1957 with this now-classic cookie. The recipe has even been enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History as one of the most popular entries in the competition’s history.
1¾ cups all purpose flour
½ cup sugar, plus extra for rolling cookies
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
48 Hershey's Kisses milk chocolates, unwrapped
Heat oven to 375F.
In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla and egg; mix with electric mixer on low speed until stiff dough forms.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in extra sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 milk chocolate candy, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge; remove from cookie sheets.
Yield: 48 cookies
Source: Freda Smith, pillsbury.com
Oats and Honey Granola Pie
Suzanne Conrad, who won the $1 million grand prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2004 for her Oats and Honey Granola Pie, at her home in Findlay.
Suzanne Conrad of Findlay won the $1 million grand prize at the 2004 Pillsbury Bake-Off.
1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
½ cup Land O'Lakes butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup corn syrup
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Land O'Lakes eggs, lightly beaten
4 Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey crunchy granola bars (2 pouches from 8.9-oz. box), crushed
½ cup Fisher Chef's Naturals chopped walnuts
¼ cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
¼ cup Hershey's semi-sweet or milk chocolate baking chips
Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired
Heat oven to 350F. Place pie crust in 9-inch glass pie plate as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie.
In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter on High 50 to 60 seconds or until melted. Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup until blended. Beat in salt, vanilla and eggs. Stir crushed granola bars, walnuts, oats and baking chips into brown sugar mixture. Pour into crust-lined pan.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.
Yield: 8 servings
Source: Suzanne Conrad, pillsbury.com
Tropical Sunshine Flatcakes with Orange Cream
Audrey Madyun with her bake-off winner. Her 2008 Pillsbury Bake-Off entry was Tropical Sunshine Flatcakes with Orange Cream.
Audrey Madyun was named a Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist in 2008 with this recipe.
1 tablespoon Crisco pure vegetable oil
½ cup pecan chips
1 13.9-ounce can Pillsbury refrigerated orange flavor sweet rolls with icing (8 rolls)
2 tablespoons butter
2 firm ripe medium bananas, sliced (2 cups)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup fresh or canned, drained, pineapple tidbits
1 12-ounce jar pineapple ice cream topping
1 15-ounce can mandarin orange segments in light syrup, drained
1¼ cups whipping cream
Icing from can of sweet rolls
Heat oven to 400F. Generously brush 1 tablespoon oil on 1 large cookie sheet or 2 small cookie sheets.
Cut waxed paper or cooking parchment paper into 16 (6-inch square) sheets. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 teaspoons pecans on 1 sheet. Place 1 orange roll on pecans; sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons pecans on top of roll. Top with another waxed paper square. Using rolling pin, roll evenly until orange roll is 4 1/2 inches in diameter; remove waxed paper. Place roll on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining rolls, placing 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Set icing aside. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add bananas, lime juice and pineapple; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently stir in pineapple topping; cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until warmed. Gently stir in orange segments.
In medium bowl, beat whipping cream and icing with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. To serve, top flatcakes with warm pineapple topping and orange cream.
Yield: 8 servings
Source: Audrey Madyun, pillsbury.com
Italian Cream Pie with Strawberry Sauce
Jean Gottfried with her 2006 entry to the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest at her home in Upper Sandusky. She was a finalist with her creation, an Italian Cream Pie with Strawberry Sauce.
Jean Gottfried won $10,000 for this recipe in the Pillsbury Bake-Off of 2006.
1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 cup skim (fat-free) milk
1 package unflavored gelatin
¼ cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
1½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese (12 ounces)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
2 6-ounce containers Yoplait Light Fat Free Very Vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 10-ounce bag Cascadian Farm frozen organic strawberries, thawed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat oven to 450F. Unroll pie crust; place in 8- or 9-inch springform pan, pressing crust up side of pan to top edge. (Do not overwork or let crust get too warm.) Prick bottom and side of crust with fork. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, place 1/2 cup of the milk. Sprinkle gelatin over milk; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup Splenda. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently, until gelatin is completely dissolved (do not boil). Pour milk mixture into blender. Add ricotta cheese and vanilla; cover and blend until pureed. Pour into large bowl; stir in whipped topping and yogurt.
Remove side of pan; remove crust from pan and place crust on serving plate. To create collar for crust, wrap piece of string around outside of crust to measure; cut sheet of waxed paper length of string plus 3 inches. Fold waxed paper in half lengthwise; fold in half again. Wrap around outside of crust; staple collar together to secure around crust. Pour filling into cooled baked crust. Refrigerate until set, about 2 to 3 hours.
In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, mix 1/4 cup Splenda and the cornstarch. Stir in thawed strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate until serving time.
To serve, remove waxed paper collar. Cut into wedges; place on individual dessert plates. Top servings with strawberry sauce. Store dessert and sauce in refrigerator.
Yield: 12 servings
Source: Jean Gottfried, pillsbury.com
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