A former Brilliant postal employee hopes to win the judges' stamp of approval in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest this week.
Dawn Onuffer of Crestview, Fla., formerly of Brilliant, is a finalist in the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off. She and 99 other finalists are competing in the contest finals at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida today through Tuesday, March 25-27.
The grand prize winner receives $1 million and $10,000 in GE kitchen appliances. Three remaining recipe category winners each receive $5,000 and $3,000 in GE kitchen appliances.
Onuffer is preparing her original recipe, Cappuccino Toppers, in the Sweet Treats recipe category. "I'm excited," she said of competing in the prestigious cooking contest.
Over the years, Onuffer has entered some other contests. "This is the fourth time for entering the Pillsbury Bake-Off and the first time, of course, being called as finalist," she said.
Cooking is "a hobby I like to do," she said. "I like to get in the kitchen and experiment."
For the Pillsbury contest, entrants must develop a recipe from a list of main Pillsbury products and a list of about 12 other sponsored products. "You have to use two ingredients of theirs," she said.
Asked if she was nervous about the upcoming finals, Onuffer replied Thursday night, "Probably not right now."
She added, "Mine is a fairly simple recipe. I have to make it three times. Not much could go wrong - unless I burn something."
The finalist remarked, "It's a thrill just to be chosen and I'm honored. The million dollars would be nice, too," she added.
Regarding the development of her recipe, she said, "I came up with a pie with similar flavor, but decided to make something that was easier to eat."
Cappuccino Toppers are "little cookies" that can be eaten in one or two bites, she explained. "I love the flavor of it. The coffeehouse flavors and the frappes are popular. I love chocolate, so I added some of that."
Her creation has been well received by tasters. "I did a meet-and-greet at my local supermarket and people liked them," she said of the cookies. "I just hope the judges do, too."
Onuffer has her own cheering section and willing group of taste testers at home. She quipped that her husband, David, is her "guinea pig," then added, "But he's not much for sweets. So I have friends who have been taste testers (for sweets). I have plenty of friends willing to do that," she said, laughing.
Cappuccino Toppers also have won a thumb's up from her daughters, Brooklyn, 8, and Lindsay, 5. "The girls like it, which surprised me since it's coffee (flavored). But it's a light coffee flavor," Onuffer said.
"They're my little helpers," she said regarding her daughters. "Brooklyn is getting better in the kitchen. I actually like it when they get in the kitchen."
The girls are home-schooled so that allows them time to experiment and learn in the kitchen with their mother, she noted.
Onuffer also has a son, Allan, 26, who lives in Brilliant. Her parents, Patricia and Larry Merritt, and other relatives also remain in Brilliant.
A Buckeye North High School graduate, Onuffer worked at the Brilliant post office before moving to Florida in 1995. When she became tired of winters in the North, she applied to post offices in Florida. Officials from the Panama City, Fla., post office called and offered her a position.
She left the postal system almost nine years ago, departing the day before her first daughter was born. "I'm a stay-at-home mom and I home school them," she said.
Regarding her own influences, Onuffer said, "My mom got me started baking. I was always helping her. She was instrumental in that. I helped her make Christmas cookies every year. We still make the same cookies every Christmas."
As the Pillsbury Bake-Off finals approached, friends offered their congratulations and support to Onuffer. "One friend said she's going to be praying all day long," she related.
"I'm amazed how supportive everyone has been," Onuffer commented. "Everybody's been wonderful."
Onuffer's original recipe follows:
Prep Time: 30 Min
Total Time: 2 Hr 5 Min
Makes: 48 cookie cups
1 package Pillsbury Ready to Bake refrigerated oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant cappuccino coffee mix
1 1/2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping (4 ounces)
1/4 cup Hershey's mini chips semi-sweet chocolate baking chips
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 48 mini muffin cups with Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Cut each cookie in half; press each half into bottom of mini muffin cup.
2. Bake 6 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pans. With knife, remove cookies from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and cappuccino mix with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gently fold in whipped topping and mini chips.
4. Spoon or pipe mixture onto each cookie (if piping, fit decorating bag with star tip with 3/4-inch opening). Top each with sprinkles. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.
Nutrition Information: 1 Serving (1 Serving) Calories 80 (Calories from Fat 40),Total Fat 4 1/2g (Saturated Fat 2 1/2g,Trans Fat 1/2g), Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 55mg; Total Carbohydrate 10g (Dietary Fiber 0g,Sugars 7g), Protein 0g; Percent Daily Value: Vitamin A 0.00%; Vitamin C 0.00%; Calcium 0.00%; Iron 0.00%; Exchanges: 0 Starch; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 1 Fat; Carbohydrate Choices: 1/2; Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.