Feb 23, 2019 • By

An Ireland trip inspired this winning recipe

The 49th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest received thousands of tasty recipe entries with heartwarming memories that inspired them.

While the contest was initially created as a way to celebrate home cooks across America, this year’s grand prize recipe was actually inspired by Irish cuisine.

On an episode of Food Network’s The Kitchen that aired February 23, Melissa Jollands of Hudsonville, Michigan, learned that she is the grand prize winner of the 49th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

Her pub-style Dublin Cheeseboard-Stuffed Appetizer Bread recipe won the Appetizers for Any Party category and also earned her the grand prize – $50,000, a kitchen makeover from GE Appliances and a feature in Food Network Magazine.

Andrea Espinoza makes Poblano Shrimp Flatbread, Melissa Jollands makes Dublin Stuffed Cheeseboard Bread, Lauren Katz makes Cherry-Cream Cheese Crumb Cake Bombs, and Joanna Crumley makes Reese’s Piece O’ Bliss Fudge, as seen on Food Network’s The Kitchen.

Jollands’ cheeseboard-inspired recipe topped the three other category winners: Lauren Katz from Ashburn, Virgina, won the Cozy Weekend Breakfast category for her Cherry-Cream Cheese Crumb Cake Bombs. The Winning Weeknight Dinners category was won by Andrea Espinoza from Stockton, California, for her Poblano Shrimp Flatbread. And Joanna Crumley from Hubbard, Oregon, took home the Sweet + Simple Desserts category prize for her REESE’s Piece ‘O’ Bliss Fudge.

Melissa Jollands, Lauren Katz, The Pillsbury Doughboy, Andrea Espinoza, and Joanna Crumley, as seen on Food Network’s The Kitchen.

Irish inspiration 
Jollands said the contest’s emphasis on the story behind the recipe made the ideation process easy for her.

“For me it was all about the story,” she explains. “It was easier for me to have a story that I could make a really cool recipe to align with, versus people that are constantly coming up with new recipes and then they’re trying to find a story to go with them after the fact.”

Jollands found inspiration for her winning recipe during a trip to Dublin, Ireland, back in 2016 with her husband. The trip was to celebrate the high school sweethearts’ 25th wedding anniversary and marked their first international vacation together.

While there, they fell in love with Dublin’s large spread of flavorful cheese and meat boards, served alongside the contrasting flavors and textures of dried fruit, nuts and warm bread.

With an eight-ingredient limit on the recipe, Jollands said she was very strategic with what went into her appetizer – which featured Pillsbury refrigerated French bread.

“When I made the decision to use garnishes, apricots and arugula, and I only had three ingredients to put inside the sandwich, it really became about the important combination of what those were,” she recalls. “I wanted to do something that was going to bring literally every flavor profile I could. I wanted to be able to have nutty, creamy, sweet, crunchy and salty. That’s why I picked the goat cheese, because I knew that goat cheese would offset the sharp cheddar and salt in the salami. I purposely chose the flavors that went inside the sandwich because I knew if I didn’t have the right flavors in there it wouldn’t be good.”

Her strategy paid off, because her Dublin Cheeseboard-Stuffed Appetizer Bread turned out to be grand prize-worthy good.

“Melissa’s recipe truly transformed our Pillsbury French bread dough,” says Jenny Jonker, associate marketing communications manager for Pillsbury. “The cheeseboard elements she included like apricots, arugula and fig jam allow you to experiment with different flavors in every bite.”

Jollands, who says she’s never won a trophy in her life, compares the suspense of the announcement on The Kitchen to waiting for the jackpot number in a game of Bingo, in this audio clip.

She says she’s excited to revamp her kitchen with new GE appliances and she’s hoping to use some of the prize money to take another trip to Ireland.

“Melissa exemplifies exactly what the Bake-Off stands for,” Jonker says. “She treasures the memories she creates with her family – including memories made at home in the kitchen.”

Jollands says her late grandmother, Marie Notenbaum, got her interested in cooking and baking at a young age.

Jollands’ contest entry advice for other home cooks: “Dig deep and find the memories that you cherish, the memories that make you who you are and then find the things in those memories that can make a recipe. Don’t just sit back and think about it. You don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s worth a try and it’s so much fun.”


A big birthday for runner-up in first Pillsbury Bake-Off

The Pillsbury Doughboy

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