03 Mar Baker Rises to National Level
Check out my
story in the Great Falls Tribune Wednesday, March 3, 2010.
Baker rises to national level
Ulm woman takes grand prize in Bake for the Cure; heading to Pillsbury Bake-off
Story and photos by SYDNE GEORGE For the Tribune
Ulm home baker Aimee Hachigian- Gould assumed she was on the wrong end of a prank call when she learned she was the $1,000 national grand prize winner in the Fleischmann’s Bake for the Cure contest. That was until she realized the person on the line was Beth Betcher, the Fleischmann’s Yeast representative she had spoken with on past occasions when she had won baking contests at the Montana State Fair.
The judges absolutely loved Hachigian-Gould’s winning recipe for Strawberries and Cream Coffeecake, Betcher said.
“The flavor was a delightful blend of sweet cake with a rich, fruit filling and the texture was a divine soft crumb cake due to the use of cake flour,” the judges said.
“The presentation was beautiful with the crumb topping and the optional use of a heart-shaped pan.”
Hachigian-Gould said when she developed the recipe she wanted to create an elegant and pretty, but easy, yeast-risen coffeecake that could be made on short notice.
“It had to be pink, of course, because it was for the breast cancer awareness theme,” she said.
Creating winning recipes is nothing new for Hachigian-Gould.
Actually, she’s been entering and winning baking and cooking contests for years. Her first contest was the Michigan State Fair in 1982, and the following year she won a blue ribbon there for Ghurabia, an Armenian butter
Since then she has won numerous cooking contests at the Montana State Fair, including the SACO and E. Guittard Chocolate Cake Contests, Spam Cook-off, Wheat and Barley Thon, Crisco Pie Contest, SACO Soup Contest and the C & H Sugar Fudge Contest.
Hachigian-Gould said she’s always loved to be in the kitchen, cooking and baking.
“My earliest memories of home seem to revolve around the kitchen,” Hachigian-Gould said, adding that she thinks that’s because she is 100 percent Armenian and “we’re always feeding people.”
She learned to cook from her mother and grandmothers and said that cooking is always a family affair with Armenians. And by family she means the whole family. She remembers starting weeks
She said the men in her grandfather’s village in Armenia were bound by blood and friendship and that these ties continued in America when her relatives ended up in Detroit in 1915 following the Turkish genocide against the Armenians.
As a result, Hachigian-Gould’s favorite things to bake are Armenian pastries, both sweet and savory, and anything chocolate. It’s important to Hachigian-Gould that the finished product looks beautiful, especially when she’s cooking for a competition.
“It’s fun to test myself on a recipe or technique I’ve never done before, just to say ‘I did that’,” she said.
Her motto is “No fear in the kitchen,” and she said she’s pretty good in the backcountry, too, cooking on a wood stove or over a campfire.
Hachigian-Gould loves competing against her mother, Louise Hachigian, because she was her teacher in the kitchen.
“We collect recipes all year, trying to dream up something exotic for the fair contests,” Hachigian-Gould said.
Her twin sons, Andrew and Brandon Gould, 17, have been carrying on the family tradition and entering cooking contests since they were little. She said it’s exciting when they win, especially when they were 6 and baked unsupervised in the Family Living Center and won blue ribbons in the Wheat and Barley Thon.
Perhaps even more exciting than her Bake for the Cure win was news that she is a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-off this year.
Hachigian-Gould will fly to Orlando, Fla., in April to compete with 100 other finalists for the $1 million grand prize in the 44th Pillsbury Bake-off. There, she’ll bake the Featherlight Cheddar Ranch Puffs she describes as “a yeasty light biscuit made with Pillsbury All-Purpose flour and Land o’ Lakes butter with ranch dressing mix, bacon, green onions and cheddar cheese.”
“Everyone who eats them asks for the
“It’s still hard to believe I was selected from literally tens of thousands of entrants,” she said, likening being selected to the Pillsbury Bake-off to “finding the Holy Grail for the home cook.”
She always believed if she was selected it would be for a really exotic chocolate creation. Instead it was for “a very easy quick and delicious breakfast biscuit puff that her sons have been making since they were about 3 years old.”
For cake: Combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup of crumbs. Stir undissolved yeast, baking soda and baking powder into remaining crumbs. Combine sour cream and water; heat to very warm (120 to 130 degrees). Stir sour cream mixture, egg and extracts into flour mixture. Spread batter in greased 9by-3-inch round or heart-shaped springform pan. Set aside while making filling. For filling: Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg and extracts; beat until smooth. Optional: tint to desired shade of pink with red food coloring (about 2 to 3 drops). Pour onto prepared cake batter. Top with jam and sprinkle with reserved crumbs and almonds.
Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden. Cool at least two hours. Store cake in refrigerator.
Recipe note: The light texture of this cake depends on cake flour. Do not substitute all-purpose flour.
Ghurabia (Armenian butter cookie)
Easiest cookie recipe ever, Gould said. Use 1 pound clarified butter, 2 cups sugar, creamed with the cold butter until it dissolves (takes half an hour) and mix in 3 cups flour. Chill, then shape by hand or roll ¼ inch thick and cut out. Bake at 300° until set. Do not brown at all.
FEATHERLIGHT CHEDDAR-RANCH PUFFS
Heat oven to 400°. Line cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper; spray paper with no-stick cooking spray.
In small bowl, mix yeast and warm water; set aside.
In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dressing mix. Cut in butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
In small microwavable bowl, place onions. Cover with microwavable plastic wrap, folding back one side to vent; microwave on high 30 seconds. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add cheese and bacon to flour mixture; toss until well coated. Stir in yeast mixture, onions and buttermilk all at once until soft dough forms.
Drop dough by ¤ cupfuls 2 to 3 inches apart onto cookie sheets.
Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until puffed and light golden brown.
Serve warm with additional butter, if desired.