Wednesday Winner: Onion Lover’s Twist – Pillsbury Bake-Off # 21

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Nan Robb of Huachucha City, Arizona, mother of a 4-year-old son, and wife of a civilian worker at the army post of Fort Huachucha, liked to make a special bread for the family’s Sunday barbecues.  This bread turned out to be special indeed as it won Nan the $25,000 grand prize of the 21st Bake-Off in 1970, and it was Nan’s first time to enter the contest.  Talk about beginner’s luck!  The Bake-Off was held at the luxurious Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California.
Nan’s winning bread, “Onion Lover’s Twist,” has fresh chopped onion, Parmesan cheese, and sesame seeds in the filling, which is rolled inside each of three strips of bread braided together.  There is no kneading, shaping is easy, and it can be ready to serve warm in only a 2-1/2 hour time period. 

What a beauty!
I found an amusing photo, which was too blurry to post, of Nan being wheeled in what looked like a little cart, with her sitting on $25,000 in actual cash while holding a check for the amount.  The AP photo was titled “Wheeling in the Dough.” This was a delightful ending to a great Bake-Off.  I was able to get a first-hand account again from our friend of the Bake-Off # 19 post, Gloria Piantek.  Gloria fondly remembers how a photographer had all the contestants gather outside and stand to form the number 21, and then he took an aerial view of the contestants.  Another time for the television cameras, everyone lined up and walked over a bridge while waving to the camera.  When Gloria’s little girl saw her mommy on TV, she ran up and kissed the screen. 
This was Gloria’s second Bake-Off, which she entered with her recipe, “German Fudge Wunderbars.”  Gloria took all the ingredients she liked best – chocolate, German cake frosting, and chocolate chip cookies and combined them to make, as Pillsbury describes, “A fudgy bar cookie with popular German appeal.  Rich layered bars are made in one step, then turned out to reveal a chewy chocolate chip base, a creamy cheese chocolate center, and a crisp brown sugar-coconut pecan topping.  So soft and fudgy, you chill them before serving.”  Those decadent-sounding bars actually came about by accident.  Gloria baked her idea, and was horrified that they were too soft to turn out of the pan.  Thinking they were an expensive failure, Gloria decided to just put them in the refrigerator for the time being, as she rushed out the door for a meeting.  Upon return, to her delight, “magic happened.”  Her “failure” after being chilled, turned out to be a fabulous 3-layer fudge bar.  So fabulous in fact, that after the Bake-Off, Better Homes and Gardens magazine featured her recipe as one of their special candies.  So why didn’t it win at the Bake-Off?  Well, through no fault of her own, Gloria’s magic didn’t happen on the Bake-Off floor.  Remember, her bars need to be chilled to have the magic happen.  Gloria made her beautiful bars, and lovingly placed them in the Bake-Off refrigerator.  When she returned two hours later to present them to the judge’s, it seems that a photographer had accidentally pulled out the cord of the refrigerator and no one had noticed.  And there was no time to make and chill the recipe again.  As Gloria says, she may not have won, but it makes a great story for Bake-Off history!
Even though her recipe didn’t win a prize, Gloria found friendships worth their weight in gold. Gloria fondly remembers meeting her soon-to-be friend, Prudence Hilburn, who was in the cookie division.  After the Bake-Off, Prudence went on to work with James Beard in New York City at Peter Kump’s cooking school and also wrote food columns and taught cooking classes.  They are still friends to this day.  Another friend was Marie Dentino from Cicero, Illinois, who won a prize for her “Cheesy Moon Bread,” inspired by Apollo 11, and made with Pillsbury’s Hot Roll Mix.  When the contestants were shopping for their ingredients with a band playing for entertainment, everyone gathered around and clapped for Marie as she did her cheesy moon bread disco!   There was another very special person at this Bake-Off, Edna Buckley from Collins, New York.  Gloria said everyone loved Edna, who went on to compete in seven Bake-Off’s.  According to Gloria, if you put every contestant from the Bake-Off together, you would end up with the enthusiasm of Edna.  And in the end, that’s what the Bake-Off is all about. 
Prudence (left) and Gloria
Edna (left) and Marie
Bake-Off friends forever…
To read more about the Pillsbury Bake-Off go to
To find the recipe for Onion Lover’s Twist go to
Photos of the Onion Lover’s Twist are by my daughter, Kristina Vanni. Visit her blog at:

To read previous Bake-Off Blogs:
Bake-Off #1:
Bake-Off #2:

Bake-Off #3:
Bake-Off #4:
Bake-Off #5:
Bake-Off #6:
Bake-Off #7:
Bake-Off #8:
Bake-Off #9:
Bake-Off #10:
Bake-Off #11:
Bake-Off #12:
Bake-Off #13:
Bake-Off #14:
Bake-Off #15:
Bake-Off #16:
Bake-Off #17:
Bake-Off #18:
Bake-Off #19:
Bake-Off #20


9 Responses to Wednesday Winner: Onion Lover’s Twist – Pillsbury Bake-Off # 21

  1. October 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    ANOTHER excellent recap–thank you! I always feel the excitement when I read these posts! I could totally relate to the plug being accidentally pulled on the refrigerator since I experienced a power surge that caused my oven to shut off at the 44th Bake-Off Contest!

  2. October 7, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Bad camera man pulling out the fridge plug-crazy disappointment! But once recovered from that mishap Gloria is right–the making of friends at such events is priceless.

  3. October 7, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    Thanks, Brett! I didn’t know that happened you. Your recipe was amazing, as they always are at any contest. Did you ever hear the story of how one woman in a past contest sat on her own pie?!

  4. October 7, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    Yes, Lisa – And you are one of my priceless friends. Always.

  5. October 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Thanks Debbie for bringing back all those great memories. Sorry to hear that Brett experienced an oven shut-off. Sure hope they were able to fix it.

  6. October 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Thank you, Gloria, for sharing your wonderful memories. The only good thing about mishaps happening, is that unless it’s the third time entering, one can always try to go back again! And we all know that just means more fun!

  7. January 9, 2012 at 11:10 am #


    May I ask who started this blog ?? My mother was Marie Dentino. She passed away in December of 2004. She would have LOVED seeing all of this memorabilia. Gloria, I remember you and my mother becoming very good friends after the 1970 bake-off. I remember Edna Buckley as well. I was only 13 when this all took place. We were all so proud of my mom and her Cheesy Moon Bread. My son found these postings, and sent it to me and I sent it to all of our family members. We can’t believe that something like this has surfaced 41+ years later !!! Thank you so much and I would love to hear from you Gloria, or any of you involved in this !!! Thank you again !!!!

  8. January 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Hi DeeDee! I started this blog as a labor of my love for the Bake-Off. I am so happy you wrote because I remember your mother from my first Bake-Off which was #32! There was a picture of all of the contestants from Illinois in the local Daily Herald, holding up your mom. Maybe you remember that photo. If you don’t have it, I’ll scan it and send it to you. I have heard from many daughters and relatives of Bake-Off contestants featured here, and I am thrilled that you wrote. How I wish I had known, as I would have called you for more info about your sweet mom. Please feel free to write me at [email protected]

  9. January 9, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    P.S. to DeeDee! I forwarded your comment to Gloria and she would love to email you with more stories of your mom! I have no way of reaching you except through this post, but as I said above, you can email me at [email protected] and I will write back and give you Gloria’s info. She was thrilled that you wrote!

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