I’m so excited to be an official blogger for Recipe to Riches for the next three weeks! Ever since I saw the call for auditions for this show, I have been waiting to see what type of production it would be. I mean, you never know with reality TV, right? But I LOVE President’s Choice products and figured I needed to give it a go, since the winning product will most likely appear at our Annual “We love the President” holiday party!
Reading the description (“a new competitive reality series where each week, Canadian home cooks battle to have their original recipes become a President’s Choice product, win $25,000 and become eligible for a grand prize of $250,000″), I saw the words “battle” and “competitive” and my heart sank a little. I’m no stranger to those “war” type reality shows myself so I was hoping it wouldn’t be one of those shows where everything is hyper-manipulated and edited to in-n0-way resemble what actually took place. Last week, watching the premier episode all about Sweets, Puddings and Pies (won by the lovely Glo for her Luscious Lemon Pudding, sadly marketed into “Grandma Glo’s luscious lemon pudding” which I don’t think was at all necessary in order to have those babies leaping off the shelves… but I digress), I was pleasantly surprised.
The “competition” aspect of the show is fairly downplayed and it really seems like the judges were all gunning for all three finalists to do well – a pleasant change in the land of reality TV. Without being condescending, I also feel the show has its charm because it comes across as a little bit “home grown” – hard to explain but it was definitely not full of all the slick production values of, say a Top Chef type show. It’s a fun, feel-good show to watch and it’s wonderful to see real people being allowed to be portrayed as real people – it honestly does not seem like there was too much scripted stuff in the episode. Of course, there was some editing for drama (I mean, you KNEW as soon as they had a shot of Mijune’s gorgeous heels in Week One that there would necessarily follow shots of her teetering precariously in said heels in the kitchen (not sure why she was allowed in the kitchen with that type of footwear anyway) but it doesn’t seem that there is too much editing for the sake of playing up the contest aspect.
What I find most fascinating is watching three home dishes translated into a supermarket-ready product. Not at all as easy as you would think – it’s not just a matter of making a huge batch of something and packaging it nicely – there are all sorts of issues to consider. Mijune’s cute “pie in a jar” last week was kind of out of the race from the start, simply because it wasn’t going to translate to the large scale required for the show’s “Batch Up” (where they have 6 hours to produce 200 servings of their recipe).
This week’s challenge was one I couldn’t wait to see – Cakes. “The President” makes some of the best store-bought desserts out there and I couldn’t wait to see what they thought needed adding to their already wonderful dessert line-up. I loved the sound of all the finalists’ dishes this week and would most likely buy any one of them if I came across them in Loblaw’s – I mean, who doesn’t love the sound of Multi-Layer Peach Cake, Orange Chocolate Silk Cake or Chocolate Banana WOW Cake? Again, the Batch Up was challenging and Melissa ended up making cupcakes instead of one large cake which I believe ultimately worked against her. I was sad to see Crystal’s Chocolate Silk Cake eliminated here because it’s exactly the type of thing I look for in the President’s Choice line – something I might not attempt myself.
Jacqui’s winning recipe (dubbed “Rockin’ Peach Cake” to fit with her urban girl personality) looks a lot simpler than it actually is – on first glance (i.e. before you see the recipe), you think it’s a fairly straightforward recipe. However, on receiving the recipe, I was a little overwhelmed to find out that it involves 10 steps and has SEVEN separate components. The sort of cake I might not not attempt to make at home on a regular basis and the sort of cake that, therefore, I would look for in the freezer at Loblaw’s because, quite frankly, who has time to make a 10 step recipe? This took me well nearly 3 hours to complete from start to finish.
What you see in my pictures are individual (well, maybe 1.5 serves) versions of the cake which ended up working out well for two people – they were a little fiddly to make though but I imagine the full-sized cake would be easier to manipulate. Why didn’t I make one big cake? Well, sadly, as I was about to embark on this process, I discovered that some of my baking pans have gone the way of my baking trays in our recent basement renovation (i.e. missing). With no time to procure any more and no neighbours who would have what I needed, I improvised with three 4-inch springform pans instead of one 9-inch pan.
I had some issues with the crust and the cake layer – the former was too brittle and the latter was definitely not light and fluffy as I expected it to be (you can see in the picture below it’s kind of dense). But for something that I initially was not that excited about making (peaches aren’t my favourite in desserts), I was pleasantly surprised. I was also pleased that it was not overly sweet (given there is sugar in every single component, I was worried).
As I watched Recipe to Riches last night, I was very keen to see the Jacqui’s finished product – I had no visuals to go on (I am a visual learner and cook!) and therefore no idea just how high it is supposed to be. As my different layers cooled down, it became flatter and flatter and I was worried I would not be able to distinguish the different layers and flavours. The first time I saw this on the show I was quite surprised as it was extremely high – exactly like one of the President’s Choice products that really have that WOW factor when you bring them to the table. Being, ahem, somewhat familiar with the President’s Choice line, I can totally see why they chose this as the winner, especially after having made it myself. Later versions of it throughout the episode though, looked flatter so I felt better about my own version but I am betting the finished product on the shelves will be mile high and impressive! And at the end of the day though, two very important factors worked out for me – it was very easy to cut and you could distinguish each layer. See:
Nope, definitely not as visually stunning as Jacqui’s winning version but the flavours were solid and I actually think I might buy this one! I might be a “peach in desserts” convert after all! Still not sure if that is supposed to be a sponge cake layer (it was referred to as a sponge cake layer on the show but the recipe simply calls it a “cake layer”) but if it is, something didn’t quite go right with mine. Needless to say, I’ll be at Loblaw’s on Saturday morning buying one of the store versions to compare – I am very interested to see how well it translates into a PC dessert.
Check out the recipes from each episode every Thursday here.
Update: I finally tasted the the store bought version of Jacqui’s cake.
As you can see from the packaging, it’s nothing like the four layer dessert covered in whipped cream that Jacqui made for the show. It was nice but nothing special. What I liked about Jacqui’s version is that it was SO different, SO sophisticated – something that you wouldn’t think of making at home. This cheesecake product? I could (and would) make this at home. Sad that it’s not the special dessert Jacqui brought to the table.
Disclosure: Recipe to Riches is compensating official bloggers with Loblaws gift cards for making the winning recipe and writing a review post. All opinions are 100% my own.
* Canadian residents, did you enter my Cora’s giveaway yet? Contest closes October 29th at 6pm EST and the winner will be announced in my post on Sunday, October 30th. Good luck – I can’t wait to read your fun egg facts!