Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.

Amy Nelson's cranberry-orange roll recipe impressed us and a lot of other people—including star judge Ree Drummond.

Zee Krstic
February 26, 2018

Any baking gourmand will get excited at the mention of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, a long-honored competition where home cooks can submit recipes for a chance at a $50,000 grand prize— as well as fame and glory.

This year's Pillsbury Bake-Off was more special than usual—after a 3-year hiatus, the hallmark baking brand reinstated the competition and asked contenders to submit a story alongside their best recipe. On Saturday, Amy Nelson of Zionville, North Carolina, cinched the grand prize with a delicious cranberry-orange roll and an even sweeter tale of how the dish came to be.

According to USA Today, Nelson is a 51-year-old nurse who lives on a 20-acre farm with her husband, three children, 14 goats, two horses, three dogs, three dogs, and one duck. The inspiration for her cranberry-orange rolls came from childhood memories of spending time in the kitchen with her late mother, who rarely ate anything that was pre-packaged—except for Pillsbury's orange rolls.

As a sentimental tribute, Nelson blended the classic Pillsbury orange roll with her mother's signature cranberry salad, a family recipe. "Yes, these rolls are "just food"," Nelson writes in her official Pillsbury Bake-Off entry. "But can food not, with its profound taste and olfactory power, send us in an instant back to a place of familiar and immediate happiness in our hearts?"

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Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.

The dish was hand picked from what thousands of submitted recipes by a panel of judges—including special guest Ree Drummond. The first Pillsbury Bake-Off was held in 1949, but hasn't been held every single year, as the brand tries to update the competition to stay as relevant as possible.

Nelson will receive the $50,000 grand prize, a trip to New York to share her touching story in an episode of Food Network's The Kitchen, a feature in Food Network magazine, and a kitchen makeover.

If you want to make Nelson's winning dish, you can pick up Pillsbury Orange Rolls in your local supermarket—and Nelson's recipe is actually quite manageable for a sweet (but occasional) treat. Each of her "bejeweled" cranberry-orange rolls are 220 calories, tout just 15g of sugar, and are safely indulgent at 350mg of sodium.

You can take a peek at the winning recipe right here, and can peruse the rest of this year's top winners as well, which included a toasted spinach pesto ravioli, cookies and cream caramel layer bars, and an Oktoberfest pizza. And for our most adventurous bakers and home cooks, you can also get your own entry ready for next year's big show, too.

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