Sunday, June 3, 2012

Winners Weekend At Duncan Hines!

Wow, I have so much to share! Where to start!? Incase you've missed all the excitement....remember the Duncan Hines frosting creation challenge I have been posting about?? Well my easy chocolate mousse recipe was chosen a winner for the chocolate marshmellow flavor catagory!! So this past weekend Duncan Hines flew me down to their new state of the art test kitchen in Parsippany, New Jersey along with 11 other winners (one for each flavor) as well as three food bloggers Love From the Oven, Hoosier Homemade, and Cookies and Cups. And now I'm back to tell you all about it!

But first let's rewind a bit. I know some of you may be wondering why I'm just now posting about this. I was notified that I was a winner several weeks ago. But I did not want to share until after Duncan Hines released the winners, but that wasn't until the evening before. And in true baker fashion I was finishing up a cake/cupcake/cakepops leaving zero time for blogging.

Duncan Hines really knows how to entertain that's for sure! I enjoyed every bit of it, however, it was a very quick trip and we were always moving  making photo ops limited! But I did manage to snap a few pics to share with you guys.

Coming from northern NY my flight was a quick one into NYC. After being picked up at the airport by a super sweet chauffer I traveled from NYC to Parsippany, NJ  a 45 minute drive that turned into a 2.5 hour drive thanks to crazy NYC traffic. The good news here is I can now handle the hubs driving with ease!

The folks at Duncan Hines didn't miss a detail. Upon check in we recieved little goodie bags filled with  treats for our stay. I had about 15 minutes to freshen up an head down to the hotel lobby to meet the other winners and bloggers as we headed out dinner.

I guess I just assumed it would be dinner and back to the hotel, but boy was I wrong! Duncan Hines had reserved the back of great restaurant Delicious Heights in Bedminister, NJ. We were greated by a very welcoming group of Ducan Hines staff. We were able to mingle and enjoy incredible appetizers until dinner was ready. The food really never stopped coming, as we sat down the table was full of more appetizers, followed by a first course and entree the ended with an incredible choclate mousse created Duncan Hine's very own Pastry Chef Joe DiPaolo. (which was pretty much incredible)
Me,  Christy (Love From The Oven) and Lisa (fellow winner) getting ready to enjoy some delicious food!
We enjoyed many laughs an great conversations. This was like every bakers dream, never in my life have I been in a room filled with people so passionate about the same thing as me, baking of course! Oh how I wish I could share some of the conversation had in that room!
The very next morning we arrived at the new Duncan Hines State of the Art Test Kitchen where we spent the day touring the facility, previewing some new products, enjoying the winners creations, and spending time actually in the kitchen with Pastry Chef Joe DiPaolo. Because this location is where product devlopment and research takes place cameras were restricted to two locations inside of the building. But let me tell was incredible! There was clearly much time and consideration put into the design of the building making it a cozy, functional, and modern location where creation can't help but burst out of! It was no stiff office full of cubicles that's  for sure...lets just say a baker could only dream of using that facility. And my when-we-get-out-of-the-army-and-build-a-house list just multiplied by 10. The hubby won't mind 75% of the house  kitchen...right? ;)
As we arrived the red carpet was awaiting us, as well as a welcoming cheering Duncan Hines staff who suited us up with an apron and we were ready to go.

We started off in the ideation room, a large room suitable for creation! The walls were painted in dry erase paint, large presentation screen hung on 3 walls, cozy movable functional furniture decorated the room, and along the back wall is a large beautiful kitchen much like a regular home kitchen...only much much better!

A sweet little greeting welcomed us on the wall!
 Throughout the facility a winner slideshow played. This is where the pinch me feeling comes in! Hey that's me...and I made THAT! :)

We were given insight on how the frosting creations started and was really neat to hear how the process works and all the detail and work put into it.  Do you know a product like this often takes several years before the public sees it? Pretty crazy right!

Some of the winners writing their frosting creation suggestions on the walls.

From there we toured the rest of the building, which like I said was amazing. Really makes you want to bring in your luggage and move in...think they'd mind a small tent or something? Hehe. We were able to see how consumer research and testing is done and well as sample some future products.

And then it was time to learn from the best. We had several hours where Chef Joe just filled us with tricks, tips, and information...from the basic to the more advanced. As we walked in the room ha two tables lined with cake decorating sets icluding a pastry book, tilting turntable, tips and much more. I"m pretty sure it was like a kid in a candy shop for most of us. And of course because these guys were incredibly nice they sent home a set for each of us including much more (I'll share that later!).

The new wilton turntable! Isn't she beautiful! The book is called the Pastry Chefs Companion a favorite of theirs that I can't wait to read from cover to cover a few times.

And of course some other fun decorating products.

The information Chef Joe gave us was incredible. He didn't waste one minute of our time. We covered marzipan, leveling cakes, icing cakes, piping techniques, sugar decorations, modeling chocolate...and so much more. 
Like our cake? After creating modeling chocolate roses we all placed them on it..don't worry Chef Joe has far more talent then that!

After a refreshing lunch each of our desserts were recreated by the Dunan Hines Chefs. As all bakers do they put their little spins on each of them. It was very cool seeing your creation come to life by such talented bakers. For my chocolate mousse they added a bit of cake making it like a triffle.

I'm really still kind of in shock this recipe won! It was so easy and quick but so yummy. That's exacty what they loved it about it. Be sure to let me know how you like it if you try it :).

My favorite thing of all though was simply the people. The passion for baking amoung the group was so inspiring. The Duncan Hines staff couldn't have been anymore warm and inviting. They treated us like family and welcomed us right in. You could tell that they were actually excited to have us there, and they were busting to share everything and take what they could from us. The winners were all so full of creativity and took in every bit of information possible. I am sure many fabulous creations will come from this weekend. It was an experience I won't ever forget.

Master Chef  Joe Dipaolo and I.

Christy (Love From the Oven) and I.

Shelly (Cookies and Cups) and I.
All 12 winners, 3 bloggers, and Duncan Hines Crew.

And there you have it! Such a sweet weekend!I still have more to share from the weekend so I'll be back to share some tips and winner recipes in a few more posts! I hope you enjoyed a look into my Duncan Hines test kitchen experience.

Thanks Duncan Hines!