For 50 years, the Pillsbury Bake-Off has charted Americans' tastes, as well as the zeitgeist. In the 1960s, recipes calling for fewer steps and ingredients mirrored the early quest for convenience. The '70s saw recipes that included natural sweeteners and whole-grain flour. In the '80s, cooks garnished desserts with fancy trimmings. The '90s view of the world as a global village inspired contestants to look to Cuba and North Africa. And until 1996, when the first man won, women dominated the field.
Pillsbury expects next year's contest to reflect Americans' romance with convenience. The winner of the 2000 Bake-Off, to be held February in San Francisco, will receive a cool $1 million. More information can be found at www.bakeoff.com