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When Candace Hilger devised her winning entry in the 2018 OREO® Cookie Recipe Contest, she was inspired by everything from her grandmother to a chef acquaintance to OREO cookies themselves.
“With a lot of cooking we try to get too complicated with things,” says Hilger, who is executive chef for Sysco Eastern Maryland in Pocomoke City, Maryland. “Sometimes it’s about looking at something classic and figuring out a new way to present it.”
Hilger says she loved OREO Cookies as a child, and her grandmother used to make desserts that featured the cookies. “When I see OREO Cookies I think of her and my childhood.”
Now a chef for 15 years, Hilger worked in wineries and other establishments in her native California. She got to know other chefs in the state, including one woman who Hilger says is a phenomenal pastry chef. “We used to run around the same chef circles, and talk food,” Hilger says. That chef used to prepare elaborate crepe cakes, which are no-bake delicacies made with paper-thin crepes, with cream between each layer.
“I am not a classically trained pastry chef, but I use crepe cakes as fun and different cakes when I go to barbecues or we have birthdays in our office,” Hilger says.
Hilger’s winning recipe, Crepe Cake made with OREO Cookies, features 20 crepes made with OREO cookies instead of flour, and filling made with OREO creme and other ingredients. The result looks like a large, multi-layered OREO cookie. The challenge was not so much the execution but the kitchen. There has to be enough counter space to let 20 crepes cool.
It’s not the first time Hilger has experimented with OREO Cookies as a makeshift ingredient. She also developed a recipe for a chocolate risotto version of rice pudding, with carnaroli rice instead of white rice, and with OREO Cookies for the chocolate flavor.
“A lot of my creativity comes from time spent with other chefs and the environment around me,” she says. “You have to surround yourself with a team that will support you and challenge you.”
She and her team are called upon every day to come up with new recipes for restaurants and noncommercial clients. She has to be ready with ideas. “I could be reading a magazine or reading a book, or watching a movie on Lifetime,” she says. “When you are a chef you don’t know where creativity will strike you from.”
The contest was sponsored by Nation’s Restaurant News, Food Management, Restaurant Hospitality and Mondelez International.
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