Klass at the top of her class when it comes to baking

Lenore Klass has been participating in county fair competitions for upward of 30 years; first in San Mateo, Calif., then for the past 13 years here on Kaua‘i. Last month she received top honors in two of the baking categories of the Home Economics Fair at the Farm Bureau’s Farm Fair. She won best of show with her cappuccino and cream shortbread in the special ingredient “coffee” category and best of show for her tropical oat bran muffins in the muffin competition.

“The oat bran muffin recipe has won ribbons before in San Mateo,” Klass confessed. “But I didn’t expect to win with the shortbread.”

Klass developed her pan-pressed method for shortbread through a half dozen experimentations with multiple recipes.

“I’d heard that corn starch makes the shortbread crisper,” she said.

She began with the traditional shortbread recipe of flour, sugar and butter.

“I made seven or eight different recipes with different proportions of corn starch to flour.”

She was also seeking ways to simplify her holiday baking schedule.

“I used to make hundreds of dozens of cookies at Christmas,” she said.

Klass would mail cookies all over the country to friends and family. Then when her husband Bob began his own business her schedule became tighter.

“I was especially busy at Christmas since it was a jewelry store,” she said. “I had to simplify.”

Where most shortbread recipes require rolling out Klass would rather press her shortbread into a nine-inch round pan.

“I love this recipe — you just pat the dough into the pan. It’s so easy; just cut it,” she said.

“The nine-inch pan creates the perfect crust. Eight-inches and the crust is too thick and not crisp enough. A 10-inch pan is too thin and can burn.”

One trick she employs to ensure the best texture is to puncture the uncooked dough with a prong.

“It allows the steam to escape from the bottom of the pan,” she said.

She also urges home cooks to “chill the butter very well” and be sure to cut the shortbread immediately upon removing from the oven.

“The short bread will break if you cut it cold,” she said.

The basic shortbread recipe is one she alters with other flavors. This recipe is the starter for other versions, like her savory herbed shortbread; lemon poppy seed or ginger sesame shortbreads.

Klass utilizes her food processor. Where most recipes begin by creaming the butter and sugar, this alternative is more akin to a pie recipe.

“You blend the dry ingredients with the butter until small crumbs form,” she said. “I make four shortbreads at a time; I figure I’m dirtying my processor so why not make more.”

The cream glaze is another place Klass breaks from tradition.

“I use espresso crystals, but you can use instant coffee,” she said. “I find the espresso flavor is better though.”

One fun optional topping is to sprinkle the glazed cookie with cacao nibs, which are roasted cacao beans separated from their husk and broken into small bits.

“Coffee and chocolate always go good together,” Klass said.

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com

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