Is this recipe worth a million?

KOLOA — It’s hard not to salivate while walking into Lenore Klass’ South Shore home. The smells of fresh baked crust, melted chocolate and orange citrus emanating from the kitchen circulate throughout the rest of the house.

She is in the midst of preparing her orange cream-chocolate tarts, which could earn her a $1 million grand prize at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off competition, which takes place March 25 to 27 in Orlando, Fla.

The individual dessert features a flaky pastry lined with a layer of rich chocolate, topped with a light orange cream filling, which her husband Bob describes as “a dream come true.

“The base for this recipe was an orange cream pie my aunt made in Wyoming,” Klass said. “I really loved that recipe, but I changed it so much. I’ve made it into tarts, I’ve added the chocolate, I changed the actual basic ingredients. I’ve added and subtracted, so it’s not the same recipe at all. Whenever you make anything, you have to have a starting point.”

Klass  is one of 100 finalists from across the country competing in the contest, and she is the only baker from Hawai‘i.

She will be traveling to Orlando to create her individual dessert side-by-side with the other finalists, and the tarts will be judged by a secret panel. During the bake-off on March 26, Martha Stewart will join the home cooks on the contest floor, and the grand prize winner will be announced on The Martha Stewart Show on March 27.

“There were four people from the last competition, including me, that are now finalists for this one,” Klass said. “I don’t know how often that happens, but it seems rare enough for me. Just be a finalist. A hundred out of 90,000 recipes seems like incredible odds.”

Winners will be named in four categories: breakfast and brunches, entertaining appetizers, dinner made easy and sweet treats.

This is the second time Klass has entered the Pillsbury competition. In 2010, her recipe for banana-peanut butter cream tart earned her a spot among the 100 finalists. Her recipe didn’t win the grand prize, but she won the Jif Peanut Butter Award and $5,000 in the bake-off competition.

A plaque featuring her 2010 award hangs next to her kitchen window, which overlooks Kiahuna Golf Course.

Her other awards are stashed away, but she has taken home ribbons from the annual Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair. She doesn’t shy away from cooking challenges. One time she made a cranberry-tomato relish for the fair, and later experimented with a tomato cake.

Klass started baking at the age of 9.

“I used to spend my summers with my aunt in Wyoming, and she taught me how to bake pies,” she said.

Klass has never taken any formal culinary classes. She learned how to cook and bake from family members, and experimented with recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines.

“I think I must have million of recipes,” Klass confesses. Her bookshelf in the kitchen contains dozens of cookbooks and carefully organized recipes.

Klass found out about the Pillsbury contest when her husband stumbled upon the Pillsbury Bake-Off online.

“I’ve been trying to think about entering that since I was first married,” Klass said as she painted the inside of her crusts with dark chocolate. She set each pie crust down on her kitchen counter next to an antique Pillsbury cookie jar from the 1950s that her family gave to her.

“I would always find out about the contest when they were awarding the prizes, and it always too late.”

 For her tarts, her No. 1 tip is not to under-beat or over-beat the whipping cream.

“It’s so easy to over-whip it, and you end up with butter, or if you don’t whip it enough, it starts to deflate and runs all over what you are cooking,” Klass said.

 “I discovered this particular idea when I was devising my recipe for the banana-peanut butter cream tart,” she said.

Klass recommends placing a hand towel underneath the whipping cream bowl to prevent the bowl from wobbling. Then beat the cream until it’s firm.

“If it moves, it’s not ready,” Klass said as she picked up her bowl of whipping cream and held it at a 90-degree angle. “See? It doesn’t even budge. That’s how you know it’s ready.”

Despite her planned travael to Florida to compete for the $1 million prize, Klass said she hasn’t thought about what she would do with the prize money.

“I’m not going that far,” Klass  said. “I did that last time in 2010. I did not give it a thought. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

Visit www.pillsbury.com/bakeoff for more information about the contest.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

Prep Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Makes: 6 tarts

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

4 egg yolks, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate baking chips

In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water. In 2-quart heavysaucepan, stir together egg yolks, sugar, 1 tablespoon of theorange peel, orange juice, lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of thesalt. Cook over low heat, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly, oruntil slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons ofthe butter and gelatin and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla; stir untilbutter is melted. Fill large bowl with ice water; place saucepan inwater. Cool egg mixture, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes oruntil thickened.

In medium bowl, beat whipping cream with electric mixer on highspeed until stiff peaks form. Reserve 1/2 cup of the whipped cream;refrigerate. Carefully fold orange mixture into remaining whippedcream. Refrigerate while preparing tart shells.

Heat oven to 425°F. Cover outsides of 6 (6-oz) custard cups orramekins with foil; spray with Crisco Original No-Stick CookingSpray. Place cups upside down on 15×10-inch pan with sides. Unrollpie crusts; roll each into 12-inch round. Using 4 1/2-inchscalloped or round cookie cutter, cut 3 rounds from each crust.Place dough round over back of each custard cup, pressing dough tofit around cup. Prick dough several times with fork.

Bake shells 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15minutes. Carefully remove shells from cups; place open side up, oncooling rack.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips andremaining 1 tablespoon butter on High 10 to 20 seconds, stirringevery 10 seconds, until smooth. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon saltand 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Brush thick coating of chocolate mixtureover bottom and up sides of inside of each shell. Let stand untilset.

Evenly divide orange filling among shells. Top tarts withwhipped cream and remaining orange peel. Refrigerate 1 hour toset.

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