Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

For dough
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup finely chopped pecans
2½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

For topping
24 caramels, unwrapped
⅛ to ¼ cup water
¾ cup chopped pecans

To prepare cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat, transfer butter to a large bowl and stir in brown sugar, vanilla extract and pecans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten balls on bottoms and pinch tops to form a point so dough resembles an acorn. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare topping:
In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt caramels. Add 1/8 cup water to thin melted caramel, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until caramel sauce reaches spreading consistency. Dip flat side of cookie into caramel sauce and then into chopped pecans. Transfer cookies to wax paper until caramel sets.

2005 Finalist: Barbara Melom of Minneapolis, Minnesota