Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Taste Tip: Vanilla sugar is available in some supermarkets and specialty food stores. It can also be made by splitting 1 vanilla bean, burying it into ½ pound of granulated sugar and storing it in a tightly sealed container for 1 week. Adding 1 tablespoon light corn syrup to the batter can help hold the cookie together.

7 tablespoons butter
1 scant cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla sugar (see Taste Tip)
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon half-and-half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drape plastic wrap over a broomstick-size dowel and place dowel over kitchen sink or raised above countertop.
In a microwave oven or using a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt butter and then slightly cool.

In a large bowl, combine melted butter, almonds, sugar, flour, vanilla sugar, cream and half-and-half, and mix thoroughly. Drop teaspoons of dough on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart and baking 4 to 6 cookies at a time. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

Carefully slide parchment paper off baking sheet onto a flat work surface. Using a thin metal spatula, lift cookies off parchment paper and drape over prepared dowel to create "spoon" shape (it should resemble a crisp taco shell) and cool completely. This is a delicate balance and will take some practice; the cookies need to be cool enough to hold their shape when draped, but not so cool that they have set and hardened. If need be, carefully return parchment paper to hot baking sheet to warm up cookies that have become too cool.

2008 Finalist: Sharon Severson of North Oaks, Minnesota