Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Taste Tip: Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern food shops or in the imported foods sections of most supermarkets. To prepare pomegranate molasses, combine 4 cups pomegranate juice, ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until syrup reduces to 1 cup and is the consistency of thick syrup, about 75 minutes. Remove from heat, cool for 30 minutes and transfer to an uncovered glass jar to cool completely. To toast slivered almonds, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from oven and cool.

2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (see Taste Tip)
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 egg
¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted and very finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, and reserve. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pomegranate molasses and lemon zest, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated (dough will be soft).

Form dough into 1-inch balls, dip dough into chopped almonds, place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, almonds-side up, and bake until cookies are puffed and deeply cracked, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

2009 Finalist: Lance Swanson of North Branch, Minnesota