Tart and Sassy Cranberry Lemon Drops

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From finalist Janet Heirigs of Minneapolis. To toast pecans, 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.

For dough:

• 3/4 c. granulated sugar

• Zest from 2 large lemons

• 1/2 c. dried cranberries

• 1/2 c. toasted pecans (see Note)

• 1 3/4 c. flour

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. baking powder

• 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes

• 1 egg yolk

• 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For icing:

• 1 tbsp. cream cheese, at room temperature

• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

• 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

• Zest from 1 lemon

• 1 to 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

• Dried cranberries

• 15 lemon drop candies, crushed

Directions

To prepare dough: In food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine granulated sugar, zest from 2 lemons and 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and process until thoroughly incorporated, about 30 to 45 seconds. Add pecans and process an additional 15 seconds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and combine with 10 (1-second) pulses. Scatter cold butter pieces on top of sugar-flour mixture and pulse for 15 (1-second) pulses.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. With food processor running, add egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, until dough begins to form into a ball, about 10 to 15 seconds.

Remove dough from food processor and divide in half. Place both balls of dough between sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll dough into 1 1/2-inch-thick logs. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice dough into rounds about 3/8-inch thick. Place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake until centers of cookies begin to color and edges are a light golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare icing: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cream cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, zest from 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon lemon juice (adding more, if necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time) and mix until smooth. Transfer icing to a piping bag fitted with a small tip. Squeeze about 1/2 teaspoon of icing onto the center of the cookie, top with 2 to 3 dried cranberries and sprinkle tops of cookies with crushed lemon drops.