Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Taste Tip: This dough must be prepared in advance. If salted, dry-roasted pistachios are unavailable, toast and salt them yourself. To do so, place nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, until they just begin to release their fragrance, about 2 to 3 minutes (or preheat oven to 325 degrees, spread nuts on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and bake, stirring often, for 4 to 6 minutes). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. From a recipe in Midwest Living magazine.
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 vanilla bean
• 2 cups flour
• 2 cups finely chopped salted, dry-roasted pistachios, divided
• 12 ounces white chocolate
• 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and beat until just combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape seeds from bean into the butter mixture, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour in 1/2 cup increments and mix just until combined. Stir in 1 cup of pistachios.
Divide dough in half and shape each half into logs measuring 1 1/2-inches in diameter, giving log an oval shape (one with distinctive wider and narrower ends) so that cut cookies will resemble pine cone shape. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a thin-bladed knife, slice chilled logs into 1/4-inch slices. Place dough slices 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until just firm and browned on the bottoms, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a double-boiler over gently simmering water), melt white chocolate and shortening and stir to combine. Place remaining 2 cups chopped pistachios in a wide bowl. Dip the wider end of each cookie in melted white chocolate (to resemble a pine cone), then dip in the pistachios. Transfer cookies to waxed paper and let stand until set.
2016 Finalist: Linda McEwen of Mahtomedi, Minnesota