The recipe: Pistachio-Orange Cookies

Why you should bake: Because everyone reaches for icing-filled sandwich cookies. Because the cookies’ crushed pistachio edges are cookie plate eye-grabbers. And because the combination of orange and pistachio is a winner, always.

Degree of difficulty: Basic. If you can prepare a drop cookie, and you can make a sandwich, you can make this cookie.

What we didn’t tell you: Pistachios aren’t cheap, which is why we rely upon two value-priced sources: Bill’s Imported Foods and Holy Land Grocery, Bakery & Deli. Neither sells in pistachios in bulk – they both stock prepackaged amounts, and you’ll buy more than you need for a single batch of cookies – but the price falls far below what you’ll pay at the supermarket. Also, if you can’t find unsalted, don’t fret. "I have tried the recipe with roasted, salted pistachios, and they turned out just fine," said baker Scott Rohr. "I prefer the taste of raw, unsalted pistachios, but if readers were only able to find roasted/salted, the world would not end."

Fun fact: Rohr developed the cookie around his tattered recipe card for a cream of tartar-based sugar cookie, which is a copy of a similarly well-worn card from his grandmother's kitchen. "I don't know where she got them -- my dad can't remember, either -- but I've been making them for a million years," he said. The filling, however, was all his idea. "I just started messing around," he said. "It's really hard for me to follow a recipe. I'm a fairly intuitive cook and baker." The colorful finishing touch -- rolling the edge in finely chopped pistachios -- came after a few tasting sessions with friends. "It needed some crunch," he said.

Can’t decide whether you should submit a recipe to the contest? Then follow Rohr's example. He clearly enjoyed his brush with cookie-baking celebrity. “It was super fun,” he said. “I got to meet great people, I got to bake cookies — which I love to do — and I got to taste other [and he laughed as he said this], lesser, cookies.” Spoken like a true champion (and, yes, he's kidding). Rohr is referring to the annual baking demonstration at the Mill City Museum, where the winner and finalists bake their recipes for a curious and appreciative (and hungry) crowd. Another benefit? Social media supremacy. “The contest also provided me with no small amount of Facebook fodder,” Rohr added. “I rode those cookies to all the fame and glory I could muster.”


Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies.

Note: This 2010 winner is from Scott Rohr of St. Paul.

For cookies:
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling dough
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For filling:
1 c. raw shelled pistachios, divided
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange, finely chopped
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk (or use 1 tbsp. milk and 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice)

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, in thirds, mixing until just incorporated.

Form dough into 1/2-inch balls (about the size of a chestnut). Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set but not browned, about 11 minutes (cookies will puff up in oven, but flatten). Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare filling: In food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse 1/2 cup pistachios until very fine (the nuts should almost clump together in a paste between your fingers). In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter with orange zest until light and fluffy. Add orange extract and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar, in thirds, alternating with milk (or milk and orange juice), beginning and ending with powdered sugar, and beat until smooth (you may need another tablespoon or so of liquid to reach desired consistency). Fold in pistachios, mixing until thoroughly incorporated.

To assemble cookies: Finely chop remaining 1/2 cup pistachios and place in a shallow dish. Spread a generous dollop of filling on bottom of a cookie. Top with another cookie, bottom-side up as if making a sandwich, and gently press cookies together until filling is just at edge of cookies. Roll filled edge in chopped pistachios. Repeat until all cookies form sandwiches.