First ladying seems like a pretty fascinating job. I realize that sounds like the begining of a 4th grader’s “what do you want to be when you grow up?” essay, but it is a fascinating job in spite of that. Do you know why? Because it requires having a good cookie recipe. Seriously.
I bet when Michelle Obama was working at a law firm, getting married to this young hot-shot lawyer Barack Obama, she did not think “Torts!? You mean tarts! I had better start working on my baked good skills now.” No. Of course she didn’t. I mean, she had shit to do.
Little did she know her lack of a good recipe was going to, as Slate has pointed out, LOSE HER HUSBAND THE ELECTION. Jesus Christ, why did she bother being a lawyer and doing law stuff when she could have been learning to make recipes that 1) did not involve Crisco and 2) did involve oats?
I’m sorry, but Ann Romney was on this stuff like it was her job.
And now, both have to compete in the Family Circle presidential cookie-bake-off, which has been a tradition since 1992 when Hillary Clinton insulted the cookie baking women of America by saying that “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession.” Family Circle challenged Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush to a bake-off and Hillary provided a chocolate chip cookie recipe that beat Barbara Bush’s variation.
Since then, the First Lady Bake-Off has run every election year. Last time, Obama’s recipe for shortbread cookies was beaten by Cindy McCain‘s recipe for oatmeal butterscotch cookies, which also marks the first time that the spouse with the losing cookie recipe became First Lady.
Suffice to say, it seems really interesting that if Americans want a President they could play poker with, they still want a first lady who will bake them cookies. Really good cookies.
In an effort to one day cultivate my own cookie recipes, I decided to bake both Obama’s and Romney’s, take them to a 4th of July party, and ask people which they preferred. Here’s how they looked next to one another:
Ann Romney’s are the ones with M&Ms, Michelle Obama’s are the ones with black and white chocolate chunks. Which frankly seems pretty bold in an “ebony and ivory” kind of way of her. There were also supposed to be mint chocolate chips in them. I do not know which group of people mint chocolate chips represent. Elves, maybe. People from a cold climate.
I honestly assumed that Ann Romney’s would win in this because, well, again, baking cookies kind of seems like her job, but I cannot anticipate what peope like! Here are the two recipes:
MAKES 5 dozen cookies
PREP 15 minutes
BAKE at 375° for 12 minutes per batch
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 375°. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
I decided to divide the recipe in half just because it was a fairly small gathering and I didn’t want to bake 100 cookies. Because people would eat them all. They’re just gluttons lkie that. Then they’d blame me for the weight gain. That’s the kind of friends I have. You would be more responsible, probably.
Which was fine. You know what was not fine? Trying to find mint chocolate chips anywhere. I couldn’t. I’m sorry. I went to three grocery stores and you know how much I hate grocery stores. I really wanted to keep these recipes perfect, but I just couldn’t. I mean, as it was I couldn’t find white chocolate chips, and I had to chop up a bar of Ghirardelli white chocolate into chunks. Look!:
So, I’m sorry about that and I worry it may have thrown off the integrity of the contest. For what it’s worth I feel it would have been better with the mint chocolate chips, so take that into account.
I also wanted to play the kind of music that seemed appropriate while baking both of these. So here’s a song that used to be associated with the Democratic party during the Coolidge era, and was originally composed, far before the Beatles covered it, by Milton Ager the same man wrote “Happy Days Are Here Again” (this song was inspired by his daughter, Shana Alexander, who went onto be the first female staff writer for Life magazine, and who really should be one of our shelved dolls):
These cookies are, indeed, sweet, though Michelle Obama got a lot of criticism for her use of Crisco, especially considering the emphasis she’s placed on healthy eating. OH WELL. Here’s the batter:
It’s finger-licking delicious. Really, really good cookie batter. Like Toll House Cookie good. I realize that seems odd to consider, but I feel like that is as important as the actual finished cookie product. And here is what the finished product looked like. I baked them for 10 minutes which actually might have been a tiny bit long. Also, I’ve finally bought a second cookie pan, and I’m feeling pretty good about that:
Meanwhile, here is Ann Romeny’s recipe.
MAKES 3 dozen cookies
PREP 15 minutes
BAKE at 325° for 18 minutes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (such as Karo)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&M’s candies
Heat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed until well combined. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, mix together oats and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and M&M’s.
Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
I think it’s best to bake it with Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” playing. Why? Because George H.W. Bush endorsed Mitt Romney by saying “you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Seriously. This is a thing that happened. The next line in that song is “know when to walk away, know when to run.”
Now that the Gambler is dead, here is the batter:
I know it looks delicious. That’s because everything with M&Ms in it looks delicious. However, it is absolutely terrible batter to eat. It tastes like dry oats dipped in peanut butter. And it also takes twice as long as the other batter to prepare if that is a thing that matters to you. Which it should if you are not immortal. Here is the finished product:
Now. Which one did people prefer?
I tried to keep everyone’s politics out of their decision by telling them that one version was the Obama recipe and one was the Romney one but otherwise not revealing anything.
And I tried to scatter them in a cookie tin. Like so:
Obama won. 6 to 4. Though I will say almost everyone thought that Romney’s seemed healthier. People love oats, I guess.
Personally, I liked Obama’s, too.
I also picked up one of the Obama cookies and looked beneath it. It revealed this stern but smiling face.
The face of God itself? Probably not. I would hope God has more features than that. And ears. I mean, I guess if God doesn’t have ears now there’s some manner of health care plan for that in America. But I’m going to take its small smile as a sign that Obama is going to win.
So, whatever your politics, call your bookie today and start laying money down on this election. We’ve got a winner already. A stern-smiling sort of winner. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.