Michelle Obama's husband may have won The White House, but her citrus and amaretto-laced shortbread lost the Family Circle Bake-Off in 2008 to Cindy McCain's plagiarized Butterscotch Oatmeal cookies. To date, she is the only woman to lose the bake-off yet become first lady.
Taking no chances in 2012, she has greatly toned down her sophisticated tastes and presents us with a subtle twist on a classic recipe:
Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 5 dozen
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
1. Heat oven to 375°.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
3. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.
5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets.
6. 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.
What Michelle's Cookies Tell Us:
It should be noted that this recipe was not developed by Michelle Obama herself. Rather, it is from her daughters' godmother. Though she emphasizes that she and her husband sit down with their girls every evening "with good conversation and healthy food," she admits that these decadent cookies are a "splurge."
The current First Lady is firmly committed to healthy eating-- adhering to organic principles in her non-organic White House garden. So why then would she use something as unhealthy as Crisco butter-flavored baking sticks, which contain fully hydrogenated palm oil, mono and diglycerides, and no actual butter? Shortening does have it's benefits in terms of cookie baking (batters spread and brown less readily, for example), but it contains no heath benefits whatsoever. Then again, she explicitly stated that this is a "splurge." Frankly I'd stick to butter.
Whether or not it was intentional, the inclusion of both white and milk chocolate chips is a touching nod to her husband's heritage. The addition of chocolate mint chips adds a pleasant surprise note of interest.
If one cannot find chocolate mint chips, as I could not, the Andes Creme de Menthe Thins are good tasting, but are filled with more junk that the Crisco butter-flavored sticks. Then there is the labor of unwrapping and chopping the 30 mints it takes to fill one cup, not to mention the garbage left behind.
Approximate cost of making Michelle Obama's cookies: $16.34
Both Michelle Obama's and Ann Romney's cookies could easily be labeled as junk food-- there's nothing very wholesome about either of them. That said, no one eats cookies for health reasons. Cookies are consumed because they typically taste good.
So it is beyond me why anyone would want to eat the crises of identity known as Mrs. Romney's M&M Cookies. It would be much simpler (and, I think, far more satisfying/healthier) to dump a bag of M&M's in a jar of peanut butter, grab a spoon, and have at it. I would then pay for my sins by consuming 4 1/2 cups of oatmeal, sweeten it with a little bit of Karo syrup for insurance, take a little light reading into the bathroom, and wait for atonement.
Mrs. Obama's cookies may not be as wholesome as her personal food philosophies, but at least they tasted good. And, unlike Mrs. Romney's, they stay on message. There is no confusion about what her cookies are about. If I had to vote for a cookie that best fit a husband's political persona, my vote would go to Mrs. Obama's.
The Ultimate Cost:
Some of you out there may or may not be thinking: "But Ann Romney's cookies are less expensive to make. If they're anything like her husband's fiscal policies, these cookies must be good for the country."
Yes, Ann Romney's $14.60 versus Michelle Obama's $16.34 looks like the better deal, but it isn't. Romney's recipe yields 36 cookies at 41¢ a piece; Obama's recipe yields 60 cookies at 27¢ a piece.
I am no financial genius, as my parents will quickly tell you, but the Romney numbers are misleading. Less spending? Sure. But there are fewer cookies to go around. Obama may spend more at the outset but, ultimately, more people benefit from them being spread around.
And just think: if Michelle abandons the Crisco habit and uses butter exclusively in her recipe, her cookie largesse would spread even further.
PREVIOUSLY: ANN ROMNEY'S M&M COOKIES