Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presidential Bake-Off 2012

The other day I read an article about "Family Circle" magazine and how it has had a presidential bake-off every election year since 1992 where the wife of each candidate submits her favorite cookie recipe and then the readers are invited to bake the cookies and vote on which recipe is best.  Apparently the results of the bake-off have correlated with the results of the election every year except one. 

So I printed off the recipes for Ann Romney's "M&M Cookies" and Michelle Obama's "Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies" (along with all the other recipes from past election year match-ups) and last night I decided we would do a bake-off of our own while watching the first presidential debate. 

Before I go any further, I want to state that I don't consider myself overly political.  Or even very political.  I vote, I pay attention to the candidates and issues and read articles on CNN and MSN and watch stories on the news, but I don't spend hours researching the details of the various candidates positions or debating those positions with peers.  So I hope that I don't say anything that might offend anybody in this post because I usually try to steer clear of political conversations.  This post is really about cookies, just to be clear, okay?  Okay.

When I first read just the titles of the two recipes, I leaned toward Mrs. Obama's recipe.  I've never been the biggest fan of M&M cookies in the past (never enough chocolatey flavor in my opinion) and the idea of multiple types of chocolate chips is pretty much always going to catch my interest.  And I honestly started wondering whether Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Romney were counseled on their recipe submissions by a campaign manager to find a recipe that would present a message about their husbands.  Like, is it offensive that one of my very first thoughts about Mrs. Obama's "white and dark chocolate chip cookies" was that it somehow was chosen because of the president's heritage?  Or that Mrs. Romney chose M&M cookies because they sound so traditional or American or something?

Anyway, reading the ingredient lists, I again leaned toward the Obama cookie which included walnuts and Andes mint pieces (I'm a big fan of the Andes mint pieces) and I almost immediately wanted to start altering the Romney cookie recipe (it called for chunky peanut butter and I would have used smooth, I didn't think that it called for enough M&Ms and would have added more, I didn't see the point of 1 Tbsp of corn syrup).  But, I decided that if I was going to do this bake-off right, I need to stick to each recipe exactly and give each cookie a fair try regardless of my preconceived opinions heading into it. 

So I halved each batch of cookies since the Romney recipe makes 3 dozen and the Obama recipe makes 5 dozen, and made up both batches of cookies.  Judging by the cookie dough alone, I would say it was a tie for me.  I just had a little snitch of each and that was enough, whereas with other cookies I just love eating the dough before it is baked.  I was precise in the size of the cookies so that my cookie yield would be the same as the one indicated on the recipe, thus ensuring that I had made the same size of cookie that Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Romney makes.  The Romney cookies ended up significantly larger than the Obama cookies (the Romney cookie has no flour so it spread quite a bit while baking) but both baked well in the indicated amount of time. 

Then came the real test - actually eating the cookies.  After trying a couple bites of the Romney cookies, I was surprised to find that I liked it much better than I thought I would.  The texture of chewy peanut-buttery oatmeal with little bursts of chocolate chip and M&M here and there was actually very nice.  It tasted hearty and comforting and was the kind of cookie that I would like to take on a picnic.  I still think it would have been better with more chocolate and made with creamy (as opposed to chunky) peanut butter, but it was a good cookie. 

The Obama cookie that sounded so good on paper didn't translate as well on my tastebuds unfortunately.  While I love walnuts and Andes mint pieces separately, it turns out I don't love them together in a cookie.  I think that the cookie would have been better leaving out one or the other.  I also felt like the texture could have been improved by either cutting back on the butter and shortening or increasing the amount of flour for a chewier cookie.  Instead, the texture was more crispy on the edges and greasy in the middle, even though I know the cookies were cooked all the way through.  The Obama cookie wasn't terrible, but it just didn't live up to what I hoped it would based on the title and list of ingredients.  And I felt like the title was deceptive because the recipe called for milk chocolate chips and the title claimed there were white and dark chocolate chips.  I know all this analysis may sound silly, but these are all thoughts I really had when preparing the two recipes. 

I had a hard time really deciding which cookie I like best last night when I ate them fresh out of the oven and still warm.  Paul immediately told me he preferred the M&M cookie, but that wasn't totally surprising to me since he has never been a huge fan of walnuts in cookies.  It wasn't until this morning that I was able to decisively say that I prefer the Romney cookie.  We have way too many leftovers of each kind even though I sent Paul to work with a lot of each cookie for his co-workers to try, and I actually have been breaking off a piece or two here and there of the M&M cookie as I have been going about my morning.  The Romney cookie is still soft and chewy and actually has a better flavor profile now that it has cooled and the peanut butter isn't as intense.  I tried an Obama cookie again too (just to be fair) and there was just too much crisp outer edge and not enough cookie substance to chip content.  I sort of feel like just dumping them out since they probably won't get eaten.

Just after I stepped onto the treadmill at the gym this morning (I've got to do something to burn off these cookie calories, right?), while it was still gaining speed and incline and I was fitting my earbuds in and browsing my music playlist, I overheard the two women next to me start talking about last night's presidential debate.  I hit pause on my music so I could eavesdrop.  I know - I am a terrible person.  Anyway, it quickly became clear that both women were Obama supporters and they were talking in pitying tones about how poorly he did in the debate last night and how well Romney performed.  I was heartened to hear one of them confide to the other that she is actually reconsidering her position after last night and is definitely looking forward to the next few debates to see what Romney has to say.  I wonder how many other similar conversations are being had across the country today? 

In all honesty, I'm not overly bullish on Romney's chances in this election even though it is clear to me that of the two candidates Romney is the one who would be best for the country.  But I'm hopeful, especially after the bake-off debate.

In case anyone is interested in conducting their own research, here are both recipes, courtesy of the Family Circle magazine website (but remember that I only made half batches of each recipe):

Ann Romney's M&M Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
6 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup M&Ms

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream sugars, butter, peanut butter and corn syrup on high speed.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.  Beat in vanilla.  Stir in oats and baking soda until combined, then mix in chocolate chips and M&Ms.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 8 per sheet) and bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool 2 minutes (very important I found since these come out of the oven really soft and fell apart when I tried transferring them too soon), then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 3 dozen.

Michelle Obama's Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup Andes mint pieces or mint chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening, sugars and vanilla.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add in flour, soda and salt and mix until combined, then stir in white and milk chocolate chips, Andes mint pieces and walnuts.  Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes (mine took the full 12 minutes) or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. 

Maybe for the next debate I will have to recreate one of the presidential bake-off match-ups from the past like 1996 when Elizabeth Dole's "Pecan Roll" cookies went up against Hillary Clinton's "Oatmeal Chocolate Chip" cookies or 2000 when Tipper Gore's gingersnaps went up against Laura Bush's "Texas Cowboy" cookies.


  1. This post made me super hungry.

  2. Oh my GOODNESS!! What a fabulous idea. I am going to definitely do this. Thanks for the post :)

  3. I LOVE the fun things that you and Paul take time to do. It's awesome. And I must say that it made me smile how seriously you took this bake off! Your analysis was very thorough.

  4. Hearing all of your thoughts about altering recipes, etc. made me think of when you used to bring Paul cookies when we were studying accounting in the library. Yummy!

    Also, one of those debates happens to be right before we're going to Yosemite so I definitely support your idea to try other years' bake-offs! Especially if you make enough to have leftovers. :-)

  5. Love this idea so much! You are awesome!

  6. Amy, I'm dying right now, just dying. I think you are a one of a kind girl and it just tickles me. Kirk is now reading your post because I told him he will love it. You are just awesome. You are so intelligent with your choice of words, ie. "flavor profile" and you make it so enjoyable to read with your quick wit, ie. "I'm a terrible person."

    On a more serious note, I am very political. This is very interesting. If I can find time, which I doubt I will, I will do this, in the mean time we have down loaded the debate and are going to watch it with our oldest kids for a little Poli Sci. 101. I too heard that Romney wiped his plate clean as they can say and I would hope that this would make people reconsider. This was a great post.


    Shauna xxoxoxoxo


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