Monday, September 8, 2008

Presidential Bake-Off

4 years ago, while spending a glorious summer in DC, I discovered the Family Circle Presidential Spouse Bake-Off. Each presidential election year, they solicit recipes from the nominees' wives for their favorite cookie recipe. They publish them, and the idea is that it will predict the winner of the election. As far as all the supposed indicia, this seems as likely as any other.

Laura Bush's submission from 2004 became a staple in my cooking, and is one of my favorite go-to recipes. I can't even count how many of them I made that summer, much less how many I've made since then.

So in the spirit of patriotic participation this election cycle, I baked all 3 recipes printed this year (Bill Clinton's recipe was include also, I suppose because Hillary was in the running so late in the cycle). I brought them in to work, and everyone I work with is sampling and voting (without knowledge of which cookie recipe belongs to whom).

Here are the contenders:

I was a little worried when I saw that I actually had to toast the walnuts and oatmeal, but this was actually a super-easy and low-prep recipe. The walnuts give it a nice touch of crunch and add even more flavor since they are toasted and they are a good cookies for all ages.

Cindy McCain's Butterscotch-Oatmeal Cookies

These were my favorite and the Family Circle favorite. They had just a bit of an interesting flavor, but still fulfilled my need for comfort food.

Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies

I had a real time with these. I don't know what I did wrong. After baking them as directed in the recipe, they were still gooey and not at all the right consistency for shortbread. I figured that the batch was a loss, so I might as well try baking it again. I put it through for at least another whole cycle (but I wasn't paying attention, so it was probably longer than that). However, they turned out great in the end. Bizarre, but I'll take it!

I also did half of it with the optional dried fruit and nuts, and half plain, so as to really try the whole recipe, with at least some variation. I went with dried strawberries and almond slivers (I thought it would go well with the almond flavoring in the bars). Finally, I used almond extract instead of amaretto - It was Sunday so there were no open ABC stores. :(

After a day of anonymous voting in my office, the result was surprising (at least to me). They were all perfectly tied! No clear winner in my office, but everyone agreed that they were all great recipes.