If you are one of the scores of independent voters yet to decide how you will cast your vote come November, here's a taste test that could tip your ballot: the great Presidential Cookie Bake-Off. A recipe for success is what this country needs, after all.
For the past 20 years, Family Circle's Presidential Cookie Bake-Off has squared-off the mixing bowls of the candidates' spouses and asked their readers to decide: Who has the better cookie recipe? The editors at Family Circle claim their contest, in which readers test the dueling recipes and vote for their favorite, has resulted in correctly calling the actual elections outcome since 1992 – except once.
In 2008, Cindy McCain's Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies beat out Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies, only to have John McCain lose to Barack Obama in the general election. It's just the way the cookie crumbled. (Bill Clinton even got in the act that year with a healthy Oatmeal Cookie recipe when Hillary Rodham Clinton was dueling for the Democratic nomination.)
After four years in the White House, Michelle Obama is leading a nationwide campaign centered on cooking healthy food at home. Has she departed from her war on obesity to dole out cookies? We wonder about these things and if they may just give the upper oven mitt to Ann Romney's M&M Cookies over Michelle's inclusive-sounding White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.
The future can only declare if cookie history will repeat itself. Family Circle readers have already decided that it is Michelle Obama who will be heading back to the White House with more than 9,000 readers weighing in. "Just 287 votes separated the two women, our smallest margin ever," say the editors at Family Circle.
The voting continues a few blocks from the White House at the Occidental Grill & Seafood, where diners are given a sample of each cookie and asked to vote on their preferred choice. Weekly tallies are shared through the restaurant's social networks. The most recent results as of Sept. 29: 56 percent for Michelle; 41 percent for Ann; 3 percent are undecided.
Other retailers are getting into the election spirit with their own spin on things: Participating 7-Eleven chain stores are running the fourth "7-Election" voting campaign by having customers select either a red (Romney) or blue (Obama) coffee cup. The chain claims that their previous results have not only closely mimicked those of the past two elections, they have accurately predicted the winners. At the moment, the blue coffee cups are carrying most of the country on the campaign's results page. (We don't know how many of those coffees were decaf.)
With such a close election, here in the newsroom we held our own cookie ballot to gain an edge on election night coverage. Since all journalists like to hide their political stripes, party affiliations were left off the ballots, er, cookies, so the votes were based on taste alone (and also size). An election monitor made sure it was one person, two cookies; and any remaining uncast ballots were eaten immediately. A few broken cookies were tossed out for not having proper IDs.
Michelle's recipe has a surprising amount of butter and vegetable shortening but also an unexpected mint finish. She packed a lot in with three kinds of chips. The cookies seemed to spread thin in the oven, however, even though there were a lot of them. There were fewer of Ann's cookies although they were rich, colorful, hefty, and a little dry. They also called for the use of corn syrup, which could be problematic with the rising cost of corn. Voters were either drawn to or repulsed by mint and/or peanut butter flavors. Absentee ballots for the bureaus were not counted due to a mess-up at headquarters. Exit polls were too close to call.
Our newsroom results:
M&M Cookies: 55 percent
White and Dark Chocolate Chip: 45 percent
Ann Romney's M&M Cookies carried the newsroom! Now, anyone got milk?
Cast your vote!
The following recipes are reprinted with permission from Family Circle.
Michelle Obama's Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 mins
Bake: 12 minutes 375 degrees F.
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 degrees F. 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.
2. 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.
3. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Ann Romney's M&M's cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 mins
Bake: 18 minutes 325 degrees F.
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
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. 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.
2. 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.
3. Using a standard-size ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets (about 9 per sheet). Bake at 325 degrees F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.