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Sweet land of cookies

Sweet land of cookies

The fun treats and the White House go way back; we share some presidential favorites

When President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, you can be sure a recipe for his favorite cookie won't be far behind.

"Presidential Cookies" (Presidential Publishing; second edition, 2005), a collection of recipes for the cookies enjoyed by our U.S. presidents, makes it clear our leaders love their cookies.

The book's author, Bev Young, gathered the recipes from several sources, including the "White House Cookbook" of 1887 and the personal recipe collections of our presidents and first ladies.

Cookies and the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. go way back. All the way to 1801, when the first occupants of the newly built "president's palace," John and Abigail Adams, introduced the mansion to the public at a grand New Year's Day reception, serving cakes and tarts — and cookies.

The lowly cookie, in fact, is very much a staple at the White House. For more than 200 years, cookies have been served at White House garden parties, teas, receptions, luncheons and handed out at Christmas — more than 100,000 in a typical Clinton holiday season.

We hear that White House chefs have even kept them in the freezer for when that 3 a.m. call comes in from the West Wing.

If you can judge a man by the kind of cookie he prefers, we'll let you decide what it means that Lyndon Baines Johnson had a Texas-sized affection for tart, tangy lemon squares.

And Abraham Lincoln? He liked his cookies heavily seasoned with ginger.

First children, not surprisingly, get in on the act, too. In the Jimmy Carter White House, fresh batches of first daughter Amy's favorite peanut butter cookies were kept in a boot-shaped cookie jar in the White House kitchen.

In the spirit of a new administration, we tried a few of the cookie recipes, sticking with more contemporary times because, frankly, cookies with names such as "cry babies" (James Monroe) and "rocks" (Chester Arthur) didn't make us salivate.

But Gerald Ford's Double Chocolate Chip Cookies — double chocolate! — called our name. Although the batter was sticky and messy to work with, the effort was well worth it. In a very blind taste test in the office, they were a hit.

And no matter how hard Hillary Clinton tried to distance herself from the stereotype of a housewife who stays home baking cookies, the upcoming secretary of state makes one great chocolate chip cookie.

That recipe, in fact, won Clinton bragging rights in the first lady cookie contest organized by Family Circle magazine every election year. In 1992 Clinton's recipe beat out Barbara Bush's version of the traditional chocolate chipper.

Until last year, Family Circle readers boasted a 100 percent track record in predicting the winner of the White House, based on whose wife has the most popular recipe.

Laura Bush, then, is a two-time winner. Her cowboy cookies were judged tastier than Tipper Gore's ginger snaps, and her oatmeal-chocolate chunk cookies beat out Teresa Heinz Kerry's four years later.

This year Cindy McCain's oatmeal-butterscotch cookies beat out Michelle Obama's shortbread cookies. Guess that's just the way the cookie crumbles (sorry).

Mamie Eisenhower's Sugar Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

• 1 1/2 cups flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 egg yolks, well-beaten

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 1 tablespoon cream

• Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter, adding sugar slowly. Mix until fluffy.

Stir in well-beaten egg yolks and vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with the cream. Chill cookie dough 1 hour. Roll out on a floured surface and cut in any desired shape. Sprinkle with sugar before baking. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Per cookie: 71 calories (39 percent from fat), 3 g total fat (2 g saturated), 19 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 70 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Lady Bird Johnson's Lemon Squares

Makes 24 squares

• 2 cups flour

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1 cup butter (2 sticks)

• 2 cups sugar

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 4 tablespoons flour

• 3 beaten eggs

• Juice and grated rind of two lemons

• Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first three ingredients for pie crust. Pat onto 9-by-18-by-1-inch greased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes until very light brown.

For the filling: Mix the remaining ingredients in order given and pour over baked crust. Bake 15-20 minutes or until set. When pan is cool, cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Per square: 192 calories (38 percent from fat), 8 g total fat (5 g saturated), 47 mg cholesterol, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 108 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Gerald Ford's Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies

• 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)

• 1 3/4 cups sugar

• 2 eggs

• 2 teaspoons brandy or vanilla

• 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

• 1/4 cup sour cream

• 2 cups flour

• 3/4 cup cocoa

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 2 cups white chocolate chips

• 1 cup chopped Brazil nuts or almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in brandy or vanilla. Stir melted chocolate and sour cream into creamed mixture. In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Stir in white chocolate chips and nuts. Drop batter by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.

Per cookie: 140 calories (50 percent from fat), 8 g total fat (5 g saturated), 16 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 75 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber.

Hillary Clinton's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 7 dozen cookies

• 11/2 cups flour

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 cup shortening

• 1 cup brown sugar, packed

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 2 eggs

• 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

• One 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat together shortening, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden. Cool cookies on sheets on wire rack 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Per cookie: 55 calories (48 percent from fat), 3 g total fat (1 g saturated), 5 mg cholesterol, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 43 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Ronald Reagan's Vienna Chocolate Bars

Makes 2 dozen bars

• 1 cup butter (2 sticks)

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 2 egg yolks

• 2 1/2 cups flour

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• One 10-ounce jar raspberry jelly

• 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

• 4 egg whites

• 2 cups finely chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, ƒ cup of the sugar and 2 egg yolks. Add flour and salt and knead with fingers. Pat batter flat onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from oven. Spread jelly across baked cookie crust, and top with chocolate chips. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in remaining sugar and nuts. Gently spread egg white mixture on top of jelly and chocolate chips. Bake again about 25 minutes. Cut into squares or bars.

(Using jam instead of jelly makes flavor richer. Other berry jams can be substituted for raspberry.)

Per bar: 310 calories (47 percent from fat), 17 g total fat (7 g saturated), 37 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 117 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber.

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