Every four years, Family Circle magazine (yes, it's still around) releases cookie recipes from the wives of the candidates running for president. Last week, the magazine released its 2016 recipes, one from Melania Trump and one from Bill Clinton. For obvious reasons, this is now a spousal bake off.
My friend (you may recognize her as Townhall's Christine Rousselle) and I decided to make each recipe over the weekend and document our results. We're both good at baking (I don't bake regularly, but I've never screwed up a recipe), so I'm going to remove "user error" as a reason as to why these cookies came out bland.
Right off the bat, the 2016 cookie recipes were uninspiring. Trump submitted "star cookies," which were little more than sugar(less, as you'll find out in a moment) cookies in a different shape. Clinton submitted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It seemed more like the candidates' spouses couldn't be bothered to come up with anything exciting — which is especially weird considering the insanity of the election itself.
Perhaps that was by design – crazy election, boring cookies?
In past years, the cookie recipes have been more interesting. In 2012, for example, Michelle Obama submitted a white and dark chocolate chip cookie recipe. Sure, chocolate chip isn't anything special, but even just changing what the "chips" are made these cookies unique and tasty. Ann Romney submitted a peanut butter and M&M's oatmeal cookie recipe. This was also delicious and thoughtful.
In 2008, Cindy McCain submitted an oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe (which may have been lifted from Hershey). Still, that's more compelling than what was submitted in 2016. Michelle Obama submitted a shortbread cookie recipe that included alcohol, lemon zest and chopped nuts or dried fruit.
Still, Rousselle and I decided to give the 2016 recipes a try, because sometimes doing the basics well can be better than mediocre — but bolder — recipes.
In this case, however, the basics were not done well. The Clinton recipe came out first and its only saving grace was the entire package of semi-sweet chocolate chips that went into the batter. This was definitely the better of the two recipes, but only because it included chocolate. The oatmeal made the cookie chewier than any cookie should be, but if I had to go back and have seconds of either of the two, it would be this one.
That's not to say it was a good cookie. It just wasn't awful. It was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, just as the recipe says. There was nothing exciting or unique about this cookie, but it delivered what it advertised. I'm not going to say that's a metaphor for Hillary Clinton, because what she "advertises" is different things to different people (some would say she advertises corruption and cronyism, others would say solid policy proposals) and both can't be right. But the cookie's right about not being exciting or unique.
Here's our initial reaction, which may have been played up for the cameras a little bit:
It was "surprisingly tasty," but it was not an amazing cookie. Let me be clear about that. I was just expecting garbage and it wasn't that.
Next came Trump's sugar cookies, which had almost no flavor, despite an entire cup of confectioner's sugar. I spent the weekend trying to figure out what they tasted like, and I finally figured it out: animal crackers. But not like the crunchy animal crackers that you sometimes get nostalgic for and maybe buy a box of because you miss the carefree days of your childhood. No, these are a soft, less sweet alternative that you'll never crave again and make you question why you ever liked animal crackers in the first place. (What was wrong with us as children? Did we not have taste buds? Were we just so stupid that the shape was enough to draw us in? Is that why Trump's recipe called for cutting the dough into star shapes?)
Maybe I'm still easily taken in by fancy shapes and would have liked these cookies better if we had a star-shaped cookie cutter. We did not, so we improvised using the bottom of a soda can. Perhaps the circle shape ruined the cookies. We also didn't have a rolling pin, so we had to use a wine bottle, because we're alcoholics, not bakers. (Rousselle insisted she was both.)
Anyway, here's our immediate reaction to the cookies, while they were still fresh out of the oven:
I'll admit I tried the Trump recipe again on Sunday, thinking, I guess, that they'd taste better the second time around? I was wrong, they were just as flavorless. This was disappointing, considering the raw dough wasn't half bad. The Clinton recipe holds up a bit better, but it was the only chocolate I had in my apartment, so it probably had more to do with that than anything else.
Both recipes combined made 8.5 dozen cookies. Rousselle and I split the leftovers, but I'm still going to be stuck with these things for several days, or at least until I bring in the leftovers for my hapless coworkers to finish off.
If I were to choose which cookie is better, I'd say the Clinton recipe. But, meh.
There's a metaphor for the election, where one cookie is slightly less bad than the other.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.