Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recipes: Obama White House Holiday Cookies, And Other Sweet & Merry Treats

Joy to All from the White House to your house:  Gingerbread Cookies, Sweet Dough Butter Cookies, Ginger Crinkles Cookies, Honey Tea Lollipops...
Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and his team are busier than Santa's elves this holiday season, baking and decorating thousands of cookies for the 24 holiday dinners and receptions President Obama and First Lady Obama will host through late December.  Holiday cookies are a staple on the dinner buffets, and Sweet Dough Butter Cookies shaped like First Dog Bo, snowflakes, ornaments, stars and Christmas trees fill silver cookies trees.  Gingerbread Cookies in the shape of decorated reindeer and sugar-sprinkled snowmen are also on offer.  The recipes for both, and Ginger Crinkles Cookies are below. The Gingerbread Cookie recipe can be used to make ornaments, too.  (Above, a tree of cookies on a dessert buffet in the East Room)

Bo is all over Mrs. Obama's 'Joy to All' decor scheme, with "Boflake" ornaments scattered among the 54 trees that fill the mansion, and a larger-than-life pom-pom topiary of the First Dog taking pride of place in the Booksellers.  The Bo cookies are the most popular with guests each year; the 2012 edition is a "seated" Bo with a red collar.  The cookies tend to get pocketed by guests, rather than eaten.  That's a good thing, because the black dye in Bo's "fur" frosting stains the lips, which has become something of a joke around the White House.

Yosses and his staff have so much to do with baking cookies, double-crust fruit pies, Yule logs, pumpkin and coconut and gingerbread cakes and other delights for the President and Mrs. Obama's 14,000 expected holiday guests that the cookie dough is made weeks ahead of time, and then frozen for daily baking, he says.  The President and Mrs. Obama's guests will include "volunteers, members of Congress, White House staff, Secret Service personnel, White House reporters and Americans from across the country," said the East Wing.  Sometimes there are two parties a day; the holidays are very busy at the White House.

For the 2012 holiday season, Yosses has newly released his recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding, a rich, moist cake, as well as the recipe for Ginger Crinkles Cookies {PDF}.  Mrs. Obama made White House Honey Tea Lollipops with children from military families when she unveiled her decor scheme.  These use candied root vegetables and a tea infusion.  More holiday recipes are linked at the bottom of this post.  (Above, Mrs. Obama displays a lollipop at the decor preview)

White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookies

*Dough must be chilled overnight.

*Preheat the oven to 350F.

1 lb Sugar

2 lbs Butter

3 lbs All Purpose Flour

3 Eggs

1 Tsp Vanilla

1 Tsp Salt


1. Mix the butter and sugar till soft and well beaten.

2. Then add eggs, vanilla, salt and half the flour. Beat on slow speed till mixed, then add the rest of the flour and mix until incorporated.

3. Push flat onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day, roll dough out to one quarter inch thick, and cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutter.

5. Bake at 350F for 14 minutes and then allow to cool before decorating.

Royal Icing


2 cups Confectioner's sugar, sifted

1 egg white

1 Tsp lemon juice


Mix with paddle attachment on electric blender (or by hand) for 5 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more lemon juice or a little egg white to desired consistency.  Use pasteurized eggs if possible, in the interest of food safety.

Decorate as desired.
Number of cookie servings varies depending on size of cookies cut.

White House Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

*Dough must be chilled overnight.
Bake longer to harden for ornaments.

Ingredients for the Cookies
8 oz (2 sticks) butter, soft

2 cups dark brown sugar

2 eggs, large

1 Cup molasses

7 Cups All Purpose flour

1/4 Tsp ginger ground

1/4  Tsp cinnamon, ground

1 Tsp baking soda

1/4 Tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Zest from 1 lemon

Zest from 1 orange


1. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer for a minimum 5 minutes.

2. Add eggs one by one, then molasses.

3. Put mixer on slow, sift spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda with flour then add these dry ingredients in three increments and scrape bowl each time.

4. Add zests and mix until incorporated, but do not over mix.

5. Remove dough from bowl and place on plastic wrap and spread to 1" thickness over wrap and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

6. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out a small piece on a floured surface. This dough is very wet, so add flour when necessary to prevent sticking and turn over often.

7. Roll out to 1/8 to ¼ inch thickness for cookies. Cut out Gingerbread shapes.

8. Bake for 12 minutes at 350°F for cookies; 25 minutes or more for ornaments.

*Serving size depends on number of cookies cut

More White House holiday recipes...
Recipes for Yosses' other holiday desserts on offer at the Presidential parties include Apple Pie and Huckleberry Pie and Pumpkin Cake.  Yosses' nearly 300-pound Gingerbread White House is a show-stopper this year, and sits beside the dessert buffet in the State Dining Room.  The savory dinner buffet menu includes recipes featured in the First Lady's Grammy-nominated book, American Grown.  Check the sidebar for all White House recipes.  (Above, a dessert buffet in the East Room)

Click here for links to all posts about the 2012 holidays.

Download:  The Official White House Holiday Tour Booklet {PDF}

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama