While these might be considered Barbara Bush’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies they are also reminiscent of a very similar cookie that a neighbor made for me when I was young. Firm and filled with oatmeal and good chocolate, they are divine!
After the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush last week, I saw an article that had a photo accompanying it of Mrs. Bush in the kitchen and told of the love her family had for her chocolate chip cookies. I peeked at the recipe for Barbara Bush’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies and a twinge of a memory took hold of me that was cemented once I perused a very old recipe notebook that I’ve kept with all of the handwritten recipe cards I’ve loved over the years. Same recipe…oh my!
What I’ve since discovered is that these are the cookies Mrs. Bush entered into a presidential candidate wives bake-off that was an annual competition sponsored by Family Circle Magazine. The cookie recipe was a favorite of the former first lady, who, according to her press secretary, got the recipe from a dear friend. After Mrs. Bush submitted the recipe to Family Circle Magazine, The staff of the Houstonian, an iconic hotel in Houston, discovered the recipe and approached Mrs. Bush at the hotel asking to use it.
The Bush’s have a special connection to The Houstonian. While George H.W. Bush served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Vice President, he and Mrs. Bush lived for a time at the Manor House, the John F. Staub-designed home on the grounds of the hotel that now serves as a restaurant and special events space.
When Mrs. Bush was having lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, the Olivette, and when asked if the hotel could use it, she said she would be honored and she was flattered that she was asked. The cookies have since become a staple at the hotel, as annual holiday giveaway treats to visiting children, dignitaries, and hotel clients. The label reads: “These cookies are made with gracious permission from Mrs. Bush.”
“We’ve been baking and giving away thousands of Mrs. Bush’s cookies since her passing,” said Catherine Rodriguez, head pastry chef at the Houstonian.
They were everything I remember from a recipe I’ve not made in at least 15 years. Not sure why since I’ve always loved them but like many things; without children in the house there are a lot of things I no longer put into rotation…and that must change. These are too good to be forgotten again. When first out of the oven, they are not crisp but more chewy with the oatmeal in the mix.
Of course in Denver, that will change within hours and mine got very crispy very soon because I left them out. While I love our lower humidity mid-summer I have to admit it can sometimes do me in when it comes to baked goods. Maybe this is why I still dunk cookies in coffee or milk? Well, that’s my excuse at least!
I had offered to bring cookies to an event at a local church for volunteers who spend one Friday night a month watching the children of families with one or more children with severe physical handicaps or learning disabilities. It’s often their only night out and my contribution was to treat the volunteers…even the one with a tree nut allergy. I was so glad I had opted for a recipe that uses oatmeal; it provides a nice almost crunchy texture but without the potential for causing an allergic reaction that nuts do.
Still, I think they are an almost perfect chocolate chip cookie. At the suggestion of one of my assistants (a 9yr old neighbor) I opted for Milk Chocolate chips. Mrs. Bush suggests Valhrona Chocolate which I LOVE but since I was feeding a lot of younger people I didn’t go that route. It’s my favorite chocolate but would have required a run to a specialty store and that was so not happening!
No matter your political persuasion or chip persuasion for that matter, trust me that Barbara Bush’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies are good for EVERYONE so give them a shot. I think the perfect sendoff to a loved and respected First Lady.
My other favorite chocolate chip cookie is made with brown butter and molasses; maybe I need to have a cook-off in my own kitchen!
Barbara Bush's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
- 1 (12 ounces) bag semisweet chocolate chips, preferably Valrhona (I used Milk Chocolate and everyone loved them!)
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt onto waxed paper. Set aside.
- Beat together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy.
- Stir in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
- Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.