- Associated Press - Thursday, July 1, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans may follow their leaders in lockstep on the issues of the day, but when it comes to nuts — specifically whether or not they belong in chocolate chip cookies — it seems every politician is an island, says Bill Yosses, White House executive pastry chef and author of the new cookbook, “The Perfect Finish.”

“Everybody has their individual opinion, but I have noticed no discernable opinion in terms of one party or the other,” Mr. Yosses said.

The man who’s been called the confectioner-in-chief came to the White House in January 2007 to turn out cakes, pastries and cookies for President George W. Bush, who Mr. Yosses said “enjoyed dessert immensely.”

“I don’t think there was a dessert he met that he didn’t like,” he added. 

President Barack Obama? He’s a bit more discerning.

“He’s not someone who eats dessert every day,” Mr. Yosses said. 

Factor in first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity and you might think Yosses has more time on his hands. But Yosses said the change has prompted him to become more creative. These days he gets berries and rhubarb from Mrs. Obama’s White House garden, and honey — which he uses along with maple syrup and agave nectar in place of refined sugars — from the kitchen’s new beehives.

“Sourcing is the second most important aspect after portion size and moderation about how we can make desserts part of a healthy diet.”

In addition to backyard sourcing, Mr. Yosses has eliminated denatured and processed foods, such as chemical preservatives and shortening. Which leaves. lard.

President Obama has dubbed Mr. Yosses “The Crust Master” and has a special weakness for just about any fruit pie the chef turns out, Mr. Yosses said. In fact, Obama picked cherry pie for his birthday last year, and Mr. Yosses said he’s expecting a similar request when the day rolls around again on Aug. 4.

Besides fully baking the bottom crust before adding the fruit and top crust, Mr. Yosses earned his title by massaging a tablespoon of lard into every batch of dough to give it “that snap-crackle-pop.”

And does the president know about the secret ingredient? Or have his advisers assured him deniability?

“He probably would rather not know,” Mr. Yosses ventured.

With the Fourth of July approaching, Mr.l Yosses soon will create treats for the military families who will be invited for fireworks on the South Lawn. For your own picnic, Yosses said items such as lemon pound cake supreme or deepest, darkest chocolate pudding from his new cookbook make delicious, easily transportable goodies. Blackberry buttermilk Bundt cake also works.

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