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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.

"That travels well and blackberries are in season now," he said. "That's the perfect Fourth of July dessert."

Before coming to the White House, Mr. Yosses trained with culinary all-stars including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Daniel Bouley. So is it more or less intimidating to work for the leader of the free world?

Yosses laughs slowly, carefully: "I would say it's equally intimidating."

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BLACKBERRY BUTTERMILK BUNDT WITH ORANGE GLAZE

The buttermilk gives this simple Bundt cake by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses a wonderful tanginess that offsets the sweet blackberries and orange glaze. The recipe, from Yosses' new book, "The Perfect Finish," is a fine choice for brunch or a July Fourth picnic.

Start to Finish: 1 1/2 hours (20 minutes active)

Servings: 8 to 10

For the cake:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons for greasing

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 pints blackberries

For the glaze:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Use 2 tablespoons of the butter to coat a 2-quart nonstick Bundt pan, then spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the remaining 2 sticks of butter and the granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in half of the flour mixture. Mix in the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture.

Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the blackberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

While the cake cools, in a small saucepan over low, combine the orange juice and powdered sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.

Invert the cake onto a plate.

With a skewer or small knife, poke deep holes in the surface of the cake. Pour half of the orange glaze over the cake, letting it seep into the holes. Let the cake cool for another 20 minutes. Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and allow to set for 10 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 460 calories; 199 calories from fat; 22 g fat (14 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 127 mg cholesterol; 63 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 141 mg sodium.

(Recipe from Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark's "The Perfect Finish," Norton 2010)

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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