That’s Just Nuts, Martha!- Hazelnut Thumbprints! -185 eggs, 143 cups of sugar, 135 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 174 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 72 recipes to go!

February 9, 2011

Martha's Hazelnut Thumbprints

André's Hazelnut Thumbprints

Skinning a hazlenut is not as easy as Martha makes it sound in her book. For those of you that may not know, hazelnuts (AKA filberts), once shelled are covered with a thin and bitter skin. Martha’s tip for removing this membrane is to bake the nut until they’re fragrant and the skin just begins to crack. At that point the nuts are removed from the oven and poured onto a clean dishtowel which is folded over them allowing them to steam a bit. After a few minutes you roll the nuts inside of the dishcloth which peels the membrane loose and dispenes a brown hazelut confetti across every surface in your kitchen- thanks, Martha. The nuts, once peeled, should reveal a solid golden nut underneath .

This is not how mine turned out. True, some did emerge solid and golden but many were still coated in clinging bits of bitter skin. I had to pick those out and start the process all over again. I repeated this process three times for a mere 1/2 cup of hazelnuts- again thanks, Martha

The dough for this cookie was really no different than any other regular butter cookie dough. Once the dough is prepared and rolled into 1 1/2 inch balls, they’re dipped in lightly beaten egg whites as a binding agent and then coated in toasted, laboriously-skinned, chopped  hazelnuts and granulated sugar. Each ball is then placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and given a firm thumb imprint in the middle. These are baked for ten minutes, removed from the oven, given another firm indentation with the end of a spoon – the dough tends to rise while baking. They are then baked for another ten minutes until golden brown. Once cooled, the thumbprints are filled with whatever jam you’d like. I chose raspberry because I thought the tartness would play well with the dark flavors of the hazelnuts.

These cookies were delicious and the aroma of the buttery, baked dough and toasted hazelnuts was amazing. It’s a sophisticated take on the standard thumbprint cookie and would make an excellent gift or treat to bring to a shower dinner party. They just look fancy. Two thumbs up- Pun intended.

I’ve always struggled in situations where I had to choose between faith or humor. I always tend to go to the dark side in these situations. Humor is simply more fun and therefore I tend to piss a lot of religious folks off with an ill-placed joke or smart-ass remark. Part of it is my seemingly complete irreverence in regards to the religiously faithful and part of it is the religiously faithfuls’ seemingly complete lack of a sense of humor. After all, there are harder things to do than piss off a religious zealot. Ask a certain Dutch cartoonist about that one. Besides, I live less than a hundred miles from the Westboro Baptist Church. If you are unfamiliar with the Rev. Phelps and his happy family of followers just check out his church’s website- Better yet, don’t. Seriously, if we couldn’t laugh at that sort of nonsense we’d have to cry.

Having grown up in the parochial school system, I developed a deep-rooted sense of irony around the Lord, the Saints (the holy ones not the football team- although the football team certainly had many laughable seasons), Jesus and the whole gang of followers. It all just seemed so funny and ridiculously mystical to me.

Sister Barbara would constantly make desperate attempts to get us third-graders to find applicable learnings from the life of Christ. We’d drag ourselves in lifelessly on an early Monday morning and she’d energetically announce- “Our Lord and Savior was hung on the cross on Good Friday and three days later he rose from the dead! If he could deal with Mondays, so can you!”

This was a great line if Sister Barbara had a sense of humor. She didn’t and therefore our giggles were met with swift swats across our little, heathen heads.

My second cousin, Eddie had a wife and six sons- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and Jude. If it hadn’t been for the divorce there would, no doubt, have been the rest of the apostles and possibly a Mary or two thrown in for good measure. After Eddie’s wife left to give her uterus a well-deserved break, Eddie hired a live-in housekeeper and nanny named, Loretta. Loretta was a painfully thin African-American woman with thick, dark, plastic-rimmed, cat-eye glasses.  Loretta loved the Lord… well, the Lord and ill-fitting turtleneck sweaters. She was my first introduction to non-denominational Evangelism. Having a conversation with an Evangelist is difficult, even for a inquisitive nine-year old. I would find myself chatting with her and her eyes would wander up to heaven or lower in reverent prayer. She would utter a few syllables of jibberish and suddenly hop or bounce when the Lord so moved her. She used the phrases “Amen”, “Hallelujah” and “Thank You, Jesus!” to punctuate her every sentence. This made conversing sound a little like this:

How are you, Loretta?

I’m fine, Hallelujah!

What did you do today?

I went down to Schwegman’s to get the groceries done, Amen! They had a sale on pork roast, Hallelujah! Ninety-eight cents a pound, Thank You Jesus!

Each punctuation came with its own choreography. A flick of the hands towards heaven or a sudden bend of the knees in a sharp, divinely-inspired demi-plié. I loved Bob Fosse and so I found Loretta fascinating to watch. She was just so funny and yet I dared not laugh. I somehow knew if I did she would turn quite cruel very quickly. The trick was to play along. After weekends at my cousins I’d return to my conservative Catholic home uttering Praise Jesuses and Glory Glories to make my sisters laugh. I’d prance about and close my eyes uttering fervent prayers of jibberish to a God who I imagined was fond of white suits and pinky rings like the men Loretta watched preaching on the TV. I’d end the performance with a joyful AMEN! My mom would roll her eyes and laugh a little, too.

One weekend with Loretta and my cousins, the apostles, we stayed up very late playing games and listening to Loretta tell stories. I loved it. My parent’s were pretty strict when it came to our bedtimes and weekend or not, we were in bed the moment the little hand pointed to 9. That evening the big hand was almost to 11 and Loretta and I sat in the dark lit only by the electric flicker radiating from the old Zenith. The apostles were konked-out, draped across the thick blue shag carpet and I could here their deep inhalations letting Loretta know they were out for the night. Loretta had prepared two bowls of vanilla ice cream. One for her and one for me and we sat down to watch a movie, 1953’s War of The Worlds. I had not seen it before. I loved it. It had two of my favorite plot devices- alien invasion and world destruction. We sat eating our ice cream in silence, our eyes were glued to the set. The world was coming to an end, overrun by evil Martians who were disposing of the human race at an alarming pace. There was nothing us poor humans could do to protect ourselves. Our weapons were just no match for evil Martian technology. Puddles of melted cream formed at the bottom of our bowls. Loretta and I were far too engrossed in the story to eat. I think we even stopped breathing, holding our breaths till the commercial breaks. We’d then take a large gulp of air, drink the melted vanilla ice cream from the bottom of our bowls, fan ourselves a bit and wait for the magic of H.G. Well’s story to resume in its technicolor magnificence.

At the end of the movie, all hope was lost. The few humans in small town, U.S.A.  that hadn’t been vaporized by a glowing green x-ray laser of death huddled in prayer at a local church. A local Catholic church, to be exact. Just as the evil Martians aimed the death beam on this little house of God, a miracle happened. Their steel space ship began to swerve, losing control it drifted clumsily to the ground. Evil spaceships all over the globe began to do the same. I was thrilled and beaming with glee. Loretta took this as a sign. She received signs from the Lord daily if not hourly, but this one knocked her on her hiney. She jumped up to her feet and flicked on the light waking my cousins, the apostles and with a booming voice she proclaimed:

That’s what they get! That’s what they get! Those people were in the house of the Lord! And that’s what those motherfuckin’ aliens get when they mess with God! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!

She then began to hop a jig from one side of the room to the other. I watched her in awe and wished that I had brought a tambourine. She grabbed my hands and danced me across the room while singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus. My cousins wiped the sleep from their eyes and looked at each other as if to say- Did she really just say the F-word?

When I returned home I had a really polished performance for my sisters. I never performed it, though. It somehow didn’t seem right.

Over the years I’ve met some insanely religious folks. Some have made me laugh and some have seriously pissed me off. Some have made me think and some have offered comfort just when I needed it.

None of them, however made me feel real zealous joy like Loretta and Mr. H.G. Wells did that strange and wonderful night so many years ago.



I hope you enjoyed this silly story. If you’d like, please show your appreciation by supporting me in AIDS Walk 2011 here.

One Response to “That’s Just Nuts, Martha!- Hazelnut Thumbprints! -185 eggs, 143 cups of sugar, 135 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 174 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 72 recipes to go!”

  1. Tommy Salami Says:

    My grandmother made these and called them Melting Moments. They are my favorite cookie. Hallelujah!

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