I’m All Thumbs, Martha!- Chocolate Thumbprints! -190 eggs, 150 1/4 cups of sugar, 143 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 183 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 68 recipes to go!

March 8, 2011

Martha's Chocolate Thumbprints

Chocolate Thumbprints

Here’s a cookie classic from Martha’s book. Chocolate Thumbprints are one of the easiest cookies to properly prepare. Butter, sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and eggs are combined into a simple sticky dough. After the dough is refrigerated till firm, it’s shaped into one-and-a-half inch balls and then rolled in sugar. Rolling a cookie in sugar insures that the surface will crackle. The balls are then placed on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and, you guessed it, they are each given a firm press of the thumb- hence their namesake.  The cookies are then baked for ten minutes,  removed from the oven and given another indentation with the end of a spoon. Don’t use your thumb. They’re hot… duh!

After the second “thumbprint” is administered the cookies are baked till slightly golden and then placed on a wire rack to cool and crisp up. While they’re cooling you have time to whip up some chocolate ganache. Ganache is quite simple to make. Chocolate shavings are combined with hot heavy cream and stirred to a thick consistency. Vanilla and other flavors can be added along with a bit of sugar to sweeten it up. Light corn syrup can be added to give a bit of gloss to the final product.

The prepared ganache is then piped into the thumbprints and allowed to set. Voila! Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies!

My partner, Dan took these to work where his colleagues consumed every last one. They are a simple, clean cookie with the wonderful flavors of butter and chocolate and a terrific sweet and salty finish. It’s easy to see why these are a holiday favorite. This cookie also has a bit more of an adult appeal as opposed to the butter cookie surrounding a Hershey’s Kiss (although I do love a good Peanut Butter Blossom.)

Thumbprints… Thumbprints… Thumbprints… hmmmmm…. what should I write about?

I’ve got it!

Back in 1994, I took a job that required fingerprinting. Not only did it require fingerprinting. It required regular drug testing, and a background check, and a mug shot, and training, and a credit history check, and references, and… well, you get the idea. No, I didn’t work for the CIA, although I think that’d be awesome (I like the way I look in sunglasses.) I went to work for the Belle of Baton Rouge- a riverboat casino owned by the Argosy Gaming group.

You see, the city of Baton Rouge had just approved two casinos to open within the city limits on the East bank of the Mississippi River downtown. The extra money they would generate would be used to improve the local school system (insert a sarcastic groan here.) It was amazing that within just a few months of the local bill being passed, two casino docks were erected with lightning speed and the boats floated in along with quite a few jobs. The law stated the boats could dock no longer than two hours at a time with the requirement to cruise for at least another two hours weather permitting. This was a ridiculous and short-sighted law. People would rush onto the boat as soon as it docked to spend their money quickly lest they be stuck on a two-hour cruise where they would then be compelled to spend their lives’ savings before the boat once again reached shore.

As an employee, the cruising law was a nuisance. The cruise times were a bit loose and so I was often irked to see my workplace floating down the Mississippi at the beginning of my shift. That meant I would have to wait on the shore for two unpaid hours before I could clock in.

I was hired to work in the casino’s cage as a banker. I wore a ridiculous uniform that consisted of black slacks and shoes, a white tuxedo shirt with a gold and black paisley bowtie and a matching vest of garish paisley lamé… Oh, and a name tag that read- Get Lucky at The Belle of Baton Rouge Casino. Hi! I’m Andy! Apparently they thought André sounded too foreign, I guess. I almost forgot about the black & gold lace garters as armbands that made all of the male employees look like chorus boys from Hello Dolly!

The job was kind of a no-brainer. I sat behind a barred window with six or seven video camera pointed at me where I supplied gamblers- oh, excuse me- guests with all of their gambling- oh, excuse me again- gaming needs. You never use the word, “Gamble” at a casino. It’s “Gaming.” Makes it sound more fun and innocent. After all, who sells their Mom’s kidney for an innocent game of cards?

Casinos are strange places to work. There’s a hierarchy of managers trained to distrust every worker below them. They suspected every single employee had little-to-no moral value and they certainly treated us as such. I sat at a window with a bank of $10,000 consisting of cash, chips, change, tokens, checks, and credit card receipts. At the end of my shift I was required to have $10,000 of the same. You see, my job was just to maintain that balance. A guest has forty dollars in chips? I give them forty dollars in cash. A guest writes a check for two hundred dollars? I give them $200 in cash.  It was a monotonous job. In came one denomination and out went another. I was tested often. Not on my lame math skills but rather on my moral integrity. A manager would covertly slip a $100 chip into the back of the drawer knowing I’d find it. It would’ve been quite easy for me to lift $100 in cash out of the drawer and into my pocket out of the view of the camera, but I  knew I was being tested. I’d quickly announce that there was a rogue $100 chip in my drawer and the manager would literally pat me on the head and tell me I was a good banker. I hated working the cage.

Gamblers… oh, excuse me… Guests were another matter altogether. While I enjoy people watching, I don’t always enjoy interacting with them. I’d look up from my window and see lines of angry, elderly women in sequined pull-overs lined up with bucket after bucket of slot tokens. That was one of the things I learned early on. High rollers will stand quietly and patiently in line with $5,000 in chips clutched in their palms while the old ladies with $2.00 in nickels will curse a blue streak if the line was moving too slowly. I got an earful of complaints every fifteen minutes or so. This was compounded at night with the heavy drinking patrons. Rarely was I ever tipped and rarely was I ever thanked for a payout.

I hated the job. There were plenty of addicts to deal with. Alcoholics, drug addicts, smokers, and gamblers flowed to and from my window everyday. One of the bonuses of working as a banker was awarded on the many occasions when I’d have to seize and destroy a guest’s credit card. Most patrons could withdraw cash from their line of credit, usually at a steep 24% interest rate. If I ran the card and the screen read Please Contact, I knew the guest had either seriously defaulted on their debt or the credit card was stolen. Either way, I would inform them that I would have to destroy the card. I would then pull out the scissors and cut the card in half while the irate guest usually screamed and cursed at me. This is why I worked in a cage. At the end of the month, I’d receive $50 for each card I destroyed. This bonus came directly from the credit card companies.

One such instance involved an elderly woman well into her seventies. She begged me not to do it. She told me her son and daughter wouldn’t understand. She sobbed as I cut her card in half and then collapsed. Security called the on-site paramedics and they whisked her away on a gurney. It hardly seemed worth the $50 bonus. It felt wrong and sleazy. I was, after all, doing the credit card companies’ dirty work. I asked my manager for a promotion after that. I wanted to move away from the window.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression Out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Well, that’s exactly what happened next. I went to work in what is known as soft-count. My shift began at 1:00 A.M. and continued through the morning hours till just past dawn. I was paid a bit more but the work was brutal. When I arrived for my shift, I was escorted by two security officers to a small room in the hull of the boat. The two security guards then watched me closely as I changed into my new uniform- a short-sleeved, tan, floor-length smock that tied tightly around my torso so I could not access any pocket and my arms and hands were always exposed. I was not allowed any jewelry or watch of any sort and my hair would have to be kept quite short. The two security guards then led me to a room where two other workers, in the same uniform waited. All three of us were then led to the safe- a tiny, water-proof, metal room that locked from the outside.

The room consisted of  three, large, clear, plexiglass tables. There were no chairs and you were never allowed to lean on anything. Soft count is where all of the paper currency was counted each and every night. Usually around $275,000 to $500,000 was extracted from the table games and slot machines by way of hundreds of tiny, locked, steel boxes each holding one, five, ten, twenty and hundred dollar bills. Our job played out like this. A box came through the tiny window from a security guard. One of us would open it with a metal key and take out the cash. We’d then show the camera the empty box and announce “Box Empty!” (in addition to visual we were also under audio surveillance – we were not allowed to engage in small talk). The empty box was then slid through another window where a security guard would place it on a cart to be returned to the machines the next night.  We would then take the stack of bills and divide them according to denomination and turn them so that they were all facing the right direction, removing damaged, faded or torn bills to the “dirt” pile. We’d then count them manually. After that we’d place them in a bill-counting machine to verify they were counted correctly. After that, they were counted one more time by the machine to make triple-sure we were accurate in our calculations. The amount was then entered into the computer and each of us would have to verify the amount by typing in our initials. The money was then banded and stacked on the table. If any of us should bump the table, we’d announce it to the camera. If any of us dropped a paper clip on the floor, we’d announce Stop! Paper clip on floor! When that would happen we’d all raise our hands above our heads while one of us slowly squatted to pick it up, show it to the camera and announce Paper clip off the floor!

In the course of the evening we’d go through hundred upon hundreds of the tiny, metal boxes. The work was tedious and strenuous. Our backs ached and there was no camaraderie among the co-workers. In fact, camaraderie was discouraged. We were essentially not allowed to chat with each other during our breaks or form friendships outside of work lest we were suspected of planning some sort of heist. At the end of each shift, hundreds of thousands of dollars were arranged in neat little stacks on the plexiglass tables. Stack by stack was handed and counted one last time through the tiny window to the vault where an armed guard arranged them according to denomination while another recorded it on yet another computer.

I had gone from a cage to being locked in a cell for a mere $11.00 an hour. I joked to myself that if the boat ever sank, we’d never know it. We’d be sitting in our waterproof room counting hundreds of thousands of dollars while our air supply slowly ran out. At least we were on audio surveillance and would’ve been able to record final messages to our loved ones. I’ve always been a bit of an optimist.

So, there you have it. Probably the suckiest job that ever sucked.

Stand aside, Maya Angelou!

I, too, know why the caged bird sings.


Cookie on the floor!

Cookie off the floor!


2 Responses to “I’m All Thumbs, Martha!- Chocolate Thumbprints! -190 eggs, 150 1/4 cups of sugar, 143 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 183 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 68 recipes to go!”

  1. Emily Says:

    LOLing at “cookie on the floor!” What a horrible job and what a strange and seedy underworld there is to “gaming.”

  2. Tommy Salami Says:

    That sounded godawful.

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