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Thread: Thomas Haas Chocolate Sparkle Cookies - Best in the World

  1. #1
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    Thomas Haas Chocolate Sparkle Cookies - Best in the World

    Anyone from Vancouver familiar with this cookie? Per the web, it was reviewed as the best cookie in the world -- but could be biased since this was from a Vancouver newspaper.

    There seem to be slight variations in the recipes I've seen posted -- you can purchase the fixings from Hass for $72 for 36 cookies -- cough cough.

    Anyway per the description, it's got a truffley texture -- This is one variation I've seen -- another doesn't have the honey. Per all the reviews, the quality of the chocolate is make or break.

    Thomas Haas Chocolate Sparkle Cookies


    1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate (TH recommends Valrohna if you can find it)
    3 T butter, room temp
    2 eggs
    1 T honey
    1/3 c sugar, plus more for rolling
    3/4 c ground almonds
    2 tsp cocoa powder
    pinch of salt
    powdered sugar for garnish





    Melt chocolate on top of a double boiler, over (but not in contact with) simmering water. Cut butter into small pieces and mix into the heated chocolate until melted. Beat eggs with mixer, gradually adding the sugar and honey until light & the mixture falls in thick, smooth ribbons from the beaters (about 10 minutes). Fold into the chocolate-butter mixture. Add the cocoa powder and salt to the ground almonds & mix; gently add to the chocoate mixture.


    Cover and refrigerate overnight.


    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small ice cream scoop to form the dough into 1 inch balls. Working quickly, roll the balls in granulated sugar. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 12 minutes, until the centres are most, but not wet. Cool slightly. Dust lightly with powdered icing sugar.


    Makes 36 cookies.

  2. #2
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    interesting... thanks for posting.

    yeah those cookies definitely look like they would be truffley, based on the ingredients. but when I am in the mood for a cookie, I want a cookie, not a truffle. how could they be the world's best cookie for someone whole prefers a crunchy/chewy cookie and who isn't a chocoholic? (like me)

    (I am not asking this of you, blaze... it is just a rhetorical question.)

  3. #3
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    Well Val -- I prefer crisp to truffley also but I am a major fan of cookies made with almond paste

    I found the hype to be interesting as it's all over the web -- the cookies made from the recipe seem to be well reviewed at a number of blogs including egullet.

    I think they would be a good addition to a Christmas line up.

    I would love to hear from some Vancouvians regarding these cookies. -- here's the url if anyone actually wants to be the mix.

    http://thomashaas.com/chocolates/sparkles.asp

    Val -- I thought you might be interested in the notes of the egullet poster.

    Servings: 36 as a dessert
    This is a version of Thomas Haas's Chocolate Sparkle Cookies where I've expanded on the instructions.
    I did an experiment last time where in one batch I used (Haas recommended) Valrhona Guanaja 70% and Scharffen-Berger Bittersweet 70% in the other. In a side-by-side tasting, the Scharffen-Berger cookies disappeared first. For reference, I use Scharffen-Berger cocoa powder, Florida Crystals granulated sugar, and Plugr unsalted butter. Also, I always make at least 2 batches of these cookies since they get eaten so quickly.
    Some notes about my method:
    - I find a can get more volume in the beaten eggs with the genoise method. I warm my eggs and sugar/honey, whisking constantly, over a double boiler until very warm (about 120F) and the sugar is dissolved. The eggs will probably take around 10 minutes at medium-high speed in a stand mixer to reach full volume (will take longer if you double the recipe) -- you want nice thick ribbons to fall from the beaters. This is important since the eggs are the sole leavening in these cookies. You also want to be gentle when you fold in the chocolate and almond flour. There's not much gained by "lightening" the chocolate with any of the whipped egg in this recipe, so I skip that step. Feel free to fold the almonds into the chocolate and then fold it into the eggs.
    - If you can't find almond flour, pulse slivered almonds in a food processor with some sugar until finely ground (try not to over-process and make almond butter. Also, don't forget to reduce the sugar in the recipe by how much you've added to the almonds).
    - You'll need to refrigerate the batter overnight so that it can "set." It's not necessary but when I go to scoop the cookies I found that keeping the batter container in a bowl of ice and wearing a pair of gloves helps tremendously (ambient room temperature and your body heat will start to "melt" the batter and make it harder to work with).
    - The original recipe said to bake at 325F never mentioning that temperature was for a convection oven. Since I have a conventional oven, I set mine to 375F and let it preheat well. Try not to over-bake -- you'll want to take them out while they still look ever so slightly wet in the middle.
    - The finished cookie should be poofy like this, not flat.
    Please don't be intimidated by all these "notes" -- the cookies are actually very easy to make. I'm just passing on info I've learned through trial and error to make them (hopefully) virtually failure-proof for you.
    Since it's my preferred way of working, I've converted the recipe into weight for those of you that have a scale (see original for volume measures).
    Last edited by blazedog; 09-08-2005 at 06:40 PM.

  4. #4
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    I just had to copy that recipe, blazedog, and may even make it one day. It's always interesting to hear such claims as the reviewer made... reminds me of the recipe for "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" published locally - then corrected the following week, then revised the following week; the recipe was from the Toques Blanches International, Ottawa-Gatineau chapter (a chef's society)!
    I am also reminded of a recipe and story published in "Pot on the Fire" by John Thorne and Matt Lewis Thorne in a chapter titled "The Best Cookies in the World". Here's that recipe (which, indeed, is very good); it apparently comes from a small bakery in the Dutch town of Arnhem, and the recipe is originally "Arnhemse Meisjes", which translates as Arnhem Misses. BTW, it was Roald Dahl who claimed them to be the best cookies in the world in his book "Memories with Food at Gipsy House".

    Arnhem Cookies

    from Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne, Matt Lewis Thorne)
    Although Arnhems are in most ways a pleasure to make (and will inspire in the experienced cookie maker all sorts of ideas), mixing the dough requires a powerful, stand-mounted electric mixer: don't even think of using a hand-held one. I suspect that a sturdy food processor could manage this dough (using the plastic blade), but we don't have one on hand to test that hypothesis. However, the trusty old K5A took it in its stride. Please read through the recipe carefully before attempting to make these cookies; some forethought is required.
    makes 1 pound of cookies (i.e., a lot)

    1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4.5 ounces) whole milk (see footnote #1)
    1/8 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/3 of a standard .6-ounce cube of fresh yeast or 1 scant teaspoon of dry yeast
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
    about 1 cup crushed rock sugar or sugar crystals (see footnote #2)
    A heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough paddle or a food processor fitted with a plastic blade.

    The cookie dough should be prepared several hours ahead of the time you plan to make the cookies.
    Combine the flour, milk, lemon juice, yeast (crumbling it into the mixture, if fresh), and salt into the bowl of the mixer or processor. Turn the machine onto high. As soon as the contents of the bowl are well mixed, add the first cube of butter. Beat this into the mixture for 1 minute, then add the next cube, beating this into the mixture for 1 minute. Continue in the same way until all the butter has been amalgamated. The dough will be soft and elastic to the touch. Use a spatula or dough scraper to form it into a ball. Place it on a plate, cover it with a bowl, and set it in the refrigerator until cool, or about two hours. If you wish, you may leave it overnight.

    When ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 275F and line two standard cookie sheets with parchment paper.(see footnote #3)
    Sprinkle the work surface on which you plan to roll out the dough with a coating of sugar crystals. Uncover the dough and, with a sharp kitchen knife, divide it in half. Form each half into a round ball.
    Coat the first ball of dough thickly with sugar crystals and transfer it to the sugared working surface. There, use a rolling pin to gently roll it out as thinly as possible, pausing frequently to sprinkle it and the counter with more sugar crystals. Also, while this is still possible, periodically turn the dough over so that more sugar crystals can be sprinkled on the bottom surface. The thinner and more evenly the dough is rolled, the better (and more authentic) the cookies; it should be almost as thin as homemade egg noodle dough.
    If you wish, use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into ovals, the traditional shape. Otherwise, use a pizza cutter or sharp utility knife to cut them into rectangles, roughly 1 by 2 inches. Set the formed cookies into one of the parchment-lined cookie pans and place this into the preheated oven. The cookies should be baked until their tops are caramel-colored and their bottoms a crisp brown. Dahl's time is 30 to 45 minutes; we used insulated cookie pans, and our baking time was closer to an hour. While these bake, roll out and form the second batch of cookies in the same way.
    Remove the baked cookies from the oven and-taking care with the hot pan-slide the parchment paper and cookies onto a wire cooling rack. Remove them from the paper as soon as they are cool enough to handle (see footnote #4). They keep well for at least for a week in an airtight container-but are best eaten within the first two or three days.
    Footnotes:
    1 - The exact amount will depend on your flour. If your mixer struggles with the dough, dribble in more milk.
    2 - Dahl writes that his own Arnhems were not quite as good as the real thing. This may be because his recipe substitutes crushed sugar cubes for the Dutch kandij suiker, amber crystals better known in this country as coffee sugar crystals. We used Billington's Amber Crystal Sugar, which is the ideal size-like fine gravel. But any amber coffee crystals will work well-larger ones should be crushed down to size with a rolling pin.
    3 - Don't substitute the new Teflon baking mats for parchment paper; these don't work nearly as well.
    4 - If your cookies have puffed up and have a chewy rather than crisp texture, they weren't rolled thin enough. They'll be good, but you won't think them contenders for the world's best cookies.

    Andy's notes: I used a turbinado style sugar called "Sugar In The Raw". They took about 40 minutes to bake each of the 2 pans. They didn't spread at all, but rose somewhat.
    Cheers! Andy

  5. #5
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    I have tried a garam masala variation of his chocolate sparkel cookies and it was TDF. But, if like Val you prefer a crispy cookie, you might not be so crazy about it. I'll have to try the recipe out...
    Understand, when you eat meat, that something did die. You have an obligation to value it - not just the sirloin but also all those wonderful tough little bits.
    Anthony Bourdain

  6. #6
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    Garam masala cookies sound interesting -- I could have a tea with oddly flavored cookies -- I've got recipes for a saffron cookie and an Earl Gray madeleine.

    Interesting recipe for the Arnhem Cookies -- I would never have looked at the ingredients and thought it would inspire such passion.

    Here's a variant of the Chocolate Sparkle Cookies from the LA Times -- They only bestowed the honor of one of the 10 best recipes they published in 2003

    These chocolate cookies sparkle
    By JENNIFER LOWE
    Los Angeles Times
    12/02/2003 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Most people traveling to foreign cities fall in love with something
    such as a museum, a restaurant, a local resident who sweeps them
    unsuspectingly off their feet.

    I fell in love with a cookie.

    I was in Vancouver, British Columbia. Clear blue skies had not yet
    given in to fall's gray weather, and colorful leaves fluttered onto
    the sidewalks and streets of this charming city. I ducked into the
    Senses Bakery near a bustling corner, a small, sleek spot with a
    glass case neatly filled with sweets. There it sat among others,
    stacked primly on the shelf.

    It was chocolate, slightly crackled, not perfectly round. One nibble,
    and I was smitten. Its dark, sensual chocolate flavor was powerful,
    its texture addictive: chewy, almost trufflelike, mysterious. I
    promptly ate three. I packed a box to bring home.

    It is called the chocolate sparkle cookie, and while it doesn't
    glimmer from its case, people who taste it know why. It is the most
    popular cookie at the bakery; when chocolate sparkles were pulled to
    make space for holiday cookies, customers complained.

    "It is super-popular," says executive pastry chef Thomas Haas, who created it.

    When I brought mine back, they disappeared quickly. We begged for the
    recipe and - surprise - they're one of the easiest things we've made
    all year. (Just in time for the holidays.)

    Haas, a fourth-generation pastry chef from Germany's Black Forest
    region, came up with the recipe while planning sweets for the
    bakery's shelves. He wanted it to be like a chocolate truffle.

    "When you work day and night, and you have the tools, ingredients and
    toys we have, things come together," he says.


    Chocolate Sparkle Cookies
    Yield: About 36 cookies.

    1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
    3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
    2 eggs
    1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
    3/4 cup ground almonds
    Powdered sugar, for garnish

    Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over, but not
    touching, simmering water. Remove from heat. Cut the butter into a
    few pieces; mix into the chocolate until melted.

    Beat eggs with an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar until
    ribbons form. Fold in the chocolate-butter mixture. Gently add the
    ground almonds. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Use a cookie scoop to form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the
    balls in granulated sugar, place on the baking sheet about 2 inches
    apart and immediately place in the oven.

    Bake until the center of the cookies is no longer wet, 9 to 12
    minutes. When slightly cool, lightly dust the cookies with powdered
    sugar.

    PER COOKIE: 64 calories; 4g fat (56 percent calories from fat); 2g
    saturated fat; 14mg cholesterol; 1g protein; 6g carbohydrate; 0.5g
    fiber; 15mg sodium.

    Note: This recipe does not contain flour.

  7. #7
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    That recipe looks pretty similar to ones that Alice Medrich has in "Bittersweet" -- I'll have to go look in detail.

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    [QUOTE=blazedog]

    Interesting recipe for the Arnhem Cookies -- I would never have looked at the ingredients and thought it would inspire such passion.

    Nevertheless it must have inspired Dahl. The flavour is subtle - caramel, dairy, a tiny bit yeasty - but the texture is a lot of what the cookie is about - crisp and crunchy. It's kinda like puff pastry, with a lot less air. The cookie impressed me more than it did my wife - too subtle a flavour for her (just like the slice of Almond Tea Bread - made with almond paste and blueberries - we tried this morning). I'm sure she wouldn't have such reservations about the sparkle cookie! Not much need to look for the flavour in that cookie.
    Cheers! Andy

  9. #9
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    [QUOTE=hAndyman]
    Quote Originally Posted by blazedog

    Interesting recipe for the Arnhem Cookies -- I would never have looked at the ingredients and thought it would inspire such passion.

    Nevertheless it must have inspired Dahl. The flavour is subtle - caramel, dairy, a tiny bit yeasty - but the texture is a lot of what the cookie is about - crisp and crunchy. It's kinda like puff pastry, with a lot less air. The cookie impressed me more than it did my wife - too subtle a flavour for her (just like the slice of Almond Tea Bread - made with almond paste and blueberries - we tried this morning). I'm sure she wouldn't have such reservations about the sparkle cookie! Not much need to look for the flavour in that cookie.
    Andy - That's why I really like personal recommendations as many recipes when "read" don't have immediate "curb appeal" -- or more accurately "oven appeal. I did notice the use of yeast which is an odd ingredient in cookie and made a mental footnote that its inclusion must produce a different texture and probably a subtle undertone of taste. But if you hadn't posted it with the interesting intro -- i.e. I was just skimming through a cookbook -- it wouldn't have immediately popped out as a wow.

  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=blazedog]
    Quote Originally Posted by hAndyman

    Andy - That's why I really like personal recommendations as many recipes when "read" don't have immediate "curb appeal" -- or more accurately "oven appeal. I did notice the use of yeast which is an odd ingredient in cookie and made a mental footnote that its inclusion must produce a different texture and probably a subtle undertone of taste. But if you hadn't posted it with the interesting intro -- i.e. I was just skimming through a cookbook -- it wouldn't have immediately popped out as a wow.
    I heartily agree with you about what people have to say about a recipe and how they say it, blazedog, and love that idea of "oven appeal". For a fellow and his wife to devote a whole chapter in a book to a cookie was reason enough for me to try the recipe (actually, I think he has a newsletter he puts out that can be subscribed to that the story first appeared in). And the presence of yeast also piqued my interest. They ended up being an interesting cookie and the only thing I've ever made in my KA that had me worried that it might bounce off the counter - can't leave it unattended when making these!
    Cheers! Andy

  11. #11
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    I've had these cookies. They're all over the place here. They sell them at Senses as well as all the gourmet foodie places. I've had the store bought and made them myself. They are really good if you like a rich melt in your mouth chocolate experience.

    They're so popular they sell them premade in the refrigerated section and you can finish them off yourself at home in the oven.

    I do believe that this cookie has won several awards. Thomas Haas is one of our more renowned dessert chefs in Canada. They have specials with him all the time on Food Network Canada.

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