The ultimate cookie swap addition: Chef Michael Smith’s Sparkle Cookies


If you’re like me and attend a holiday cookie swap every year, these sparkle cookies should be in your repertoire.

I purchased Michael Smith’s latest book and when I got to the back of the book, the desserts section, I was rather somewhat taken aback to read that the sparkle cookies were among the best he had ever baked.

Really? Ever? They seemed nice enough, but… best?

But Michael Smith, to me, is one of those voices I unreservedly trust. His recipes are always perfection and turn out beautifully. On a more savoury note, I have also made several other recipes from that book “Back to Basics” and they were all A+. If you are a fan like I am, you might know he has many of his recipes online, but not all of the ones in his latest tome are readily available – so, yes, buy the book!

As Smith himself explains, he first got this recipe from renowned pastry chef Thomas Haas and tweaked it a bit.

The result is pure magic. This is one of those cookies that turned out great for me right from the get-go. Sometimes my first batch burns or spreads, and I have to tweak the time in the oven for the next batch. Or sometimes I am forced to chill the dough before baking, but this one turned out just like he said it would.

Still, they are somewhat underwhelming to look at it. I mean, I’m a sucker for sparkle like the next girly girl but I wasn’t expecting the “OHMAGAW” that burst from my lips when I took a quick bite. My husband took one at the same time, and his reaction was no less dramatic. These are super decadent, beautifully fudgy and only slightly crispy on the outside. If you’re a chocoholic, this is ideal.

You can find the recipe here, although I really do implore you to go purchase the title anyway!

Substitutions: None. I made sure to have the orange extract on hand before making this recipe and you really shouldn’t leave it out. It made the recipe. I couldn’t taste it in there, believe it or not, but my husband did. I also used Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract like I always do. It’s the good stuff, and doesn’t compare to artificial. DO NOT BUY ARTIFICIAL. I’m adamant on this point. In fact, with this recipe, it would be a wise idea to splurge and get the best chocolate you can find at a specialty store. Regular baking chocolate will do just fine, too, however.

I did end up with more cookies than 60, more like 70, so if that ends up happening to you make sure you check on the cookies to make sure they don’t burn as they might be smaller than the recipe accounted for.

Edited on December 13 to add: I made these a second time a couple of weeks after the first batch. When I couldn’t find ground almonds, I bought slivered ones and ground them myself in my food processor. But I should taken the time to sift them to get rid of the larger chunks. The texture of the finished cookies was more grainy, more homemade and mealy, less fine in consistency. Not worse, just different.

I also microwaved the chocolate mixture to save time rather than using the double boiler and I wish I hadn’t because the mixture wasn’t as smooth. After refrigerating the cookie dough I found large solidified chunks of chocolate, which I had to dig out, not only decreasing my overall amount of dough but taking me more time than I had hoped for.

And finally, I followed the recipe this time, using tablespoonfuls to drop the cookie dough on to the parchment paper and the cookies were much larger and some of them spread a little too close for comfort. However, I preferred the smaller ones I made them the first time, they were much more elegant. If you want to make the smaller ones, as I would suggest try to fill your tablespoon only about 3/4 of the way.

Would I make this again? Certainly. And I can tell you this will likely make an appearance at the cookie swap I’m attending. If you are reading this, and you will be there, just feign surprise please!

Grade: Five unequivocal stars out of five. This cookie has major wow factor and it’s really hard to screw them up.



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