Step into Thomas Haas' kitchen one month before Christmas and you’re greeted with a heavenly hybrid of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Santa’s Workshop.
Rivers of dark and milk chocolate continuously flow from two side-by-side fountains in one section of Haas’ kitchen on Harbourside Drive.
The acclaimed chocolatier’s elves are putting the final touches on ornate holiday treats. There’s a Rudolph in the Forest, Truffle Tree, Snowman, Tannenbaum, Stuffed Santa’s Boot and Ornaments – all colourfully airbrushed with cocoa butter and either decorated or filled with delectable truffles.
Tiny triangle orange noses are delicately affixed one by one to a row of white jolly snowmen topped with perfectly symmetrical round red hats. It’s about a 20-step process to create each of these chocolate characters, says a cheerful Haas as he moves about his kitchen.
While it’s hard to resist eating the chocolate reindeer or snowman right away, often the ornate treats are used as centrepieces on decorated holiday tables or given as hostess gifts. Haas, who has quite a following in the foodie community, says these special chocolates are a tradition for some of his clients.
But it’s Haas’ stollen that really steals the show every Christmas season. Haas has his own take on the traditional fruitcake originating in his motherland of Germany. And by all accounts, he’s perfected it.
Customers make the pilgrimage from far and wide at Christmastime to seek out Haas’ stollen. From Nov. 10 to Dec. 24, Haas’ helpers will make 220 of these famous fruitcakes every single day.
You can taste the quality in Haas’ stollen which is made through a painstaking process. Beginning in September, the raisins are soaked in rum with fresh lemon and orange zest to achieve maximum flavour. Two different almond textures, slivered and smooth, complement the stollen.
Haas doesn’t take full credit for his stollen, which he describes as less of a bread and more delicate with a much deeper flavour profile.
It was pastry chef Gerhard Weitzel, who Haas worked with at the Four Seasons Vancouver, that showed him how to make this irresistible stollen.
“I call him the stollen king,” says Haas with a smile.
Stollen has proven to be Haas’ most sought-after Christmas treat since 2005.