When I was in high school, way back yonder, all seniors were required to complete a month long internship of sorts called the 'senior project.' Senior projects were amazing - no class for an entire month? Sign me up.
While my classmates were shadowing their favorite doctors, lawyer, and interior designers, I had a different idea. Sure, I went on to get my degree in Finance, but I could not think of anything less interesting than spending a month of my senior year filing papers and fetching coffee for some banker. Instead, I headed over to the beautiful Green Valley Grill, inside Greensboro's O.Henry Hotel, and begged the general manager to let me follow around the pastry chef for a month.
I can only imagine how thrilled the entire kitchen staff of men was to have a 17-year old cheerleader following them around like a lost puppy, but I set out to prove my worth. Fill this 5-gallon bucket with creme brulee custard? On it. Make me 8 chocolate layer cakes before you leave? Not a problem. But my favorite thing to make was Choux Pastry.
Choux Pastry is incredibly versatile. At the hotel, we used it to make spicy black pepper cheese puffs, cream puffs filled with unique flavors that changed daily, and my favorite: profiteroles. Profiteroles (halved puffs filled with vanilla ice cream) are both incredibly easy to make and also incredibly impressive. It's one of my favorite desserts to order in a restaurant because more often then not, it includes 'tableside hot fudge' in the description. I mean..right?
Once you master this simple pastry dough, the possibilities are endless!
*This recipe is adapted from the Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook
Basic Choux Pastry
* 1/2 c. butter
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1 c. flour
* 4 eggs
* Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sauce (recipe below), for serving profiteroles
Preheat oven to 400. In a saucepan, bring butter, salt, and 1 cup of water to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in flour with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the pan and form a ball. Add eggs to the flour mixture one at a time until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
Grease and flour a cookie sheet. Use a spoon to drop batter into 8 mounds (roughly 1/4 c. each). Wet your finger and gently smooth the tops (the peaks tend to burn). Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Remove the puffs from the oven and use a sharp knife to poke a small hole in the side so the steam can escape. Turn off the oven and place the puffs back inside for 7 minutes. Cool the puffs on a wire rack.
To serve, slice the puffs in half with a serrated knife, fill with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, replace the tops and drizzle with hot fudge sauce.
Hot Fudge Sauce:
* 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate bar
* 3/4 c. sugar
* 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
* 1 c. heavy cream
* 2 tbsp. butter
* 2 tsp. vanilla
Combine chocolate, sugar, corn syrup, and cream in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 3-4 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve immediately, or let cool completely and refrigerate until needed.