Any Detroiter - of a certain age - can probably recall moments of great delight while sitting at their neighborhood Sanders lunch counters. These places were emporiums of confectionery creations and upon entering one was hit with the smells of cakes and breads and candies of endless varieties. And while Sanders is famous for many things, when someone says the words, "hot fudge cream puff," it's hard not to smile in pleasant recollection.
My mom would often take us to Sanders, or if we were in our neighborhood mall, we would make a stop there at some point in the shopping process. We would head toward the back of the store, where the lunch counter was located, and hopefully find a few empty stools that were next to each other. Mom would ask for a cup of coffee and I, still too young and uninterested in coffee, would request some water. While ordering a glass of water isn't ordinarily very exciting, at Sanders the water came ice-cold through spigot and into a white paper cone that was stuck in a heavy metal holder. I thought drinking water out of one of these cones was the coolest thing ever. I didn't occur to me that these cones meant that for the ladies in the pretty brown smocks, there was one less glass to wash. Either way, going to Sanders was a bonafide treat!
The ordering options were many, but four times out of five I would get a hot fudge cream puff. The craving for the delicious Sanders milk chocolate hot fudge could be satisfied by ordering a sundae, but there was magic in those cream puffs. Soft, eggy and light as air, the cream puffs were split crosswise and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream went in between the top and bottom. Then the whole thing was covered in that warm, sweet hot fudge. The combination of flavors and textures is what made this experience so amazing - that, and sitting next to mom who often ordered one for herself and enjoyed it every bit as much as us kids.
While there are a couple of Sanders stores around Detroit, the lunch counters, brown smocks and water cones of my youth are all gone. But the wonderful memories will always remain, and when I'm feeling nostalgic for my childhood, I've found a way to recreate these special trips to Sanders. My brother Greg and his partner came to town for a visit this past weekend, and spent a couple days up at the cottage. This seemed like a perfect time to celebrate some of the wonderful treats we enjoyed together as kids - and, like yours truly - he loves to cook and eat! So we got everyone involved in making cream puffs and they came out beautifully.
If you live away from Detroit and can't find Sanders hot fudge, I'm glad to say you can order it (and all their other goodies) through their website: http://sanderscandy.com/.
1 cup water
1/2 unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
4 eggs (room temperature)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put water, butter and salt in medium sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil making sure that all the butter melts. Once at a boil, take off the heat and add flour. Return pan to stove over low heat and stir flour in with wooden spoon until a dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from heat and add ONE EGG AT A TIME to dough, stirring well after each addition. Stir briskly so eggs don't have a chance to begin cooking. By the addition of the last egg, the dough will start to look satiny - this is what you want.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop dough by the rounded tablespoon. The dough will be soft, so use your fingers. This recipe should get you 12 cream puffs - if you want them extra large, you can get nine. Place in oven for 45 minutes until golden brown. You can tap the tops to make sure they are hollow on the inside. Remove from oven and allow to cool slowly on a rack.
You can make hot fudge cream puffs, fill them with custard or pudding, use them for sandwiches (we make ham and egg sandwiches for breakfast with the leftover cream puffs) or be creative! Enjoy!