As a kid, Mary Spencer of Northville watched her mother put together Polish favorites – like pierogi, golabki (stuffed cabbage) and barszcz (beet soup) in their kitchen. But when she got married and had her own children, she admits, "I couldn't cook at all." So Spencer began taking any cooking class she could find, then she'd practice making each dish in her home kitchen.
Eventually, Spencer, whose kids are now 28- and 18, became such a good cook that people began asking her to teach them. She's now been a culinary instructor for 15 years. Now her cooking school, Taste: A Cook's Place, walks students through everything from Italian to French cuisine to Asian dishes and, of course, Polish food.
One popular class shows students how to make signature dishes from fabled Detroit eateries like The Caucus Club and Carl's Chop House. "I worked in downtown Detroit for 10 years and I got to know these restaurants and their specialties," says Spencer. For example, the Sanders shop happened to be in the building where she worked. "Every day, one of my co-workers would bring back a hot fudge ice cream puff," says Spencer, who's crafted her own spin on the hometown treat that's been enjoying a resurgence. "They always looked decadent and delicious."
Cream puff shells
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter, in pieces
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 4 large eggs for batter + 1 egg for glaze, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. milk
Milk chocolate hot fudge sauce
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Sanders vanilla ice cream (one scoop per puff)
Cream Puff Shells
- Heat oven to 400 F.
- Heat water in a saucepan. Add the butter. When the butter is melted, stir in the sugar and salt and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, vigorously beat in one egg at a time, incorporating the last egg before adding the next.
- Drop batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
- In a small bowl, beat the final egg with the milk and brush on each mound.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the heat to 300 F. Bake for 25 minutes longer or until deeply golden. Cool thoroughly.