I was a nerd. Let me count the ways:
Freshman year, I signed up for the quiet, substance-free dorm. Actually, my parents hijacked the process and requested the Centennial dorm for me. Fortunately, my first roommate ended up becoming one of my best friends all four years. She’s still one of the funniest people I know.
I didn’t have a drink until I officially turned 21 and stayed up past 1am. . . once. I only dated a few people and one of them cheated on me Mean Girls-style (seriously, it was just like out of the movie) at a Halloween party. She was dressed up like a Playboy bunny and I was probably sitting at home in my pajamas reading a book. I was like Taylor Swift. Not the award show, glamorous Taylor but the one she sang about wearing sneakers and sitting on the bleachers.
I may have been a nerd, but I was a happy nerd with the really fantastic friends.
For three years, I worked at the school as a Writing/Reading/Speaking Consultant. The woman who hired me was a saint for putting up with college Jeni (as was anyone else who hired me during or soon after college). Each year, she invited the staff over to her home for magnificent, home-cooked meals around Christmas and the end of the school year.
I especially remember a treat she made called cream puff sticks. I had never tasted anything like them and haven’t since. They are so delicate and airy that you’ll want to eat a whole cream puff plank. The dough also doesn’t contain sugar, making this treat ideal for those of us who don’t like sickly, sweet desserts. Lois was gracious enough to let me to share her recipe here, adding that when her grandchildren visit, they often request these cream puff strips for breakfast. This makes me so happy.
It’s the easiest, most elegant dessert you can prepare. Cream puff dough entails making pate a choux. Unlike cookie or cake dough, you cook it on the stove top and slowly add eggs. Don’t be intimidated by this dough because it’s actually simple to make.
Adapted from Lois Trachte’s recipe
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Milk or cream (I used almond milk)
Butter, a little dab
Salt, a pinch
- Preheat oven to 450℉.
- Grease a large baking sheet, or line one with parchment paper.
- In a large saucepan, boil the water. Melt the stick of butter in the boiling water and turn off the heat.
- Stir in flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
- Crack all four eggs in a bowl.
- After mixture has cooled slightly, add vanilla extract. Vigorously stir in one egg into the dough at a time. Each time you add an egg, the dough will look strange and separate into pieces. Just keep stirring and it will reincorporate.
- Spread the dough into two strips on the baking sheet. The dough is sticky, so use the back of a spoon or offset spatula and do your best.
- Bake at 450℉ for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400℉ and bake for another 25 minutes. If the bottoms seem to be browning too quickly, reduce heat to 375℉ or remove from oven a little early. Cool completely before glazing.
- To make the glaze, mix about a cup of powdered sugar with a little milk. Keep adding milk until you like its texture. Add a splash of vanilla extract and a little pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness.
- Glaze the cream puff planks and cut into strips with a pizza cutter.