Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter and flour a baking sheet (or line it with parchment). Cook the water and butter over medium heat in a saucepan. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt and sugar, if used, all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending it into the dough thoroughly after each addition. Spoon 12-15 mounds of dough onto the prepared sheet. Lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg glaze. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes or until the puffs are golden brown and crispy. Turn off the heat. Pierce each shell with the tip of a sharp knife. Return the puffs to the turned-off oven for about 10 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven. After a few minutes, slit the puffs in half crosswise and remove any soggy dough. Cool the puffs completely before filling. Garnish the puffs with sifted confectioner's sugar if desired.
For Profiteroles (makes about 36):
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon 1” mounds of dough onto the sheet, leaving 1” space between them. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake another 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat. Pierce the puffs with the tip of a sharp knife. Return them to the oven for 3-4 minutes. Let the puffs cool. Cut and fill, if desired, and serve with fudge sauce.
Chou Swans (Ronnie Fein)
For Swans (makes 12-18):
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spoon 12-18 mounds of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, shaping them into ovals with your fingers. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12-18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. To make the necks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow-holed tip. Pipe the dough into "S" shapes about 2-inches long onto the second baking sheet. Bake the necks for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
To assemble: Split the swan puffs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Cut the top portion in half lengthwise to use as wings. Spoon some filling into the swan bottoms. Arrange the split top wings on top of the filling. Spoon some melted chocolate or chocolate sauce onto dessert plates. Place the filled swan bottoms on top of the chocolate. Insert the necks into the front. If desired, use a toothpick to dip into some melted chocolate and make a dot as an eye on the top of the neck.
For Gougeres (makes about 36):
Prepare the basic recipe and stir in the cheese, herbs and cayenne pepper after mixing in the eggs. Bake as for profiteroles.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com, friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein, Twitter at @RonnieVFein, Instagram at RonnieVFein.