Jacques Torres's Cloud Puffs
Deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar, these dollops of sweet pastry can be served by the dozen in cones made of kraft paper.
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of granulated sugar, plus 1 cup for coating
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup bread flour, sifted
- 2 to 3 large eggs
- 1 cup powdered sugar, for garnish
- Vegetable or canola oil, for deep-frying
- Cornet or pastry bag
Place 1/2 cup water, salt, pinch of granulated sugar, zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon, and butter in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan (the paste is easier to mix in a large pan). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add bread flour all at once. Stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Return the saucepan to the stove and cook mixture over medium heat to dry out the paste, about 3 minutes. As it cooks, push the paste from side to side with the wooden spoon. Turn it onto itself to allow every side to touch the bottom of the saucepan, helping it to dry. Keep the paste moving, or it will burn. You will know the paste is dry when it begins to leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove pan from heat and transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer set on low speed or by hand for about 2 minutes, to release some of the steam. Continue to mix, and slowly add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. After each egg is added, the paste will become loose and look separated. Don't worry; once each egg is well incorporated, the paste will become smooth and homogenous again. The number of eggs used will vary depending on the size of the eggs and how well the pate a choux is dried. The drier it is, the more eggs you will need. After you have added 2 eggs, check the consistency by scooping a large amount of the paste onto a wooden spoon. Hold the spoon horizontally about one foot above the bowl and watch as the batter falls from the spoon back into the bowl. If it is pale yellow, smooth, moist, slightly elastic, sticky, and takes five to seven seconds to fall into the bowl, it is ready. If it appears rough and dry, and falls into the bowl in one big ball, it needs more eggs. Add another egg, and check the consistency again after it is well incorporated. If the pate a choux is too dry, it will not pipe well. If it is too wet, it will be loose, runny, and won't hold its shape.
Use a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over medium-high heat to heat the oil to 330 degrees. Check the temperature with a candy thermometer. It is important to maintain the temperature, so you may need to adjust the heat or remove the pan from the burner to keep it where you want it. If the oil is too cool, the puffs will absorb too much oil before they finish frying.
Transfer the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch opening, no pastry tip, or use a paper cornet. Dip a wooden skewer into the hot oil (this will keep the dough from sticking to it). Hold the pastry bag over the oil and pipe 1/2-inch dollops of batter (about the size of a dime) out of the tip. Use the skewer to cut the paste from the tip, so the paste drips into the hot oil. (Be careful not to splatter the hot oil onto your arms or face.) Repeat until the saucepan is full of frying dough without being too crowded. Fry puffs, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a large, slotted spoon, remove the puffs from the hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
Combine remaining orange zest and granulated sugar in a bowl. While the puffs are still warm, roll them in the sugar and orange zest mixture until evenly coated. Just before serving, dust puffs with the powdered sugar. Serve immediately.