For the pate a choux:
- Generous 1/2 cup water
- Pinch salt
- Pinch granulated sugar
- 1/2 orange, zest grated
- 1/2 lemon, zest grated
- 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup bread flour
- 2 to 3 large eggs
For dusting the cloud puffs:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Generous 1 cup powdered sugar
Use an electric fryer or a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over medium-high heat to heat the oil to 330 degrees F. 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.
Prepare the pate a choux: Place the water, salt, granulated sugar, zests, and butter in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. The butter should be completely melted by the time the mixture boils. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the bread flour all at once and incorporate it thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Return the saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes to dry out the paste. 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, which helps it dry. Keep the paste moving, or it will burn. The paste will dry out and leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed for about 2 minutes to release some of the steam. Continue mixing and slowly add the eggs 1 at a time, incorporating well after each addition. After each egg is added, the paste will become loose and look separated. Once each egg is well incorporated, the paste will become smooth 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 1 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 5 to 7 seconds to fall into the bowl, it is ready. If it appears rough, dry, and falls into the bowl in 1 big ball, it needs more eggs. Add another egg and check the consistency again after it is well incorporated.
Prepare the cloud puffs: Cut a piece of parchment paper the same diameter as the pan of cooking oil. Place the pate a choux in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe the mixture onto the parchment paper. In small 3/4-inch dabs about 1/2-inch apart. To fry, take your fully piped round of parchment and flip it over into the hot oil. Be careful not to splatter the hot oil. The parchment will sit on the surface of the oil and as the puffs fry, they will release themselves from the paper. Once this happens remove the parchment from the oil and continue to fry the puffs until they are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn them over to evenly fry each side. They will increase in size as they cook. Use a large slotted spoon or spider to remove the puffs from the hot oil and set them on a paper towel to drain.
While the puffs are still warm, sprinkle them with granulated sugar until evenly coated. Dust them with the powdered sugar just before serving. They are best served immediately, as they tend to get soggy after a few hours. Jacques' tip: If your oil is too hot, add a small amount of cold oil to lower the temperature.