This recipe accompanies the “Shoe Sole” Cookies, one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008. Although we’ve retested the recipes, in the interest of authenticity we’ve left them unchanged: The instructions below are still exactly as they were originally printed.
Remove 2 sticks or 1 cup sweet butter from the refrigerator 5 minutes before beginning to work. Fill a conveniently large bowl half full with ice water. Put the butter into the water and knead it, squeezing it through the fingers until the mass is smooth and waxy but firm and not soft. Shape the butter into a flat rectangular cake, pressing it gently to expel air and water. Dry the butter cake gently with a cloth, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it until it is firm but not hard.
Sift 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) flour and 1 teaspoon salt into a heap onto a marble slab or pastry board. Make a slight depression in the flour and pour into it about 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water. Gather in enough of the surrounding flour to make a firm cone of dough, shaping the dough and turning it in the flour with the fingertips and thumb of one hand. The dough should not be dry, stiff, or sticky. Put the cone aside. Add more ice water, 1 1/2 tablespoons at a time, and repeat the process, piling the cones firmly on top of each other and shaping them into one mass of dough. Bits of flour and water paste that remain when one cone is completed should be incorporated into the next, since they harden quickly on standing. When all the flour is taken up, weigh the détrempe, or dough. It should be exactly twice the weight of the creamed butter, and the texture of the butter and the dough should be equally firm to the touch.
With the fist, flatten the ball of dough. Sprinkle the slab or board and a rolling pin very lightly with flour and roll out the dough, straight back and forth, into a rectangle. Use fairly heavy pressure, since the paste is resistant; but it should not spring back after it is rolled out. Turn the dough so that the long side faces you and roll it into a rough square 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, slightly thinner at the edges. Lay the chilled butter in the center of the square. Fold all four sides of the dough over the butter in the center and seal the package by pressing the edges together firmly. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 15 minutes.
With the rolling pin, flatten the dough with uniform, successive impressions. With quick, light motions, roll the dough from the center away from you to within 1/2 inch of the end. (Keep the rolling pressure on the pin entirely from the top. Avoid pushing the pin, since pushing stretches the dough.) Reverse the strip on the board and again roll away from you to make a rectangle. If a little butter breaks through the dough during the first rolling, dust the dough and pin lightly with flour and continue rolling with quick, light motions. Keep rolling the dough, being careful not to wrinkle it. Turn the dough (never the pin) to shape it, and always roll straight back and forth (never from side to side), to avoid stretching the dough and to distribute all the butter evenly. At the end, the rectangle should be about 12 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.
Fold the top third of the rectangle over the center and the bottom third over the top. Turn the folded dough on the board so that an open side faces you. With the rolling pin, flatten the dough with uniform impressions. Roll the dough from the center away from you to within 1/2 inch of the end. Reverse the strip on the board and again roll the dough away from you to make a rectangle about 12 inches long. Do not roll the pin over the ends, or the air and butter will be expelled. Fold the strip in three as before. This completes 2 “turns.” Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 15 minutes. Makes 2 more turns and chill the dough again. Repeat the process, making 6 turns in all. Chill the puff paste.