Solving the Blätterteich puzzle was fun. The literal translation of “Blätterteich” is “leaves pond” which makes no sense, but it actually refers to Puff Pastry. My first search let me to the name of a restaurant in Oldenburg, German. I remember Mom addressing letters to “Bakum en Oldenburg”, so that got me excited, but I kept getting the same translation about “leaves pond”. Eventually I found a YouTube video in German that had “Blätterteich” in its title but it showed the process of making puff pastry.
Puff pastry is a light, flaky pastry containing several layers cold buttery. The dough (sometimes called a “water dough”) is repeatedly folded and rolled out. The gaps that form between the layers are a result of the puff pastry rising as the water evaporates into steam during the baking process. Piercing the dough will prevent excessive puffing, and crimping along the sides will prevent the layers from flaking all of the way to the edges.
Making puff pastry dough can be time-consuming, because it must be rolled and chilled in 20-30 minute intervals to keep the butterfrom becoming runny; also, the rest in between the folding steps allows gluten strands time to link up and retain layering.
Puff pastry is not the same as phyllo pastry which is also made with flour, water, and fat (but no egg) and is stretched to size rather than rolled. Usually when using phyllo dough, a small amount of oil or melted fat (usually butter) is brushed on one layer of phyllo dough and is topped with another layer. This process can be repeated as many times as desired. When it bakes, it becomes crispy but, since it contains somewhat less water, does not expand to the same degree as puff pastry does.
What makes Mom’s recipe a little different from classic recipes I found online was the addition of cognac. I assume that is to help the dough rise a bit more. In my version below, I took liberties and copied them from directions I found in those other recipes and the video: Puff pastry / Blätterteig herstellen
½ Mehl, ¼ Butter sehr harte, 1 geschlagenes Ei, Wasser, Congnack. Das Mehl wird mit ungefähr 1 Eßl. vom geschlagenen Ei, 3 Eßl. Wasser u einen Schuß Congnack zu einem Teig verarbeitet muß aber recht steif sein, dann ausgerollt die Butter darauf gelegt, zusammen geschlagen u. wieder ausgerollt, dann wieder zusammen geschlagen u. zum Ruhen hingelegt. Der Teig muß alle Stunden augerollt werden, einmal lang, einmal quer, bis die Butter alle durchgezogen ist.
½ flour, butter ¼ very hard, 1 beaten egg, water, Congnack. The flour is with about 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg, 3 tablespoons water u a shot Congnack made into a dough but must be quite stiff, then the butter rolled paid to beat up and rolled out again, then beaten and laid to rest. The dough must be eye rolls all hours, one long, one crosswise, until the butter has pulled all.
1/2 kg flour
1/4 KG Butter, very hard
1 beaten egg
3 T. Water
1 shot Cognac
With your hands, knead 10% (50g) of the flour with the butter and form into a block. Put on a plate and put in the fridge while you work on the dough.
Dump remaining flour in a mound; make a well in the center of the mound with a glass. Crack an egg and dump in the well then with a fork, use a whisking motion, gradually incorporate the well’s sides into the water. When it starts to form a solid mass, finish incorporating the flour by kneading. Incorporate just until it is still sticky and has a rough texture. Adjust the water & flour as needed. Try to knead as little as possible. Puff pastry likes lazy kneaders.
Working the dough:
1. Pull the corners of the cuts out of the dough ball to make a square shape. Roll the dough out to a square slightly thicker in the center than on the sides, and slightly larger than the butter block.
2. Place the butter block diagonally on the dough square, so that the butter corners are pointed at the middle of the dough sides. Fold the uncovered dough corners over the butter block to completely envelop the butter. Pinch the seams tightly together to seal in the butter.
3. Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick. Remember to keep dusting with flour whenever needed to keep the dough from sticking & tearing the layers.
4. Size up your rectangle visually into 3. Fold one-third over the middle, then fold the opposite third over. Just like a tri-fold brochure. Try to have everything as even as possible. All the edges should match fairly closely. Put on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Relax, read the paper, check email, whatever you like.
5. Roll out to 1/2″ thick and repeat the fold. Don’t forget to flour as you roll. Plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat this for a total five roll & folds.
6. After the last fold, roll the rectangle out to about 3/4″. If it is difficult, put dough in the fridge for a bit to relax the gluten. If using immediately, cover, rest in fridge for about 30 minutes, then use as needed. If it’s for later, cut into sections big enough but that still fit easily in your freezer (usually just in half), layer with wax paper between sections, freezer bag it, & store until needed.
You can use this pastry to make breads, pies, cakes, cookies, etc., so shaping and baking is dependent on your final product.