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Croissants (Viennoiserie No. 1)

These flaky, buttery pastries are a breakfast staple in the Western world, but many people have never made them. They're a bit time-consuming, but well worth the wait when you remove these golden treats from the oven.

This recipe may remind you of pâte feuilleteé, its unleavened cousin. However, in croissant dough, the butter is sandwiched between layers of yeast dough, making this a true Viennoiserie, or Viennese specialty.

For about 20, you'll need:

+ butter, 3/4 cup, softened
+ flour*, 4 cups + 1/3 cup
+ brown sugar, 1/3 cup
+ yeast, 1 1/4-ounce package
+ salt, 1 pinch
+ whole milk, 1 1/2 cups

Heat milk to warm in a saucepan or microwave. Add the brown sugar, salt and yeast; rest. When the mixture has become foamy and has doubled in volume, add the 4 cups of flour, and combine in a large mixing bowl, using a bread hook. When smooth, place the dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, fold the reserved flour into the softened butter. Shape into a rough square (about 1" x 4" x 4"), wrap in plastic wrap, and place in freezer for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator; roll into a rectangle (about 4" wide by 8" long). Carefully transfer the butter to the dough; wrap completely in dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator. Roll dough into a rectangle (about 4" x 8" again). Fold the dough on itself in thirds (like a letter). Gently roll to smooth. Re-wrap, and return to refrigerator for 30 minutes. You have completed the first of six turns. Repeat 5 more times.

Roll dough into a large, thin rectangle (about 10" x 20"). Trim edges. Cut dough in half lengthwise, and make four horizontal cuts, giving you 10 squares. Cut each square into 2 triangles.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Shape each triangle into a roll, adding filling if you choose, and tuck the ends in. Allow to rise for at least 45 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven to 350 degrees F; continue baking until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Enjoy!

* I hate to be a total snob, but using a high quality "light" flour (such as White Lily) will yield airier, more delicious pastries! If you can't find it, sifted all-purpose flour should be just fine.

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