The technique for this dough, used primarily for “Danish” pastries, is similar to the one required by puff pastry, which is also created from layering butter with dough. As with Butterteig, temperature is important: Only after the dough is cut out does it stand in a warm place for its final rise. The same basics about puff pastry applies to this dough.
4tablespoons (½stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
2 ⅔cupsunbleached flour, as needed
1¾cups (3½sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes
1½ounces (¾cube) compressed yeast or 4½teaspoons (2envelopes) active dry yeast
½cupmilk (heated to 105° to 115°F if using dry yeast)
To make the sponge: Crumble the compressed yeast over the milk (or sprinkle in the dry) in a small bowl. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk to dissolve. Add the flour and sugar and whisk for 100 strokes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
To make the dough: Whisk the milk, confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, yolks, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Add the sponge. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle blade. On low speed, gradually add enough of the flour to make a very sticky dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the butter mixture (photograph 1): Combine the butter and flour in a medium bowl and use your knuckles to work them together until the butter is smooth and malleable, but still cool. (An instant-read thermometer will read 60°F.) Scrape onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap loosely in the plastic. Using a rolling pin as an aide, roll and shape into a 6-inch square. If the temperature isn’t 60°F, refrigerate or let stand at room temperature until it reaches that point.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 10-inch square. Unwrap the butter square and place in the center of the dough, with the corners of the butter square pointing north, south, east, and west. Using the back of a knife (2), lightly mark the perimeter of the butter square on the dough, and remove the butter square. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough from each mark to make four 4-inch long “petals” (3). Replace the butter square in the center of the dough. Brushing off the flour as you work, fold each petal over to enclose the dough (4).
Dust the work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough into a 14 X 7-inch rectangle. Brush off the flour on the dough. As if folding a business letter, stretching the corners of the dough as well as possible to keep them at right angles, fold the top third of the dough down, then the bottom third of the dough up (5), making a three-layer rectangle about 4½ X 7 inches. This is called a single turn. Reposition the dough so the open side faces left. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and roll again into a 14 X 7-inch rectangle. Brush off the flour. Fold the top quarter of the dough down, then the bottom quarter of the dough up to meet the center. Fold the dough in half at the center crease to make a four-layer rectangle about 3½ X 7 inches (6). This is called a double turn. Flatten the dough slightly by tapping it with the rolling pin lengthwise and crosswise. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Unwrap the dough and return it to a lightly floured work surface. Repeat step five, giving the dough another single turn, then another double turn. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.