Quick Croissants

1 1/2 cups cold butter -- no substitutes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water or milk

Cut butter into 1/2-inch slices. In a medium mixing bowl, stir butter slices into the 3 cups flour until slices are coated and separated. Chill butter mixture while preparing the dough.

For dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat and stir the milk, sugar, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Add 1 egg. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chilled flour-butter mixture until flour is well moistened (butter will remain in large pieces).

Sprinkle a pastry cloth or surface with 1/4 cup of the remaining flour. Turn dough out onto the floured surface. With floured hands, gently knead the dough for 8 strokes. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 21 x 12-inch rectangle (if necessary, sprinkle surface of the dough with enough remaining flour to prevent sticking). Fold dough crosswise into thirds to form a 7 x 12-inch rectangle. Loosely wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the refrigerator or 20 to 30 minutes in the freezer or until dough is firm but not excessively stiff.

On a well-floured surface, roll dough into a 21 x 12-inch rectangle. Fold dough crosswise into thirds again and give dough a quarter-turn. Then roll, fold, and turn twice more, flouring surface as needed (it is not necessary to chill dough between each rolling). Place dough in a plastic bag. Seal bag, leaving room for dough to expand. Chill dough for 4 to 24 hours.

Cut dough crosswise into fourths. Wrap and return 3 portions to the refrigerator until ready to use. To shape croissants, on a lightly floured surface, roll the fourth portion of the dough into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle crosswise in half to form two squares. Then cut each square diagonally in half to form two triangles. (You will have 4 triangles total from each rectangle.) Loosely roll up each triangle, starting from an 8-inch side and rolling toward opposite point.

Repeat cutting and shaping with 3 portions. Place croissants, points down, 4 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Curve ends. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

Beat 1 egg with the 1 tablespoon water. Lightly brush croissants with egg mixture. Bake in a 375 degree oven 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheets. Cool slightly. Serve warm or cool. Cover; chill any cooled croissants for up to 3 days.

WHEAT CROISSANTS: Prepare Quick-Method Croissants, except use 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour for the 3 cups all-purpose flour.

TO MAKE AHEAD: Prepare dough as directed to the point of dividing dough into fourths. Place in a freezer container or bag and freeze up to 3 months. Before using, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Continue as directed in the recipes. Yield: "16 Croissants"