Make the butter block: Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of a half sheet pan/baking sheet (13 by 18 inches) and place it on your work surface with one of the shorter sides facing you.
Place the 2 sticks (8 ounces) room-temperature butter on the lower third of the paper. Use an offset spatula to spread the butter into a rectangle about 8 1/2 by 10 inches. Use the edge of the spatula or a bench knife to help square off the edges.
Fold the upper part of the parchment down over the butter block—you can use this to help you square off the edges, if you need to: You can even straighten the edges with your hands thanks to the paper’s help! When you’re done, leave the paper folded over the butter block and refrigerate it. You want it to be firm, but still pliable—this will take probably 15 to 20 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 10- by 20-inch rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Use a bench knife to help keep the edges squared off as you roll. When you’re finished, rotate the dough so one of the shorter sides is facing you.
Pull the top part of the paper off of the butter block, then use the paper to help you place the butter on the bottom half of the dough—there should only be about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of dough around the edge of the butter block at the base and the sides. Fold the dough over the butter block, letting the ends of the dough meet. Press the dough together all around the sides to help seal, then fold the excess dough at the base and edges under itself.
Now you are ready to perform the first fold (if you feel that your dough and/or butter are too soft, wrap the dough and chill it for about 30 minutes).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 10 by 20 inches. The first fold is a four fold: Rotate the dough so one of the longer sides is facing you. Fold the left edge toward the center, about three-quarters of the way across the dough. Fold the right edge one-quarter of the way across the dough and make sure it meets the other edge of dough.. The edges of the dough should touch—it will look sort of like an open book with an off-center spine.
Fold the larger half over the shorter half, and transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before starting the second fold.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 10 by 20 inches. Now perform the second fold, which is a three fold: Rotate the dough so one of the longer sides is facing you. Fold the left edge of the dough one-third of the way over the dough. Fold the right edge one-third of the way over the dough as well, resting it on the piece you just folded over (so that you have three layers of dough). Think of it like folding a piece of paper to fit into a standard-size envelope. Return the dough to the baking sheet, wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
The third fold is another four fold, so follow steps 7 and 8 again. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
The final fold is another three fold, so follow step 9 again. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thick (about 10 by 20 inches, no need to be precise).
Use a pastry wheel to square off the ends of the dough. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into 8 strips.
Use the pastry wheel to cut a large slit down the center of each piece—but don’t cut the slit all the way through! Leave the two ends connected.
To shape the twists, hold both ends of the dough. Loop the right end through the center slit. Repeat this step. Then perform the same maneuver on the other side. This will twist the pastry, but keep the ends flat!
Transfer each shaped pastry to the prepared baking sheets, and keep going until all the pastries are shaped.
In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cinnamon to combine. Egg wash each pastry and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Save the excess sugar.
Bake the pastries until puffed up and evenly golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, toss the pastries in the reserved sugar again when they are warm. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.