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Sheer Puffery

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Photograph by Tatsuro Nishimura
Photograph by Tatsuro Nishimura

Consider the puff pastry: airy and voluminous, sweet and savory, flaky and moist. To make real puff pastry, layers of dough and butter have to be delicately, painstakingly folded, often hundreds of times, at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Mash the layers and there will be no puff to the pastry. Layer the butter and dough at a warmer temperature and the layers will congeal.

So which places in New York, a city rife with French bakeries , give such a sophisticated dessert its due? Here are a few of the best. If you try all six, you'll be 30 pounds heavier but immeasurably more enlightened.

Almondine

Puff pastry of choice: the mille feuille, a napoleon-like, delicate rectangle with puff pastry and vanilla custard. Impossible to eat daintily, equally impossible to put down.

85 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-797-5026
http://www.almondinebakery.com

Balthazar Bakery

Puff pastry of choice: the seasonal fruit galettes. They look, in pastry parlance, "rustic," but their construction and taste are anything but -- they're sophisticated, delicate and delicious.

80 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
212-965-9590
http://www.balthazarbakery.com

Ceci Cela

Puff pastry of choice: the tarte paysanne, wherein an apple sauteed in Grand Marnier is baked into a puff pastry. To be fair, a dessert like this, consisting of only delicious things, is pretty difficult to screw up.

55 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
212-274-9179
http://www.cecicelanyc.com

Maison Kayser

Puff pastry of choice: the croissant. Like all good croissants, Kayser's is flaky without being dry, and moist enough that you can smear it with a satisfying amount of butter.

1294 Third Avenue, at 74th Street
New York, NY 10021
212-744-3100
http://www.maison-kayser-usa.com/

Margo Patisserie

Puff pastry of choice: the almond croissant, which has just enough almond paste that every bite is satisfying. Too much almond and it would be overwhelming, too little and you feel cheated. Margo's hit the sweet spot.

667 Driggs Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-384-1212
http://www.margopatisserie.com/

Payard

Puff pastry of choice: the Papa Payard tarte, which looks like a fruit galette made with a puff pastry shell, and sort of is, except Payard has upped the ante by putting a layer of pastry cream at the bottom.

116 West Houston Street, between Thompson St. & Sullivan St.
New York, NY 10012
212-995-0888
http://www.payard.com

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.