I walked into the grocery store last week and was immediately overwhelmed by the scent of freshly made doughnuts. I tried my best to avoid the bakery but found myself somehow against my will staring at chocolate glazed and sprinkle laden pillows of decadence.
Then I saw the bear claws and knew I had no choice: I had to make some.
Part of my food philosophy is to never deprive myself of a serious craving such as this, but if I really want it, I must make it myself. So let’s make some bear claws.
Ingredients for 24:
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes, and chilled
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg (for egg wash)
1 can almond pastry filling
Whisk together your milk and sugar in a small saucepan and set over low heat until it reaches about 100 degrees.
Stir in the yeast and let sit 10 minutes to activate.
Toss your chilled butter cubes in 3 cups of the flour and salt and set aside.
When the milk mixture is bubbly, add the vanilla and pour into a large bowl.
Add the remaining 2 cups of flour to the milk and stir to form a loose paste.
Dump the flour and butter mixture into the paste and knead until a sticky dough forms. This will take some time. Use your hands to squish the butter cubes into the dough. When the dough comes together there might be some visible chunks of butter, but this is expected.
Generously flour your surface, turn the dough out onto the counter, and flour the top as well.
Roll the dough out into a 12 x 24-inch rectangle. Use a little flour to cover your rolling pin whenever the dough sticks to it.
Fold the top third down to the middle, then the bottom third up over that to create a book fold.
Lift the dough and flour your surface again. You may need to scrape some stuck dough of the counter before flouring again. It is important to do this in between every fold to keep your dough from sticking too much.
Turn the square of dough 90 degrees, roll out to 12 x 24 again, and repeat the fold.
Repeat the whole procedure one more time. You do not need to chill the dough between book folds like you would for croissants because we want a delicate but not distinctly layered finished product.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
Prepare two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Cut the dough in half and roll out one half to a 12- x 16-inch rectangle. Cut off the excess dough.
Use your ruler as a guide to cut 4 strips, 4 x 12 inches.
Lay a strip of almond paste (about 2 tablespoons per strip) down the center of each, leaving a ¼ inch gap at the top and bottom.
Use your finger to paint a little water around the edge on three sides, then fold over and seal. Repeat on all strips.
Again, using your ruler, cut the strip into three 4-inch sections and seal all the way around.
Repeat on all strips.
Arrange on the baking sheet with the folded side facing you.
Using your scissors, cut 4 slits in the folded edge and spread out slightly. I used a little leftover dough to make the claws, but it was time-consuming and very optional. You could also use sliced almonds to make the claws.
Repeat this whole process with the second half of the dough.
Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 hour.
Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle on a little extra sugar if desired.
Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway, until golden brown.