April 4, 2013

Bear Claws

Homemade donuts are delicious. Homemade donuts will rarely ... if ever ... come out of my kitchen. It's not a healthy lifestyle holdup. It's more of a "I lit myself on fire frying donuts and therefore avoid deep frying food."

That means when I find donut or pastry recipes that require no deep frying, I tend to bookmark them as possibilities. Sprinkle Bakes shared this recipe for bear claws, and though I'd never eaten a bear claw before, they sounded delicious and doable.  My hubby's uncle hinted that if we were around this weekend, it sure would be nice to have a homemade breakfast treat for sharing after the sunrise mass. Since he had kindly spent his entire last weekend painting our house in hopes of selling it, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try this recipe.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that although it requires some hands on putzing, it also permits you to adjust the timetable to suit your needs. There are two spots where the dough can be left refrigerated overnight, which allows you to distribute the hands-on time accordingly. And it allows you to only wait about an hour in the morning before enjoying a delicious warm bear claw.

The other nice thing about this recipe is that it makes delicious bear claw pastries. Enough said.

Bear Claws
Pastry Dough
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 1/2 cups butter, very cold
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water 105°F to 115°F
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
Cinnamon Filling
1 egg white
2/3 cup almond paste
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg yolk, beaten (for brushing pastries)
1 Tbsp. milk
Sliced almonds
Large crystal sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
1-2 Tbsp. whole milk

Place butter in large bowl. Cut butter into 1/4-inch slices, and add to the flour. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or other cutting tool until butter is the size of kidney beans.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in the cream or milk, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours, overnight or up to 4 days.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour. Pound dough with rolling pin, and roll out to make a 16x20-inch piece. Fold into thirds making three layers. Turn dough and roll out again. Fold again into thirds. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Prepare the filling while you wait for the dough to chill.

To prepare the filling, beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until very smooth. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry out to make an 16x18-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips.

Remove filling from refrigerator, and divide filling evenly among the four pieces of dough. Spread filling down the center of each strip. Roll each strip from the long side jelly-roll style and place seam-side down. Roll lightly to flatten and seal the edges.  Cut each strip into 4-6-inch pieces, and then cut 3-5 slits for "toes."

Place pieces on the prepared baking sheets, curving them slightly. Allow them to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until puffy, or you can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (After refrigeration let stand at room temperature until puffy).

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine beaten egg yolk and milk. Brush pastries with the beaten egg, and place a sliced almond on each bear "toe." Sprinkle with large crystal sugar. Bake 5 to 8 minutes for small pastries and 10 to 12 minutes for larger pastries until pastries are golden. Let cool slightly on wire racks before glazing.

To make glaze, stir together ingredients until smooth. Add more powdered sugar if too thin, or add more milk if too thick.  Drizzle over warm pastries. Makes approximately 24 bear claws.

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