Christmas Bear Claws
We've been making these bear claws for Christmas morning for about as long as I can remember. There was even one year when we considered not making them, and it caused quite the upset in the family! We know better than that, now. Along with the Nat King Cole Christmas album and a pot (or several) of strong coffee, they are mandatory for our Christmas morning tradition. My mom originally received this recipe from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Slosson. She is still down in my book as one of my favorite teachers, too. She was one of those teachers you could tell really LOVED teaching. I'm not sure if she made these for our class or if she and my mom just got to talking one day, but she gave my mom a xeroxed and slightly blurred copy of this recipe from an old magazine (which is still the original copy my mom uses today!) with a hand-scrawled note at the top which says "Cindy, here you go! I use store-bought almond filling and it's great!". I can't quite read what magazine it's from but it looks like it may be Sunset Magazine. Is that even in publication anymore? If any of you recognize this recipe or have made it, let me know!
These bear claws are magical. Though they are a bit hands-on in the process of making them, they're actually quite easy, especially with the canned almond filling rather than the homemade almond paste included in the original recipe. We've always taken Mrs. Slosson's advice and gone with store-bought and it's never disappointed. You guys know I'm not normally one for canned or pre-made stuff but I wouldn't dare mess with a tradition at this point and if it's good enough for Mrs. Slosson, it's good enough for me! The dough itself is basically just stirred together and tossed in the fridge to chill for a day or so, no kneading or rising required. Then you roll it out, fill with the almond paste (which is legitimately like crack if you love almond-flavored pastries!) and then shape into bear claws and bake! They are sort of a cross between an almond croissant and a brioche/cinnamon roll dough. Absolute heaven and the perfect special addition to your Christmas morning. Or even as gifts! My mom, sister, and I made an extra batch one Christmas and delivered a box to each of our neighbors and they were a hit! I hope you enjoy and please let me know if you make them! And just a random thought to leave you with: I've always thought it would make more sense for these to be called 'Bear Paws' rather than Bear Claws but whatever.
Oh and Mrs. Slosson, on the small, small chance you're reading this, this one's for you. Thanks for making 1st grade so memorable.
Christmas Bear Claws
makes about 18 bear claws
1 c unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water, heated to 110 degrees
1/4 c organic cane sugar
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 t Himalayan pink salt
1 5 oz can evaporated milk
3 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 12.5 oz can almond filling (I use this one and you can find it at most grocery stores with the canned pie fillings)
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 c sliced almonds
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top
make the dough
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast has bloomed. It should look a little bubbly and will have mostly dissolved into the water. Take a moment and take in the aroma: freshly-baked bread, right? Such a delicious scent. Add in the sugar, egg yolks, salt, evaporated milk, and butter and mix to incorporate. Stir in the flour and mix until a smooth dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge overnight (at least 12 hours but preferably up to 24). You can make the dough up to 3 days in advance, too!
assemble the bear claws
On a well-floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a 14 inch by 27 inch rectangle. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can here. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips, which should be about 4 ish inches wide. Spread a third of the almond filling evenly down the center of each long strip, leaving about an inch of dough on either side lengthwise. Fold up each side of the dough over the almond filling and pinch the dough together to make a little envelope with the filling inside. Flip the filled strip over so the seam side is down and cut the strip into 6 equal segments. Each should be about 4 inches long. With the longest side facing you, using a paring knife cut about 5 slits 1 inch in all the way across the little segments. These are the bear's toes! Lay each bear claw on a baking tray and fan the segments into a half moon shape, spreading the toes apart. Repeat with the remaining 2 long strips until you have 18 bear claws and transfer them to parchment or silpat-lined baking sheets. You should be able to fit about 8 on a half sheet pan, spreading them out about an inch apart.
Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush over the bear claws with a pastry brush. Sprinkle each with some turbinado sugar and place a sliced almond on the end of each toe for the claws or if you prefer, you can scatter sliced almonds all over the surface of the bear claw instead. Preheat the oven to 375 F and meanwhile cover the bear claws with a kitchen towel and allow them to rise for about 20 minutes in a warm place until slightly puffy and risen. Bake for about 15 -18 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool then sprinkle with powdered sugar if you'd like and enjoy!
*Note: These can totally be baked a few days in advance and stored in the fridge in an airtight container or you can even freeze them. When you're ready to serve, pop them into a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes, until warmed through.
hey, look! I made a video!