Sometimes I get kind of crazy ideas. Like when I come home from work on a Friday night and decide I want to make pastries. Seriously. Who does that?
I'm not even a big pastry fan. Give me a muffin or doughnut over a pastry any day. But when the dough is done just right, it really is delicious. To me, pastry dough should be light, buttery and soft. Flakiness is definitely in order, but it can't be too dry. And there's a very fine line between not enough filling and too much filling!
Call me crazy, but I broke out the trusty Taste of Home Baking Book and landed on bear claws. I generally don't even like bear claws, but I had all of the necessary ingredients. So bear claws it was! I modified this recipe a bit because it originally called for almond filling, but I had hazelnuts on hand.
Hazelnut Bear Claws
1/2 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3/4 cups butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup hazelnuts, ground
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Optional vanilla glaze
Place milk and yeast in a large bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, salt and eggs to yeast mixture. Stir to combine. Add all of the flour at once, stirring until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ball. Set aside.
Sprinkle clean surface with 1 tablespoon flour. Cut butter into tablespoon size pieces and place on top of flour. Sprinkle top of butter with 1 teaspoon flour. Use a rolling pin to press down on and roll out butter, working until it's smooth, scraping butter off pin as necessary. Add remaining tablespoon flour and knead into butter. (I actually got frustrated with this process and ended up using a dough scraper to cut the butter and flour until the mixture was smooth.)
Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it on a flat surface. Place butter on top and shape into a large rectangle. Top with another sheet of plastic wrap. Roll up and set aside.
Dust clean surface with flour and roll dough into a large, thin rectangle, about 8" by 16". Unwrap butter from plastic and place on long end of dough, about 1 inch from edge. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together to seal.
Lightly roll dough, then fold into thirds (as if you were folding a business letter). Turn dough a quarter turn, roll and fold again. Repeat twice more for a total of four turns rolling. Loosely wrap dough in plastic and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare filling by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and stirring until smooth. (Note: Since I created this hazelnut concoction myself, the measurements need some tweeking. It was not quite a spreadable consistency ... it was too thin. Maybe lose the extra egg.) Set aside.
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into 12" by 12" square. Cut into 4-inch wide strips. Spread filling down length of each strip, fold in half and pinch edges to seal. Cut each strip in 3 pieces, then make 3 or 4 shallow slits across each piece to form claws and expose part of filling.
Place on greased baking sheets and allow to rise in a warm place (like the top of the oven on a low temperature) for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush claws with egg. Bake 10 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.
Optionally, spread bear claws with vanilla glaze. (I didn't provide the glaze recipe because I didn't use it ... they were that good without it!)
All I can say is O. M. G. I wasn't entirely confident in this recipe (or at least not in my ability to pull it off), but they turned out to be amazing. The pastry was soft, light, flaky and buttery and the filling was just sweet enough, just nutty enough.
I'm not gonna lie ... this was outrageously time consuming and not something I'd make often. But I was so impressed with the results that what I thought would be a one-time deal may come into semi-regular rotation :)