Flaky almond-filled Bear Claws are perfect for holiday brunches or other special occasions.
2. Before you begin, the butter should be a cool room temperature, almost waxy, but not too soft.
- Cut the butter sticks horizontally, so you've got pieces about a quarter-inch thick and as long as your butter stick. Toss with flour mixture so each butter pat is coated. In a big mixing bowl, make a well and add the liquid. Use your hands to combine it as best you can.
- You can also use the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Add the liquid and pulse on and off to combine, trying not to break up the butter pieces. Turn it onto a work surface. The dough will look terrible: all floury and "shaggy," not like a nice pastry at all.
3. Roll it out into a long rectangle. (Do the best you can with dough that's falling apart.) If the dough is just too dry to work with, moisten your hands with water and pat the surface of the dough.
4. Fold it in thirds, like a business letter. Wrap it well in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour. This will help the flour absorb moisture in the dough, will allow the gluten to relax, and will keep the butter cool.
5. Place chilled dough on a floured work surface with the folded side facing you and the open ends away from you. Let rest about 10 to 15 minutes to let the butter warm up slightly; it should be cool and malleable. Roll out into a rectangle about ¼- to ½-inch thick. Fold into thirds.
6. If the dough is still cool and the butter isn't sticking to the work surface, you can repeat the process: turn the dough so the folded side faces you, and roll it out again. Fold into thirds, wrap well, and refrigerate.
- If the dough is too warm, you'll smash the layers together, so err on the side of caution--refrigerate the dough for half an hour between the second and third turns, if necessary.
7. When the dough has had its final fold and has rested at least half an hour, you can begin to assemble the pastries. Divide the dough in half, re-wrapping and refrigerating one piece.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 8 inches wide and ¼ inch thick.
- Use a sharp knife or pastry wheel to trim the edges: you need a clean, sharp edge for the dough to puff properly.
- Cut the dough into two four-inch-wide strips.
(Save any scraps to make Elephant Ears: combine pieces into a ball and roll out into ovals. Brush with egg wash, top with cinnamon sugar, and bake.)
8. Brush egg wash along top half inch or so of each strip. Don't let it drip over the cut edges of the dough; you don't want to seal the layers together.
- Pipe almond filling down the center of each strip, or shape the filling by hand into little logs and place them along the pastry about two inches apart.
9. Fold the top half down over the filling and press gently to seal. Again, take care with the cut edges of the dough: don't smash the two together.
10. Brush each pastry with egg wash; top with sliced almonds. Cut each strip into individual 3- to 4-inch pastries.
11. Using a paring knife, cut "claws" along bottom edge. The cuts should reach about half an inch into the pastry, without hitting the filling. The claws should be a little more than a quarter-inch wide, depending on the size of your pastries--whatever is aesthetically pleasing!
12. Arrange pastries on parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently spread the "toes" to separate them.
- Refrigerate and repeat with second half of the dough.
- Keep the pastries refrigerated until your oven is preheated and you're ready to bake.
- The bear claws may also be frozen, well wrapped in plastic, for up to three months.
13. Bake in a 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the almonds are toasted brown and the pastry is golden. (Baking times might vary depending upon your oven and on the temperature of the dough when you begin. Start checking after 30 minutes.)
- Transfer pastries to a wire rack and let cool. Dust bear claws with powdered sugar and serve. They're best eaten the day that they're made.
14. Serve your pastries with fresh coffee or tea.