A few years ago when I first began baking in earnest, my results with yeast-risen breads and pastries were mixed at best. Sometimes I'd have gorgeous risen dough and other times I'd cry over brioche buns that could double as hockey pucks. I blamed the yeast. Living things can be unpredictable, right? That was my excuse.
I've corrected some novice mistakes since then. Simple things like checking the expiration date before purchase and use make a big difference, and proper storage is very important too.
I also have a brand of yeast I always use and recommend - Red Star dry active baking yeast. It hasn't let me down yet. If you do a lot of baking then you may already have a favorite brand of yeast, but this is what works for me. I keep some in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Bear claws are probably my favorite pastries, ever! The quick danish pastry I use is really easy to make and just as buttery and flaky as classic danish pastry dough. I've put together a picture tutorial of my bear claw making process to use along with the recipe. I hope it will encourage you to try them for yourself!
|Slice butter and add to the flour in the bowl of a food processor.|
|Pulse until butter is the size of kidney beans.|
|Combine yeast and flour/butter mixture until just combined.|
|Pound out chilled dough with a rolling pin.|
|Roll to a 16x20 piece.|
|Fold dough into thirds.|
|Roll out folded dough.|
|Fold again into thirds.|
|Roll to 16x18 inches and cut into four pieces.|
|Spread with filling and roll up pieces.|
|Roll to flatten and seal edges.|
|Cut into pieces.|
|Cut "toes" into filled pieces.|
|Lay on prepared baking sheet and curve them slightly.|
These are so crazy good right out of the oven. It's impossible to wait for them to cool and you shouldn't wait. They are worth the burned fingers, especially when there's milk and honey glaze ready for dipping!
Cinnamon Bear Claws
with Milk and Honey Glaze
Yield: 13-16 pastries [click for printable version]
This recipe is adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.
This dough can be used to make a variety of pastries including buns, braids, bear claws and kringles.
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, very cold
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water 105F -115F
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
- Add flour to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cut butter into 1/4-inch slices and add to the flour. Process until the mixture until the butter is about the size of kidney beans. If you don't have a food processor you can cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or other cutting tool.
- 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. Turn the flour-butter mixture into the liquid ingredients and with a rubber spatula mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight (preferred) or up to 4 days.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour. Pound dough with rolling pin; 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.
1 egg white
2/3 cup almond paste
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
- In a small bowl, beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until very smooth. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1 egg, beaten (for brushing pastries)
Large crystal sugar
- 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 spread 2 tablespoons of 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, 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 400F. Brush with the beaten egg and place a sliced almond on each bear "toe". Sprinkle with large crystal sugar. Bake 5-8 minutes for small pastries, 10-12 minutes for larger pastries.
- Let cool slightly on wire racks.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1-2 tbsp. whole milk
- Stir together ingredients until smooth. Add more confectioners' sugar if too thin, or add more milk if too thick. Drizzle over warm pastries.