One of my favorite Christmas traditions is setting aside a whole morning to bake with the women in my family. Depending on who’s in town, and who’s living where, it may be a whole bunch of us or it might be just a few. This year, my mom, sister, and aunt came over and kept the tradition going. My favorite thing we make is these Buttery Almond Bear Claws. They are a lovely, tender pastry with a sweet almond filling inside. I like these as much as my Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, and that’s a whole lot!
We bake them a couple of weeks before Christmas and then freeze them to serve with our traditional Day After Christmas Breakfast. We thaw them overnight and then put them on a baking sheet covered with foil, and then warm them up in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Like that freezer time never even happened.
They are loved by most, and in our family, if you don’t LOVE them, you’d best not take one because the people who do LOVE them only want them to be eaten by those who totally understand their wonder!
The recipe was first made by my aunt – she clipped it out of a Sunset Magazine in the late 1970’s. I’ve always wanted to take good pictures of the process that goes into making them, and so this year I finally made sure to take some pics as my aunt rolled out the dough, cut it into strips, added the filling, and shaped them into bear claws.
The dough and filling are both made the day before – and that chilling time is necessary to make the dough workable. You will also be glad if you have a yardstick handy. It helps not only to measure as you go as the recipe calls for very specific dimensions, but also to use the edge of the yardstick to even out the edge of the dough.
Even though this recipe is very specific and takes a bit of planning and concentration, it is so worth it! My mom and aunt were laughing about the yardstick because they only get it out once a year to make bear claws. Right here and now, I promise not to post any other recipes that require the use of a yardstick.
If you are looking for something truly special to try this Christmas, I hope you’ll give these a go. Please let me know if you do!
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #lovelylittlekitchen
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For the Dough
- 1 cup butter
- 1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 oz evaporated milk
- 2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- almond filling (recipe to follow)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds to sprinkle on top
For the Filling
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces almond paste
- 2 reserved egg whites
- 3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
For the Dough
- Melt butter and then let cool to room temp. Dissolve the yeast in water, then stir in the 1/4 cup sugar, the egg yolks (save the whites for the filling), salt, evaporated milk, and cooled butter. Stir into the flour and mix well. Cover and chill at least 24 hours. Meanwhile, you can make the almond filling, and then when you are ready to make the bear claws, let the filling sit out at room temp for 1 hour to make it easier to spread.
For the Filling
- Smoothly blend together butter with powdered sugar. Add all-purpose flour and almond paste. Stir until crumbly and evenly mixed, then beat in two of the reserved egg whites. Stir in finely chopped almonds. Cover and chill until firm (24 hours).
- To form bear claws, roll dough out on a well-floured surface (use about 1/2 cup flour) to a 13 1/2 ×27 inch rectangle. Straighten the edges with a ruler or yardstick as you roll.
- Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 3 strips (4 1/2 inch wide).
- Divide the almond paste into three portions and roll each into a 27 inch rope on a floured board. Lay one filling rope in the center of each strip of dough and flatten slightly.
- Fold long sides of each strip over filling, overlapping slightly.
- Cut each filled strip into six (4 1/2 inch long) segments. Arrange on a greased baking sheet.
- With a sharp floured knife, make a row of cuts halfway across each segment and about 1/2 inch apart. Curve each bear claw so it fans out.
- Lightly beat the remaining egg white and brush over bear claws, then top with sliced almonds. Let rise on countertop for 20 minutes, then bake at 375 for 13-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
*This recipe is a family tradition that originally came from Sunset Magazine.