Aaaaaaand we’ve officially reached the part of December where I snap.
Because ALL I WANT right now is a cold snap. ALL I WANT is a dusting of snow on the ground. ALL I WANT is to wear scarves and boots and mittens. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, you guys. And it’s straight up never going to happen.
It’s not like I don’t love Summer! I live 45 minutes away from any number of amazing beaches. It’s awesome. You eat ice cream, and get fish and chips and feel the sun on your shoulders and the wind in your hair. You taste the salt in the air, and stare out at the horizon,where the sky meets the ocean and it’s nothing short of life affirming.
AND YET. I don’t want that for Christmas.
I want log cabins, and wood fires and hot chocolates for Christmas. I want to eat Bear Claws at breakfast time. I want to bite off the crunchy bear-fingers one by one, before I devour the squidgy pocket of almond filling that’s left. And I want to stare out at the falling snow when I do it, and be cozy!
So for the next few weeks I just dust everything in powdered sugar and pretend. I try not to melt in the 37C/100F heat. And I mooch around the houses of people who have air conditioning (I have none). But hey, I bring Bear Claws when I come over! And Christmas spirit! That counts for something right?
Notes: This is my adaptation of the famous Processor Danish Pastry recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas, later reprinted in books by Dorie Greenspan and Nigella Lawson. Instead of using a processor, I used my kitchenaid, which I think produces a better pastry. It’s a lot more difficult to overwork the pastry in a mixer, and that’s really important here. What you want is to preserve nice big chunks of butter in the dough, so that when you roll it out and fold it over, you get layers of butter. Obviously, go ahead and use the processor method if that’s easier for you!
For the pastry:
3/4 cup (185ml) water
2 sticks (250g) cold butter
2 1/3 cups (350g) flour
7g dried yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dry milk powder
You need to start the pastry the night before. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch/1 cm chunks and place in the fridge – it needs to remain cold. Whisk together the water and egg and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining ingredients, and stir using the paddle, just to combine. Dump in all the butter, and paddle on low speed for 10 seconds before slowly pouring in the water and egg mixture and mixing until everything just comes together. Now, cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, you need to roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 1/8 inch or 1/2cm thick and three times as long as it is wide. Then, fold each short side of the rectangle over, so that you have three layers of dough folded on top of each other. Roll out the dough into a rectangle again, and repeat this process three times. Now, the dough can be refrigerated until you’re ready to use it. Meanwhile, make the filling!
For the filling:
1 stick (120g) butter
5 oz (120g) caster sugar
8 oz (200g) ground almonds
Cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the eggs and almond meal and mix until smooth.
TO ASSEMBLE the Bear claws, roll the dough out into a rectangle, 8 inches/20cm wide and again 1/8 inch/1/2cm thick. This should give you a long rectangle of dough, which you’re going to slice widthways into tenx8 inches/20cm long, 4 inch/10cm wide rectangles. Place a heaped tablespoon of filling into the centre of each rectangle and fold the edges over to make a square. Slice into the edge of the square three times to form the ‘claws’ and then place on a lined baking tray for an hour to prove. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/375F. When the bear claws have proved and are puffed up, bake them for 25-30 minutes or until deeply golden and risen. Dust with icing sugar and serve!