Bear claws start out their lives as wee rectangles of dough – usually the same dough that you use to make croissants. You then fold each over a filling and cut one edge to make look like little toes. When first imagined, bear claws were filled with ‘almond-paste’ (what the Americans call frangipane), which makes them nice enough. But it’s not as nice as my favourite variation – filling them with a dense, sweet raisiny mixture. A bit like you might find in an Eccles cake, or even a mince pie. And then there’s the issue surrounding croissant dough itself – I enjoy the toil, but it is just that. It takes hours and then days and then hours again, and it requires a pretty good understanding of bread and quite a bit of practice. It’s faff. I don’t like faff, which is why I’ve used my favourite cheat ingredient. All-butter puff pastry.
Cover these treats with plenty of runny icing, and they’re every bit as scrumptious as any bear claw that ever existed.
First, always preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Rip off a sheet of non-stick greaseproof paper (baking paper) and use it to line a flat baking sheet. You can use a bit of butter to stick it down.
Into a bowl, weigh your butter. Heat this in the microwave (or in a pan, if you don’t have a microwave) until melted, then add in your sugar, your raisins and your cinnamon. Mix these all together.
Flour a clean surface, and onto it plonk your block of puff pastry. Add more flour on top, and roll it out into a big rectangle. You want to keep moving it to stop it sticking, and only stop when it’s the thickness of a £1 coin.
Cut your pastry into small rectangles – their size will depend on your appetite. I like to go for wee ones about 10cm by 15cm, cutting them using a pizza cutter. Leftover pastry can be re-rolled, but it won’t have quite as good a puff.
Scoop a lump of the filling and place it right in the middle of each rectangle. Melt a bit more butter in a pan or the microwave, and brush this all the way around the edge of each.
Finally, fold each rectangle in half, closing them like a book. You should press around the edge to seal the filing in, and then make some cuts to create the claw-like effect.
Once you’ve made all your bear claws, place them on your baking tray and bake in your hot oven for 35-40 minutes. Yes, that long. You want them a deep, golden-brown colour.
As soon as they’re out the oven, make your icing by mixing your 200g of icing sugar with just enough water to create a gloopy, messy paste. Drizzle this on top of your hot bear claws, then leave them to cool. If you do this whilst they’re still hot, the icing will set hard.
If you fancy a more traditional bear claw, you can fill them with frangipane instead. Just mix one egg with 50g each of flour, sugar and soft butter until smooth, and fill each rectangle with that instead. You could even drizzle with a few flaked almonds, if you’re feeling flash.