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Kitchen Mailbox: Bear Claws aren't easy, but they are delicious

Thursday, March 29, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Bear Claws wasn't the easiest recipe we've tested, but the results were well worth the effort -- we loved them and so will you.

Cooking term
of the week

Basting -- To moisten food during roasting, grilling or broiling. Basting is done to prevent drying and to add flavor.


Bear claws are made with a sweet yeast dough or Danish pastry dough. Danish pastry comes in a variety of shapes and fillings. The bear claws we made are filled with dates, raisins and nuts.

Why are they called Bear Claws? Three or four small cuts are made in the pastry. Gently bending and spreading the pastry forms a bear claw.

What a treat it was to see these pastries turn into a billowy golden puff! They look exactly like the bear claws sold in bakeries. And the taste? The pastry is flaky, sweet and tender and the filling only enhanced the flavor of the pastry. But don't take our word for it; see for yourself.

Linda Gaskins of Raleigh, N.C., requested a recipe for bear claws with a date filling. Here's a recipe sent by Helen Lamison of Carnegie.

Bear Claws

Basic Sweet Dough:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups unsifted flour

Scald milk. Stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Cool to lukewarm.

Measure warm water into large bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Stir until dissolved. Stir in lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and half of the flour -- beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead 8 minutes or place in an electric mixer with a dough hook until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top of dough.

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and shape as desired.

Preparation and filling:
2 tablespoons melted butter (for brushing on the dough)
1 1/2 cups chopped dates
3/4 cups raisins
3/4 cup chopped nuts, divided
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 egg yolk, combined with 2 tablespoons water

Divide dough in half. Roll out half of dough on floured board into a 9-by-18-inch rectangle. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.

Combine dates, raisins and lemon rind with 1/2 cup of the nuts and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Sprinkle half of this filling over the dough.

Fold outside third of dough over center; fold again to make a 3-layer strip 18 inches long. Pinch ends to seal.

Cut and divide into 9 2-inch sections. Make four 1/4-inch cuts in one side of each section. Place on greased baking sheets and shape into bear claws by separating the four cut sections.

Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Combine egg yolk and water. Brush rolls and sprinkle with 1/4 cup nuts and remaining sugar. Let rise, uncovered, until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Here's another recipe sent by Helen Lamison. If you're short on time, try the recipe below. It's made with frozen dough rolls and filled with chocolate.

Bear Claws

Frozen dough for 8 rolls, thawed
3 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (see note)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Pat roll dough into 4-inch circles using a little flour to prevent sticking. In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, chocolate chips and coconut. Place 2 tablespoons mixture in the middle of each roll. Fold in half and press edges to seal. Place on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Using scissors, cut sealed edge four times to make claws.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with pecans. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise 30 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately place on a cooling rack.

Note: We threw in more chocolate chips than the recipe calls for (because we like chocolate -- a lot of it). We used about 3/4 cup.

Smile, Grace Miller of South Fayette. Your request for Eat 'n Park's Smiley face cookies was answered. Not by Eat 'n Park (most restaurant chains will not give out their recipes), but by another reader -- Kathy Lesko of Brookline. Kathy writes: "After years of trying to duplicate those cookies, I found an easy solution. Sugar and Spice (412-882-7326), a cake and candy supply store on Route 51 near Eat 'n Park of all things, sells a sugar cookie mix. They even have the icing all ready to use. My boys love the Eat 'n Park cookies and these come close."

We decided to give this cookie mix and icing a try. The mix comes in a 2-pound bag ($3.25); all you do is add water and roll the dough. The yield depends on the size of the cookie cutter you use. We tried to duplicate the Smiley cookie, so we used a 4-inch cookie cutter. The cookies tuned out soft and chewy and the icing ($2.75) was not overly sweet -- and we liked them better than Eat 'n Park's.


Paula Trujillo of Canon City, Colo., is searching for a chocolate cake with cream cheese bottom. The cake is iced with a rich chocolate icing and is made from scratch.

Anyone have the recipe for the white buttercream frosting used at Kaufmann's bakery? R. Fernandez of Regent Square said it's the best in Pittsburgh.

A letter from Barb Cleary of Plum: "Many moons ago, when Weight Watchers was first starting out, my mother and I were on the program and used some of their recipes. Some of them are still in her collection. But the recipe for cabbage soup has been misplaced. There are only a few ingredients -- cabbage, tomato juice, spices and one or two other ingredients." If anyone has this recipe, please send it to Kitchen Mailbox.

Peggy Ravas of Coraopolis: "Many thanks for the recipe you sent me for the Angel Pie that ran in the Mailbox in 1997. Unfortunately, that was not the Angel Pie recipe from Horne's Tea Room. I was wondering if you could ask your readers if they heard of this recipe. It is a graham cracker crust, the middle was very high and firm and then topped with strawberries." How about it, readers?

Gina M. Godfrey of Greenfield writes: "My family is coming from out of town for Easter, and I would like to make a pork crown roast. Aside from the basic roasting instructions, I was hoping you or your readers could provide suggestions for simple accompaniments such as garnishes or side dishes. I have never prepared this dramatic-looking cut of meat and wonder if there is any real difference from other cuts of pork."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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