Although he was raised in the Detroit suburbs, Craig spent many years living in California, primarily the San Francisco area. He often tells me of fabulous Mexican or Asian dishes he ate while there, of favorite restaurants he remembers fondly.
But what he seems to miss most of all is the giant bear claws - puffy, flaky, almond-filled delicacies - from the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes, which "has been bringing fresh, organic, handmade pastries ... to the North Bay for over 20 years."
Well, you know me - I love to bake, and I have a lot of air time to fill both here and on AnnArbor.com. I'm always looking for kitchen entertainment, something new and novel to write about.
And so, we undertook a baking adventure and sought to replicate - or, at least, approximate - the Bovine's delicious goodies.
I emailed the bakery and was thrilled to get a lovely response:
"Thanks so much! Love to hear about people hooked on our treats! :)
It is our policy not to share exact recipes (proportions and process), but I will happily tell you the ingredients. Unfortunately for the home baker, bearclaws are probably one of the toughest products to replicate."
They proceeded to let me know what they mix into the filling, and that their recipe for croissant dough - which they also use for these pastries - is so overwhelming (both in quantity and difficulty) that I'd be "better off finding a smaller scale recipe to follow." I was so happy to receive so much information and such gracious guidance!
Craig told me that the pastries are flaky rather than doughy, so I decided against making my own yeast dough and let Pepperidge Farm do the labor-intensive work for me; I purchased a box of its puff pastry, ready to use.
For the luscious center, I relied upon a can of Solo filling, which would offer a rich and sweet almond taste. Since I also had some poppy seed filling, I stirred a bit of that in, as well, following the Bovine's lead. (They combine poppy seeds with everything else, for a very complex flavor.)
I read up on the procedure for making and baking the pastries from a variety of recipes, trying to determine how large to make them and how long to keep them in the oven in order to cook the centers while not burning the edges.
And then, on a cold (wind chill of 16!) and snowy (7" on the ground) evening, I set to tinkering with my project. Although there are a number of steps involved, these treats are actually very easy to make since they rely upon some convenience products.
Sometimes, our adventures provide us only with a story to tell. Other times, we also get success, pride in accomplishment, and fabulous things to eat. The bear claws worked out perfectly in every way - light, puffy, golden, toasted, rich, delicious, decadent, and indulgent!
With many thanks to the Bovine Bakery for its inspiration, assistance, and support ... :)
- 1 12.5-ounce can Solo almond filling
- 2 tablespoons Solo poppy seed filling
- 1 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons half-and-half
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Combine almond filling and poppy seed filling; set aside.
Lightly flour the countertop and unfold one of the two sheets of puff pastry on top of it; lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, too. Roll dough to a 12" square, then cut into 4 squares.
Place a scant 1/4 cupful of the filling onto the center of each dough square.
Combine the egg and the water to make an egg wash; brush on to the edges of one dough square.
Fold dough over and lightly press edges to seal them.
Cut several slits into the long sealed edge of the dough.
Curve the pastry a bit to open up the notches, then place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining squares of dough.
Brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle the tops with almonds.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until pastries puff up and are golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely, then repeat with rest of dough, filling, egg wash, and almonds.
When pastries are cool, stir together confectioners' sugar and half-and-half. Drizzle glaze over pastries and let set.
Makes 8 large bear claws.