My friend Jenna says everyone needs at least one 3 a.m. friend. This is the type of friend (guy or girl) whom you can call at 3 a.m. Regardless if you have a flat tire, a broken heart, or are stranded in some seedy night club because you’ve deserted the total jerk you showed up with, this friend will answer the phone.
And not only will he or she answer the phone, this 3 a.m. friend will come and pick you up, talk to you until you can breathe again, or tell you to pack a suitcase and drive over (and when you arrive, this 3 a.m. friend will have the perfect remedy to soothe your ache, at least temporarily).
In Chapter 11 of The Baker's Man, titled Bear Claws, Anna’s 3 a.m. friend knows just what to do. Even though Anna has mountains of work to do in preparation for the Fall Festival, Lily knows that what Anna needs even more is a break. She whisks into the bakery and takes Anna away for the evening.
Anna leaves Eli to prep for the upcoming festival and close down the bakery. Eli says he’ll make the bear claws, and for that I say, “Hats off to you, Eli.” Bear claws are no easy feat. In fact, they are, to date, the most difficult pastry I’ve ever made. Wonderful, but difficult. A lot like love.
Serves: 12-16 claws
Difficulty Level: Very challenging
3 ½ c all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 ½ c unsalted butter, very cold
2 packages active dry yeast
½ c warm water 105F -115F
½ c heavy cream or evaporated milk
½ tsp salt
2 eggs room temperature
¼ c sugar
How to Make
Add flour to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Cut butter into 1/4" slices and add to the flour. Process until the mixture until the butter is about the size of kidney beans. If you don't have a food processor you can cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or other cutting tool.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand 5 minutes.
Stir in the cream or milk, salt, eggs and sugar. Turn the flour-butter mixture into the liquid ingredients and with a rubber spatula mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight (preferred) or up to 4 days.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour. Pound dough with rolling pin; roll out to make a 16x20-inch piece.
Fold into thirds making three layers. Turn dough and roll out again. Fold again into thirds.
Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Prepare the filling while you wait for the dough to chill.
1 egg white
⅔ c almond paste
¾ c powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
How to Make
In a small bowl, beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until very smooth. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1 egg, beaten (for brushing pastries)
Large crystal sugar
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry out to make a 16x18" rectangle.
Cut lengthwise into 4 strips.
Remove filling from refrigerator and spread 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of each strip.
Roll each strip from the long side jelly-roll style and place seam-side down. Roll lightly to flatten and seal the edges.
Cut each strip into 4-6" pieces, then cut 3-5 slits for “toes.”
Place pieces on the prepared baking sheets, curving them slightly.
Allow them to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until puffy, or you can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (after refrigeration let stand at room temperature until puffy).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush with the beaten egg and place a sliced almond on each bear “toe.”
Sprinkle with large crystal sugar.
Bake 5-8 minutes for small pastries, 10-12 minutes for larger pastries.
Let cool slightly on wire racks.
The Baker’s Man can be purchased in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and other major retailers.
Chapter 1: Peanut Brittle
Chapter 2: Rum Cake
Chapter 3: Morning Glory Muffins
Chapter 4: Mudslide Cookies
Chapter 5: Chocolate Caramel Bombe
Chapter 6: Dark and Stormy Ganache
Chapter 7: Blueberry Pie
Chapter 8: Lady Fingers
Chapter 9: Mirror Glaze
Chapter 10: Black Sticky Gingerbread