Mini Nutella-Filled Bear Claws
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 30 minutes Chilling, Rising, and Resting Time: 4 hours Cook Time: 22 minutes
This is not a simple recipe. Sorry, but this time, it’s just not. This is a real-deal laminated (laminated meaning layered, with butter in between the dough—it’s the same family of dough used for croissants), enriched Danish dough. Now, you aren’t building a rocket here. It’s still pastry. World peace is not at risk, guys! That being said, it does take a long time and it does involve understanding a wee bit of science. But fear not! This is an exciting technique to learn. You do need patience, counter space, strong arms, plastic wrap, a rolling pin, the best ingredients you can afford, a smile, and room in your refrigerator and freezer.
Read the instructions first all the way through, please, please, please. These directions are particularly long because I wanted to give you detailed, clear instructions without using a lot of fancy terms or alluding to short cuts or other methods, particularly regarding how to layer in cold butter. There are many and all work. This recipe uses a three-turn, book-fold method.
The dough and shaping was developed by Cindi Kruth, The Weiser Kitchen’s recipe tester and a veteran pastry chef and baking-instructor. Although this recipe springs from my imagination, this recipe is hers. Her meticulous attention to detail, scientific analysis and ability to follow my quirky, bold, globally inspired recipes, no matter how weird they seem to a classically trained pastry chef, astonishes me. This recipe is thoughtful, efficient, and sweet—just like Cindi.
This recipe was developed for my Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner fantasy meal for Mindy Kaling, whose character has a fixation with bear claws on her show, "The Mindy Project." In real life and on the small screen, Kaling shows her adoration of Nutella, so I decided that together they might make a great, bespoke treat, just for her.
Oh wait, you want to know about the taste and texture? This is UNBELIEVABLE. You will cry tears of joy. Trust me. If you are looking for a real weekend project, make this.
3¾ sticks (⅞ cup/425 grams/15 ounces/14 tablespoons cultured or European style butter, cold from the refrigerator
3 tablespoons (25 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
Laminated Danish Pastry Dough:
2 packages (14 grams/½ ounce/4½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
¼ cup warm (95°F) water (see Kitchen Tips)
½ cup (102 grams) granulated sugar, divided
5 cups (650 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature, divided
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon (10 grams) kosher salt
1 tablespoon (16 grams) vanilla bean paste
¼ stick (⅛ cup/28 grams/1 ounce/2 tablespoons) unsalted cultured or European style butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
½ cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
- Make the butter roll-in: Place 2 or 3 sheets of plastic wrap side by side on a work surface to form a large (about 24- by 36-inch) sheet, and flour it lightly. Slice the butter sticks into four long slabs each. Place them on the prepared plastic wrap, lining them up so they form a rectangle. Sprinkle the flour over them evenly and cover with 2 or 3 more other pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a rolling pin to soften, and shape the butter into a rough 11½- by 15½-inch rectangle that is about ¼ inch thick . You might have to knead the butter a little to incorporate the flour. Refrigerate, in the plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour or until completely chilled.
- Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, mixing until combined. Let stand for 3 to 4 minutes, until foamy.
- Add the flour, milk, 2 of the eggs, the egg yolk, salt, and vanilla bean paste and mix at low to medium speed until completely incorporated. Switch to a dough hook. Add the butter and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, until a soft, smooth, elastic dough forms and pulls away from the side of the mixer bowl (but not necessarily the bottom) (see Kitchen Tips). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature. Then dust a work surface with flour. Gently deflate the dough, transfer it to the work surface, and pat it into a 10- by 15-inch rectangle, about 1 inch thick. (This will be rolled again later, so it does not need to be exact.) Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes, until thoroughly chilled (note that it should be about 62° F).
- Roll in the butter: When the dough is chilled, dust a work surface lightly with flour and place the dough on it. With a rolling pin, roll from the center to form a 12- by 24-inch rectangle. Place the chilled butter on the dough, positioning it so that it covers two-thirds of the surface, leaving a ½-inch border on the righthand edge, about ¼ inch at the top and bottom edges, and an uncovered “flap” of dough, about 8- by 12-inches, on the left.
- Now comes the folding: Note that the butter and dough should be chilled at all times. If the butter starts to get overly soft and oozes midway through the process, you can cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and refrigerate it briefly. The initial folding is kind of like a three-fold brochure. Fold the uncovered flap over half of the butter. This will leave a butter-covered 12-inch flap of dough on the right. Fold the butter-covered flap over layered dough. You will have an 8- by 12-inch rectangle that consists of 5 layers, alternating the dough and butter. Pat to seal, ensuring that all the edges touch and the butter is enclosed.
- Repeat the above folding process two more times, wrapping the dough in plastic and chilling it for 20 minutes each time. Be sure to roll the dough evenly so the whole piece is the same thickness. Keep the corners sharp (90°) and the dough rectangular. In the end, you will have formed 320 layers. Once completed, wrap the dough well and refrigerate it for at least an hour and preferably overnight before using. It can also be wrapped well and frozen for up to 2 weeks and defrosted in the refrigerator. Defrosting will take about 12 hours (overnight), so allow enough time.
- When the dough is chilled, shape the bear claws: Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (see Kitchen Tips) and dust a work surface very lightly with flour. Cut the dough in half to form 2 (5- by 6-inch) pieces. Place one piece on the work surface (wrap the other in plastic wrap and refrigerate) and roll it out to a 9- by 12-inch rectangle. Cut it into 12 (3-inch) squares. Place a teaspoon of Nutella in the center of one piece and fold in half, making a 1½- by 3-inch rectangle. Press the 3-inch edge lightly to seal. Turn it so the seam is tucked under the pastry. Repeat with the remaining dough and Nutella.
- Now transform the filled pastries into bear’s “claws”: With a paring knife, cut 5 small (½-inch) slashes along one of the 3-inch edges, perpendicular to the edge. Place the bear claw on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, curving it into a slight arc so that the “claws” separate a little and the pastry takes the shape of a paw. (If you use your imagination, it’s a paw!) Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Continue with the remaining dough, placing 12 bear claws on each sheet, and leaving at least 1½ inches around them to allow for expansion. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- At the same time (30 minutes before you are ready to bake), preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is heating, make an egg wash by mixing together the remaining egg and water in a small bowl.
- When the dough has proofed, with a pastry brush, brush the tops of the bear claws with the egg wash. (If your baking sheets are smaller and you have to use three, when the dough has proofed at room temperature for about 25 minutes, refrigerate the third sheet and its contents and keep it there while the first two sheets bake; see Kitchen Tips.)
- Bake the bear claws for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 375°F and then swap the sheets between oven racks and rotate them back to front to ensure even baking. Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bear claws are a deep golden brown or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the dough reads 200°F to 205°F (be careful not to insert the thermometer into the Nutella or you won’t get an accurate reading). Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Bake any remaining bear claws, following the same procedure.
- Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it—between 85° and 100°F—but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
- Mostly, our advice is simple: Don’t worry. Just chill. Literally and figuratively. Even if you have a few “missteps” along the way, if you keep the butter and dough chilled and at about the same temperature, you should be fine.
- You can knead this dough by hand if you like; just increase this the kneading time to 8 to 10 minutes. A handheld electric mixer won’t work here.)
- We use the baking sheets known to pros as half sheets, which are 13 by 18 inches. Some baking sheets on the market are slightly smaller. We arranged the bear claws 12 to a sheet, evenly spaced, and they just fit. If you have the smaller baking sheets, you will need to use three. If so, chill the third sheet and its contents while you bake the first two.
- To see what the folding looks like, check out these videos. There are different methods, but they all follow the same principle—and they all work.
Lock-In Technique by Chef Jason Laukhuff of Keiser University (Part 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiZiuSeQjg
Fold Technique by Chef Jason Laukhuff of Keiser University (Part 2)
Croissant Dough Lamination by Chef Rolf Runkel of SAIT Polytechnic, School of Hospitality and Tourism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y68HYUu6t-E
King Arthur Flour is one the GREAT resources for baking. The company’s website has a great post by one of their chef-baker-instructors with plenty of pictures and advice. It’s a slightly different folding method, but it works. I suggest you take a look:
Danish Pastry: Beauty or the Beast?