I can’t remember the last time I had a really good bear claw. A bear claw is a type of pastry that originated in the US sometime in the early 20th century, getting its name from the partial slices made along one side of the curved pastry that resembled the claws of a bear (particularly if you squint). There are actually several styles of bear claws and almost any pastry that has this shape will be called one, from danishes filled with almond paste to fruit-filled yeasted donuts, though most involve a layered pastry and all involve some sort of filling. When I started to get a craving for a bear claw, I thawed out some frozen puff pastry and started to prepare the filling for these Easy Espresso Bear Claws with Chocolate Chips.
Puff pastry is a good base for an easy bear claw. It’s flavorful, not difficult to work with and produces plenty of layers. The pastry is spread with an espresso and cinnamon sugar mixture, which uses instant espresso powder (or Starbucks Via) for a strong coffee flavor and includes a handful of mini chocolate chips for sweetness, then it is rolled up tightly into a long spiral. Once the pastry is rolled up, it can be cut into individual portions and further cut to produce the “claws.” Bear claws are almost always oversize and these are no exception, as you use the whole sheet to create them. Roll up the pastry tightly to ensure you get a neat, clean spiral.
The finished pastries are a decadent addition to any brunch. They’re generously sized and are loaded with flavor. Since they have coffee in them, they pair very well with freshly brewed coffee, though you could also pair them with a tall glass of milk. To get a golden brown finish, I recommend brushing the tops of the pastries with an egg wash (lightly beaten egg) before baking. You can also sprinkle the pastries with coarse sugar or sliced almonds, which are a fairly traditional addition to bear claws.
Each sheet of puff pastry (most are about the same size) will yield three good-sized bear claws. Keep that in mind when you’re stocking up on ingredients. If you have a big crowd, you’ll need some extra pastry, or you’ll need to scale down the size into mini claws for everyone!
Espresso Bear Claws with Chocolate Chips
1 sheet puff pastry (three claws), thawed if frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
1 egg (for egg wash)
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to even any crease in it.
In a small bowl, stir together sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and mini chocolate chips.
In another small bowl, beat egg. Use a pastry brush and brush a thin layer of egg over the rolled out pastry. Sprinkle sugar mixture over the pastry, spreading it into an even layer and leaving a 1/2-inch border at the top edge of the pastry. Starting from the bottom, carefully roll up the pastry into a log. When you get to the border at the top edge, gently pinch the spiral closed and place the pastry seam-side down. Press down gently on the log to flatten slightly. Cut into 3 even pieces (the individual claws).
Take each piece and, using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, make 3-4 cuts on the side of the pastry, exposing the layers within and cutting no more than halfway through the pastry. Pull the “claws” slightly apart, if necessary, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
Brush bear claws with more egg wash.
Bake for 19-23 minutes, until deep golden brown and crisp. Some of the filling may melt out of the edges, so allow some room between each pastry when you put them on the baking sheet.
Makes 3. Recipe can be doubled/tripled.