On last week’s episode of Mad Men, Don Draper snapped at his secretary and chauvinistically demanded “Get me a bear claw!” Robert thought it was hilarious and has been saying it to me all week long (yeah, real funny Robert.) In the end, I relented. I’m such a good woman. It was kind of hard to say no when I was already planning to make breakfast this Sunday and I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand for bear claws (even almond extract, which is amazing considering how tightly I control the kitchen’s inventory – normally, if I discover an ingredient that I haven’t used in the past year, I toss it.)

Once I started researching bear claw recipes, I realized that I didn’t actually know what a bear claw was. I mean, I knew that it was a pastry and was made to look like a bear claw but, if you were to ask me what a bear claw is traditionally filled with, I would have been clueless. You would think, with a cool name like bear claw, I would have eaten one once as a child. Robert says kids usually pass them over because they aren’t filled with jelly or covered in sprinkles and frosting – makes sense. Traditional bear claws are indeed quite simple – a sweet yeast dough filled with an almond paste filling and topped with slivered almonds. Like everything else, they have been bastardized; nowadays, you see doughnuts and fritters being passed off as bear claws or, worse, bear claws that are filled with chocolate chips and coconut.

I decided to keep things traditional with my bear claws. I found a dough recipe online that was easy and called for significantly less butter than most. I made the dough Saturday evening reducing much of the work the next morning. Most of the filling recipes I saw called for almond paste, an expensive ingredient that I did not have on hand and wasn’t willing to buy. Instead, I used a combination of ground almonds and a few drops of almond extract. I didn’t have quite enough almonds so the filling ended up on the thin side and oozed out the sides of the claws a bit (refrigerating the filling overnight might have helped to remedy this.) The process of assembling the bear claws wasn’t difficult and, since I was only making six, it wasn’t very time-consuming. I used the instructive photos over at Joe Pastry (where, incidentally, I also got the recipe for the filling) as a guide. The only thing I did differently was to place the rolls seam side down. Also, I didn’t have any slivered almonds so I used some sliced almonds to make decorative claws instead. My bear claws tasted great, and I think they turned out pretty cute too!

Bear Claws

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped fine in a food processor
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
dash of almond extract

1 egg white, lightly beaten
slivered almonds
granulated sugar

To make the dough, heat the milk in a small pot over medium heat until bubbles just begin to form around the edges. Stir in the sugar, salt, and butter. Cool to lukewarm. Place the warm water in a bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Stir until dissolved. Stir in the lukewarm milk mixture, egg and half of the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead for 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top of the dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (or, if you want to make the dough a day in advance, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.)

To make the filling, combine the ground almonds, powdered sugar, egg white and almond extract and mix until uniform. Refrigerate the filling at least fifteen minutes and up to overnight (this makes it easier to work with.)

To make the bear claws, roll out the dough into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle on a well-floured board. Cut the dough into pieces approximately 4 inches by 4 inches long (it doesn’t really matter what size they are, it is more important to cut your rectangle into equal pieces.) Roll a small piece of the filling into a small log and place near the top of one square of dough. Wet the top of the dough (above the filling) with your fingertip and then fold the dough over the filling, pushing down slightly to seal. Arrange, seam-side down, on greased baking sheets. With a sharp knife, make a row of cuts along the unfolded edge about 1/2 inches apart. Curve each bear claw so it fans out. Let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 30-40 minutes.

Brush the bear claws with the beaten egg white; then top with sliced almonds and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake in a 375-degree oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 bear claws.


  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe – I’ve been wanting to make bear claws from scratch and this doesn’t seem too difficult!

    Comment by Emiko — October 14, 2008 @ 11:53 am

  2. Just gave it a shot, worked out great. Throwing our friend a surprise birthday party, he didn’t think we were coming so he said he’d eat a bear claw instead of a cake. So, I made one bear claw the size of a cake!

    Comment by Cooper — December 16, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  3. That is the cutest bear claw I’ve ever seen! So real, yet so delicious :)

    Comment by Sarah the Bear — January 6, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  4. I’ve been obsessing about the Don Draper bearclaw line and finally decided to make some myself (disappointed as I am with store-bought claws)! Yours look wonderful and even cuddly.

    Comment by Roxanne — April 26, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

  5. It is SO hard to find a traditional bear claw recipe, even harder to find one that is not loaded with butter.

    I was happy to find yours and tried it – it was easy and they turned out great! Very yummy! Definitely satisfied my craving, thank you. :)

    One question – should the filling stay in the log shape even after baking? I don’t know why I expected it to ‘melt’ a little and was surprised to find it intact. I did use grocery store almond paste, not sure if that makes a difference. It still tastes good!

    Comment by Heather — June 21, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

  6. Hi Heather. I don’t think the almond filling is supposed to melt, although I’m not positive about that. The only bear claw I can remember eating in recent times is my own and, like yours, my filling didn’t melt either. Therefore, I am declaring that that’s the way it is supposed to be! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe!

    Comment by elliemay — July 1, 2010 @ 6:44 am

  7. Hi! I found this page accidentally while I was looking for something completely different. Your bear claws look amazing! The recipe is a lot more simple compared to the recipe I’d been using before. It looks a lot less time consuming too. I might just have to give it a go! <3

    Comment by The Night Flower — July 17, 2011 @ 5:37 am

  8. Your Bearclaw recipe looks delicious. I am wondering if I could fill them with a soft, sweet cheese?

    I have been looking everywhere for a dough recipe.

    I will call them Cheese Buns.

    Thanks for the nice recipe.

    Comment by Jeanne — November 29, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  9. These look excellent – can you tell me how many teaspoons in a package of yeast?

    Comment by septimus — November 7, 2012 @ 5:37 am

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