Basic Sweet Dough
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups unsifted flour
Scald milk. Stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Cool to lukewarm.
Measure warm water into large bowl and sprinkle on the yeast. Stir until dissolved. Stir in lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and half of the flour - beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on a floured board and knead 8 minutes or place in an electric mixer with a dough hook until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top of dough.
Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and shape as desired.
Preparation and Filling
2 tablespoons melted butter (for brushing on the dough)
1 1/2 cups chopped dates
3/4 cups raisins
3/4 cup chopped nuts, divided
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 egg yolk, combined with 2 tablespoons water
Divide dough in half. Roll out half of dough on floured board into a 9 x 18-inch rectangle. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
Combine dates, raisins and lemon rind with 1/2 cup of the nuts and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Sprinkle half of this filling over the dough.
Fold outside third of dough over center; fold again to make a 3-layer strip 18 inches long. Pinch ends to seal.
Cut and divide into 9 (2-inch) sections. Make four 1/4-inch cuts in one side of each section. Place on greased baking sheets and shape into bear claws by separating the four cut sections.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Combine egg yolk and water. Brush rolls and sprinkle with 1/4 cup nuts and remaining sugar. Let rise, uncovered, until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.