This pueblo bread originated in the Rio Grande area of New Mexico and has always
been made in the shape of a bear's paw. It is crusty, easy to make, delicious
to eat, and most impressive in appearance! This recipe can easily be halved; it
can also be frozen, well wrapped, for up to three months.
2 cups hot water
2 teaspoons solid vegetable shortening, lard, butter, or margarine
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages (about 2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
Place the 2 cups of hot water, shortening, honey, and salt in a large bowl; stir
to melt shortening.
Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a small bowl. When liquid in the large bowl
has cooled to room temperature, stir in the yeast mixture. Add flour 1 cup at a
time, beating well after each addition. After 8 cups have been added to the dough,
place the remaining 2 cups on a board and turn out dough over flour. Knead dough
until smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly greased very large bowl, turning to grease top of dough.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
Turn out on a floured board and knead again for about 3 minutes.
Grease 4 (9-inch) pie pans or 2 baking sheets. Divide dough in quarters and form
each piece into a flat circle about 8 inches in diameter. Fold each circle almost
in half, allowing the bottom to extend about an inch beyond the top. With a sharp
knife, slash the dough twice, cutting through both layers of dough, about halfway
back to the fold. This will form three separated sections - the bear's paw.
Place each loaf in a greased pie plate, or on a baking sheet, curving the folded
side in a crescent shape. Separate the slashes. cover loosely with a towel and let
rise until doubled in bulk.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F and place a shallow pan of hot water in the center
of bottom rack of the oven. Place loaves on the top rack. Bake about 1 hour, or
until lightly browned and bread sounds hollow when tapped.