Walnut Bear Paws

Walnut Bear Paws or “Šape” (shah-pay) are one of the most loved traditional treats not only in Serbia, but across the Balkans. When translated to English, šapa simply means a “paw”. Walnut Bear Paws are made from simple ingredients, readily available in almost every household – butter, sugar, eggs, flour and walnuts. In Serbia we make šape for birthdays, christenings, Christmas, weddings and almost every other special occasion. They are sort of a shortbread cookie, originally made with lard, but are just as good made with butter. Traditionally, walnuts are used in this cookie, but I’ve seen them made with poppy seeds, lemon zest and even shredded coconut. These biscuits are really versatile and you can easily add your own touch to them! Once baked these bear paws are simply – buttery, sweet, rich and so incredibly aromatic! They simply melt in your mouth!

WHY BEAR PAWS?

Why are they called bear paws you may ask? Well, it is because of their shape, which they get from the moulds in which they’re baked. Apparently, the ridges reminded people of bear paws and that is how the name came to be! I am very lucky that my mother passed down her old tins down to me. In fact the moulds I have today have traveled with us all the way to New Zealand when we first moved here! They are not only in shapes of paws but also heart shaped and crescent shaped. I remember she used these in her baking all the time and they have remained a special child memory of mine. These tins come in different shapes and if you do not have any you can find them here. You can also use Madeleine tins to make these Walnut Bear Paws.

THE INGREDIENTS

The cookie dough for these Walnut Bear Paws is made from the usual suspects – butter, sugar, eggs and flour. But what makes these bear paws extra special is the addition of a whole heap of ground walnuts. The nutty taste of walnuts take a simple cookie and transform it into a masterpiece. And there is no Serbian kitchen which ever functions without all of these ingredients on hand. In our culture, we are always stocked up on sugar, flour, butter, eggs and walnuts. You just never know when that next guest is coming over or when some baking inspiration will hit 😊. So it is best to always be prepared! Add a little bit of vanilla essence and cinnamon to these bear paws and your kitchen will smell divine!

Walnut Bear Paws on a plate

HOW TO MAKE WALNUT BEAR PAWS

To make the dough for these delicious Walnut Bear Paws all you need is ONE BOWL. Mix the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until it becomes soft and fluffy. You can then add the egg and vanilla essence and mix well until all of the ingredients have combined together. While still using a hand mixer, gradually add in the flour, roughly two tablespoons at a time. At the very end, throw in the ground walnuts and cinnamon to the mix and combine well using a spatula. Place the dough into the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.

In the mean time, grease your bear paw shaped tins (or any shaped tin that you are using) with some butter and sprinkle a light layer of flour. This will ensure the cookies do not stick to the moulds while baking, making them easier to remove once they are finished. Transfer the cookie dough into the cookie moulds so that the cookie dough fills them completely. Smooth out the surface of the cookie dough. The top of the dough should be level with the top edge of the cookie moulds. 

Transfer the filled cookie moulds onto a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven at 180º C (355º F) for about twenty minutes or until the cookies are slightly risen and golden on top. Allow the cookies to cool for roughly five minutes before removing them from the moulds. You can roll the Walnut Bear Paws in powdered sugar or dip the ends into some melted chocolate.

HOW TO STORE WALNUT BEAR PAWS

  These Walnut Bear Paws keep well in a closed container in a cool dry place for about one month. Usually after I bake them, I store them in the fridge over night and I find that they taste so so good the next day!

However, the longer you keep these cookies in a closed container, the better they get.

Walnut Bear Paws on a plate

WALNUT BEAR PAWS RECIPE

This recipe yields 17 bear paws.

Ingredients:

  • 150 g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 150 g ground walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For decoration:

  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • OR
  • 100 g melted chocolate

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 180º C (355º F)
  • In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for roughly 3 or 4 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla essence and mix for another minute or two until well combined.
  • While still using a hand mixer, gradually add in the flour, roughly two tablespoons at a time. Mix until the flour has combined well with the other ingredients.
  • At the very end, add in the ground walnuts and cinnamon and combine using a spatula.
  • Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, place in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
  • In the mean time, grease the bear paw shaped tins (or any shaped tin that you are using) with some butter and sprinkle a light layer of flour.
  • Once the dough has set, transfer the cookie dough into the moulds so that the cookie dough fills them completely. Smooth out the surface of the cookie dough. The top of the cookie dough should be level with the top edge of the cookie moulds. 
  • Transfer the filled cookie moulds onto a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about twenty minutes or until the cookies are slightly risen and golden on top.
  • Allow the cookies to cool for roughly five minutes before removing them from the moulds. You can roll the bear paws in powdered sugar or dip the ends into some melted chocolate.

Once you have a taste of these sweet, buttery, nutty and delicious Walnut Bear Paws, they will become one of your favourite cookies to bake not only during festive times, but even on the weekends. You can serve them with some coffee or tea. Why not even dip them into some milk on a cozy night!

Walnut Bear Paws on a plate

I hope you enjoy these delicious Walnut Bear Paws. They are so easy to make and great to whip up at any time. These bear paws taste even better the next day! I stored mine in the fridge over night and oh my! So good! If you give this Walnut Bear Paws recipe a try, be sure to leave your thoughts below and don’t forget to tag me over on Instagram with @thehomeharvest. I would love to see your creation of this recipe! 🙂