It’s like a tomato-y chowder, but not. Like a goulash with its paprika notes, but not. And like a stew, but it’s more than that. There’s a lot going on in this lively and delicious stew, and it’s super comforting, relaxed, and easy.
I live in the US Pacific Northwest, and we’re lucky to have razor clams for the picking (chasing!) on our ocean beaches. They’re tender, mild flavored, and just amazing. A friend invited us to her family’s 1890’s homestead cabin on Washington’s Long Beach peninsula, where we spent a gray, drizzly morning hunting these very special clams.
Back at the cabin we cleaned our haul, preparing some for freezing and some for dinner. The cabin relies on an old wood-burning kitchen range for heat and cooking, and we put it to good use with a big pot of traditional white chowder on the stovetop and my homemade sourdough in the oven. My first go at wood-fired cooking!
If you’re not familiar with them, the Pacific Razor Clam (siliqua patula) is a big prize for a bivalve, measuring rarely up to 6″, and more usually from 3 to 5 inches, with a lot of meat between the shells. They’re strong and fast, and for the novice can be a little tricky to catch. A clam tube or “gun” is the favored digging equipment; it gets you in and out fast, before the clam knows what you’re up to.
Pacific Razor Clam
Using the clam “gun”
I came up with the Paprika Razor Clam Stew after I was back at home. It’s rooted in Spanish cooking, with its signature flavor-meld of garlic, onions, peppers and tomato, plus the sweetness of bay and earthiness of Spanish smoked paprika. And it’s all bound together beautifully with potatoes cooked in the broth.
Preparing the potatoes is key. I use a method called “chasquear”, in which you break the potatoes into chunks (1″ is good) using the knife as a wedge. Peel and cut the potatoes, then insert the knife blade into potato about 1/2″ then use the blade as a wedge to break a chunk off the rest of the way. This method–“patatas chasqueadas”–is perfect for stews because the irregular surface lets the potato release more starch into the stew for better thickening. Here’s a great demo video. No worries if you don’t understand Spanish; just watch.
Paprika Razor Clam Stew
3T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1/4 c red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 grated tomatoes (grating is easier if semi-frozen)
1t Spanish smoked paprika “pimenton de la Vera”, sweet or picante
1/3 c white wine
1 pound cleaned, fresh clam meat, chopped if necessary (see note, below)
Salt and Pepper
2 medium-sized starchy potatoes “chasqueadas” (see note, above), like yukon gold
1 c cooked, drained garbanzo beans
2 T chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. I like a dutch oven.
Add the onions, garlic, peppers and bay leaf. Saute until tender and translucent.
Add the tomato and pimenton and combine. Continue cooking over medium/med-low until you have a nice, thick jam. Add about 2t salt, stir. Pour wine over and cook down a bit more.
Stir in the raw clams, then add water to cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until clams are cooked through but tender. Add the potatoes cook until tender. Just before the potatoes are cooked, add garbanzo beans.
When all is cooked and hot, taste for seasoning. Grind in fresh black pepper into stew, and adjust salt to your preference.
Exactly one year ago I embarked on a mission to learn how to make really good bread, naturally leavened, crunchy-crusted, tender-chewy crumb, with that heart-grabbing toasty-nutty-caramel-fermenty-yeasty aroma only fresh bread has. Fresh realbread.
As a pastry chef, my professional life always revolved around sugars, butter, eggs, cream and an endless array of other rich, expensive ingredients. With bread, I have found it incredibly refreshing to create so much variety with so few, basic ingredients. All you really need is flour, water and salt.
I started, appropriately, with a starter. I invited my tiny new yeast and bacteria friends to share our home, initially in a little container of raisin-water and flour. They eventually made it their own, prospered, and multiplied. This was pretty new to me, and I worried. There were moments of anxiety. Was I smothering my new friends with too much love? Too little? Are they still alive? I am more confident after all these months, but there is still so much to learn.
Should I have named my starter? Seems like everyone does, which is fine, but I didn’t. Regardless, I have strong feelings of attachment to these new boarders. The girls (definitely an all-girl club) came with us on a road trip to San Diego, where we baked up really fluffy loaves in the consistently warm, dry hills above Escondido. On our drive home, they accompanied us to the fabled Tartine and The Mill, Josey Baker’s super bakery/cafe. They stayed in the car, but still…
In early autumn we camped and hiked around Mt Hood, Oregon, and the girls were
there too. At the most beautiful campsite in the known world, I fed my starter, kept her warm overnight between our sleeping bags, and the next day mixed a beautiful batch of country bread. Soon we were on the road again, me performing bulk fermentation folds in the passenger seat, husband in search of a new campsite with a good firepit, and… okay, so the rest of the operation did not go so smoothly. But we tried! After every adventure we came home to tell the girls that stayed behind (never keep all your starter in one tub!) all about our fun, refreshed her and got back into the rhythm of life at home with sourdough.
I started my bread-ucation with a bunch of reading: Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast (plus visits to his bakery and pizza place in Portland, OR), a pile of Peter Reinhart books, but especially Crust and Crumb, and I just loved the little 52 Loaves, by William Alexander, who taught himself bread by baking the same loaf every week for a year, including a stint in a French monastery where he helped the monks revive a baking tradition that had been lost.
After a while I zeroed in on Tartine Bread, which, with it’s 100 explanatory pages (okay, I exaggerate) for Country Sourdough production, gives a really solid starting place for the novice sourdough baker. I prefer working with his smallish quantities of moderately wet (100%) starter, which I find less prone to acetic acid production, I enjoy the hand’s-on methods and inspiring recipes . I still use this book regularly , but have now begun working with Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread, which feels like like setting out on the open road with bottomless fuel tank and adventures ahead. I know I said it before, but there’s so much to learn, and it is so ridiculously exciting.
I am a convert. As a food lover with food issues (AAARRGH!.. a story for another day), I am thrilled that I can successfully digest these delicious, long and slow fermentation breads most of the time. But there’s more to it than that. I am unabashedly obsessed with this tactile, sense-intense, productive process, one that is so tied to our histories and heritage.
Yadda yadda yadda… what about the recipe? This week I made a batch of my super delicious and healthful Morning Oats, fermented steel-cut oats with cardamom and sweetened with dried apricot and ginger. I used this soaker and a bit of walnut oil to enrich a loaf of country sourdough based on the basic Tartine formula. The result is tender, sweetly aromatic without being sweet, and really delicious.
Make the Morning Oats and allow to cool. You’ll only need 3/4 of the recipe for bread, so enjoy some porridge for breakfast too. Don’t forget to remove the cardamom pods before adding to the bread!
In a moderate oven (300-350), toast the seeds until slightly colored and just fragrant. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine 700ml warm water and starter and stir to combine. Add flours and mix to a shaggy mass. Cover, and allow the dough to rest, or “autolyse” for about 3 hours. (a shorter autolyse is fine, about an hour).
After rest, add salt and 50ml water and incorporate. Place the dough in a container with a lid that is large enough for the dough to approximately double and with enough room for you to manipulate the dough throughout its bulk fermentation.
the Bulk fermentation
Bulk fermentation is done at room temperature, which for “normal” homes is somewhere between 68F and 72F. If your house is anything like mine, unless it’s summertime, it’s a whole lot colder. Find a small space you can heat safely for this period. I heat a small guest bathroom with an area heater, and elegantly dub it the Salle du Pain. Find what works for you.
Every half hour for a period of 3 hours fold the dough: wet your hands and gently stretch the top quadrant of the dough up and then over the middle of the dough mass. Do the same for the sides, and then the bottom. Even though your dough probably isn’t rectangular like the envelope at right, you can pull the top, sides and bottom towards the middle in the same way.
With the first fold, incorporate the oat porridge soaker, nuts, and oil.
As bulk fermentation progresses, you’ll find that the expansion of the dough-due to trapped gasses within the glutinous dough structure-may make the dough more difficult to stretch and manipulate. This is a good sign! Work the folds gently so as to deflate as little as possible.
After fermentation, gently invert your dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half, then fold each portion in half, so that the side of the dough (that was floured from the work table) is now enclosing your dough. Gently round the loaves with your lightly floured hands or with a bench knife. Let rest a few minutes
Your final shaping will be like the envelope folds from before. Bring the quadrants into the center-top, sides, bottom, and place the dough into a floured bread form. An 8″ stainless mixing bowl lined with a piece of well-floured cheesecloth is perfect, or if you have baking forms (bannetton or brotform), use those.
Let rise at room temperature (68F-72F) for 3 hours, or alternately, place in fridge overnight to retard.
Preheat oven to 500F with two deep covered baking dishes inside. Baking dishes don’t have to be glamorous or cute. I retrieved my husband’s ugly old smoke-colored pyrex covered casserole from the give-away pile, and it works great.
When the oven reaches temperature, remove one baking dish, remove lid, and gently invert a loaf into the pre-heated baker. Slash the top carefully with a knife or razor blade (one slash, or two in an X work well), place the lid on top and return to the pre-heated oven. Repeat for the second loaf.
Drop temperature to 450 and set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove lids. Set timer for 20 minutes. Total baking time is 45-50 minutes, which should give you a crusty, well-burnished loaf.
Allow to cool, and enjoy!
Care and Mantenance
Naturally fermented breads have a remarkably long shelf life, especially those with higher water content. At 75%+ hydration, this bread should easily last a week, with proper care. It’s easy.
Slice what you need, and store the rest at room temperature with the cut side down. I store mine on the cutting board so it’s always easy to enjoy. That’s it! Keep plastic bags, plastic wrap, and refrigerators away, but if you must, wrap in paper. If you can’t manage a whole loaf, freezing is an option Better yet, give your extras to a new friend. There will be many.
I love a soft, squishy dinner roll. I love their yeasty aroma, the butter enriched dough, and how when they smoosh together in the pan a little and you pull them apart, the in-between layer of tender bread doesn’t know which bun to stay with, and you must eat the bit in question to resolve the conflict. I rarely eat dinner rolls, but they always come out for the holiday table. Thanksgiving is the dinner roll holiday without equal, a come-one-come-all of simple, shared food, pure and simple. It’s a ridiculously fantastic ritual we should practice year-round.
So, dinner rolls. Potato rolls, actually. My heart still goes a-pitter-patter when I see those floury potato rolls at the grocery store. For a millisecond I re-live the whiny, pre-teen pleading my sister and I performed for mom when we really wanted something–which was a big deal “back then” in the era of bum-spanked, obedience-drilled, austerity-trained children who knew to spend their whining currency very carefully. Whining was risky, and it did not go far at all. But WE HAD TO HAVE THOSE BUNS.
Now these bun are a whole-nuther story. As a fully-fledged adult, I get whichever rolls or buns I want, and these elicit no whining, just swooning and sighs. They satisfy all the memory triggers–they’re soft and squishy any craveable all on their own, but they’re way better than version.01. They greatly benefit from the rich flavor and slight tang of sourdough, plus the sweetness of honey is dreamy. I based my recipe on Simply Recipes Potato Dinner Rolls, and keep her wonderful, light-handed addition of rosemary to the dough and honey-butter glaze to the tops. I have made these with other herbs and herb combos, like fresh thyme, rosemary-lavender, or either rosemary or thyme with lemon zest, with equally fantastic results.
If you don’t keep a sourdough starter at home, I recommend giving it a try. It’s fun, it won’t take over your life (but don’t blame me if you let it), and you can come up with a silly name for your new pet. That’s mine bubbling away above.
Honey-Herb Sourdough Potato Buns
makes 24 dinner rolls
3/4 cup warm water, about 80F
1 1/2 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
150g sourdough starter (50% flour/50% water ratio)
1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
4 1/2 oz (1 stick + 1T) regular salted butter, melted and cooled
4 1/2 oz (about 1/3) c honey
3 large eggs
1T + 1t minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
750g all-purpose flour (about 6 cups)
For honey butter topping:
1/3 c regular salted butter, room temperature
3 T honey
Flaked sea salt
Place warm water in a large mixing bowl, add sugar and swirl to combine. Sprinkle dry yeast over sugar water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy. Frothy means your yeast is good and ready to grow! If it doesn’t, try again. Still no luck? You may need to purchase fresh yeast.
To the frothy yeast, add sourdough and stir to combine. Then add potatoes, milk, honey, butter and eggs. Combine. Add flour, salt, and chopped herbs. Cover the bowl loosely with a cloth, and let rest for about 30 minutes.
Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft but not sticky, and stretches without breaking right away. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rest at room temperature for about 3 hours.
(I usually ship the dough off to the fridge overnight at this point. Spray the dough lightly with oil, cover with towel and chill until you’re ready to form and bake.)
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into even thirds, divide each third in half, then each half into 4 equal pieces, to make 24 portions. I scale my portions to keep them uniform; they should weigh about 2 1/2 ounces each.
Round each dough portion by cupping your hand over the dough and rotating while putting a little pressure with your thumb and pinky to ease the bottom edges under. This creates a clean ball with a smooth surface and directs any seams to the bottomside. Working on a surface that allows the dough to drag a bit but not stick is best. So, not too much flour! More info on bun rounding here.
Place buns smooth side up on a parchment lined pan. All 24 buns fit perfectly on a half sheet pan, or 12 buns fit 2 9×13 pans (or bake in batches). Bake at 350 for a total of 20-25 minutes. While baking, prepare the glaze by melting the butter and honey gently together in a small saucepan. Let cool slightly before using. For nice golden tops, brush lightly with honey-butter glaze after 15 minutes and return to the oven for the last 10 minutes to finish the bake and brown the buns.
Let buns cool slightly, then brush the tops of the buns with glaze, then sprinkle each with crunchy, flaked sea salt.
Storing the rolls:
Breads with long sourdough fermentation periods like these have a longer shelf-life than regular breads and don’t require lots of wrapping or plastic. You also may find they get eaten up so fast you don’t have to worry about it! If I have to store them, I let them cool fully then wrap them up in parchment or in paper bags.
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know I am now the caretaker of a bubbling bucket of sourdough starter, based on Peter Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb” barm recipe. I think this is a good thing, but initially I had flashbacks to that old “Amish Friendship Bread starter from a decade or so ago–all that sugar and milk, the stress of finding unsuspecting friends to pawn it off on, and why is does the recipe have instant pudding powder in it? Is this the equivalent to the electric Amish fireplaces? But back to Peter Reinhart… when your starter turns out delicious bread like these bagels, there’s no remorse, and I hope to keep this baby going for as long as possible.
The bagels are fantastic! Bagels are denser than loaf bread by design, and these are dense, soft, and perfectly chewy and flavorful, with just a little hint of sour. The crust has tiny blisters all over, characteristic of barmy breads, a perfect crusty contrast to the chewy inside.
While the dough is pretty stiff, it’s still really easy to handle. Even using my giant mixer, I wasn’t able to get my dough to the recommended temperature after kneading (my dough reached 70F instead of the recommended 80F), but after forming they rose well in a controlled 70F environment and baked off beautifully after poaching.
I didn’t add anything to the poaching water, but for my next batch I am considering adding either some malt syrup or baking soda to the poaching water. Malt is supposed to aid in achieving good color while baking through caramelization, and soda may result in a shinier bagel. I’m not sure how shiny my bagel needs to be, but I’ll give both of those techniques a try and report back.
Before baking, I sprinkled some with sesame and a sesame-aleppo mix, others with dukkah, but left a good number plain, for the purist in me. The flavor of the bagel was so good, it didn’t need much else (except butter, always butter).
The magnificent bagels were shipped off to my husband’s office this morning, thank goodness, because I would have eaten them all. I made a batch of Green Olive Rosemary Cream Cheese Schmear to go with. Yum!
Green Olive Rosemary Cream Cheese
8 oz cream cheese
3-4 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup coarsely chopped stuffed manzanilla olives
1 T olive brine (or to taste)
2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 c chopped toasted pecans (optional)
Cream together the butter and cheese. Stir in remaining ingredients and enjoy!
For cocktail hour, wouldn’t this be delicious on tiny bagels with a martini in hand?
There’s a big junk-food holiday coming up, and I am here to help. I suppose the Super Bowl is scheduled for early February because most of us New Year’s dieters are looking for the nearest exit off of the skinny jeans highway. After January’s deprivation induced introspection, we’ve reached an understanding that happiness is where it’s really at, so how about some hot wings, pronto! The help I can offer is a delish snack that will deliver both happiness and junkiness. Oh, and virtue too. Amen. Continue reading →
Here I sit, a pastry chef, inspecting a tub of wet cement on my maple work table. No, no, no, not cement, it’s my newly born sourdough starter, a culture of wild yeasts and bacteria I mixed up on January 1 of this year and have been feeding and nurturing ever since. But I have to admit, the warm, maternal feelings were slow to come. Cement is all it seemed good for initially. I could have repaired my plaster walls with the stuff, right? Plus, it’s viscous and blobby and not pretty.
My attitude changed when it came to life. It percolated. Bubbles! For a person more accustomed to a cast of sugar, chocolate, eggs and nuts, this truly was a mystifying creature to behold. Never mind the chip Continue reading →
Who doesn’t love a dark, cocoa-y sandwich cookie with that salty-sweet white filling? After all, the Oreo has been around for over 100 years and is still famed as the best selling cookie in the US. Who am I to argue?
I’ve been making a simple, not-too-sweet dark cocoa icebox cookie for years. I love them naked, as-is. I love them dressed up and drizzled with some dark chocolate. A little fancy flaky sea salt doesn’t hurt either. Last summer during a rare break in my farmer’s market baking day I took liberties with my loyal cookie friend, squishing the sugary filling between two wafers. And so, the adorably naughty BeeWee was born! Continue reading →