Pilgrimage to Tartine Bakery

I'm a big fan of Tartine Bakery as well the affiliated cookbooks (here and here). I happened to be in Palo Alto last week and decided to drive into the city for a quick visit to carbohydrate heaven. The main mission: To purchase the OG country loaf that inspired my fixation on baking bread.

The key to buying a country loaf from Tartine is to pre-order it 24-72 hours in advance. They only make a limited amount of bread each day so there's no guarantee for walk-ins. Since loaves come out of the oven around 4:30pm, I went early and ate/bought pretty much everything in the bakery while I waited. My game knows no shame.

I've included some bread nerd notes at the bottom of this post.

Sliced Refrigerator Pickles with Onion and Red Pepper

This recipe is a spin on my Sriracha and Red Pepper Refrigerator Pickles. I originally made the sliced version to serve with barbecue pulled pork, but you could just as soon use these pickles as a side salad or add them to a variety of sandwiches. Maybe a fresh crusty roll with turkey, salami, swiss, pickles, roasted red peppers, and Italian dressing. Yum.

How to Make and Maintain a Sourdough Starter (aka Levain)

I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way I discovered and fixated on baking bread. Specifically, I'm referring to bread made in its purest form using only flour, water, and salt. I've baked 14 loaves to date and am in awe of how three humble ingredients can transform into one of the most delicious and comforting foods. In the interest of being overly dramatic, the fact that I made these with my own two hands is pretty magical.

"Slow bread" requires a sourdough starter (or levain) so that was my first project. Levain is a mixture of water and flour that has been converted into a leavening agent through the process of fermentation. Not only is microbiology+food fun, but you need to "feed" the levain regularly and it's apparently bad luck if you don't name it. So basically your sourdough starter is a food pet. (My starters are named "Moomin II" and "Moomin III" respectively...may "Moomin I" rest in peace.)

When I first began caring for my sourdough starter, I was neurotic about feeding times and measurements. What a sweet and naive child I was in the days of yore (3 months ago). Creating and maintaining a sourdough starter is relatively straightforward. Once you get a feel for how your levain behaves you'll develop a personalized approach.

This post streamlines what I've learned so you can create a fermented food pet to call your own. I'm happy to answer any questions about the process so just leave a comment.

Homemade Roasted Chicken Stock

Ever since posting my Roasted Vegetable Stock, I've been meaning to follow it up with a Roasted Chicken Stock recipe. The ingredients are similar but the chicken stock requires a few more considerations because of the fat and bones. Since Thanksgiving (pumpkin pie!) is only 81 days away, it seemed like a good time to make a bucket of stock for the freezer and share my thoughts on the subject.

I asked The Google quite a few questions before making my first batch of chicken stock last year. Should I leave the skin on the chicken? Does celery really make the stock bitter as Thomas Keller suggests? Does good stock have to be gelatinous? I've included some of the helpful information I found under Recipe Tips.