I found my sourdough mojo


Lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is the state I have been in when it comes to my bread baking. Since I often want to bake things that call for commercial yeast but I refuse to do it without using my liquid sourdough starter instead, I feel wary about my decisions since so often things get crazy in the kitchen as I try to use a liquid starter in place of dry yeast.

Today something felt so right. I decided to bake a recipe from Sunset magazine that I have been wanting to try for years. Years ago I would have accepted the recipe for what it was. A sourdough bread with a distinctly south of the border spice but the strange decision to use a very Italian cheese for flavor.

As I looked the recipe over for the first time in years, my brain started to make the cooking decisions I so often shy away from in bread baking. I recently saw an article that defined the different kinds of yeast. The article defined starter and said that two cups of starter has the same leavening power as a packet of active dry yeast. I knew right away that the cup of starter called for in the recipe would not leaven my bread quickly. I decided to up the starter to a cup and a half. But… that would throw off the ratio of flour to liquid. I decided a quarter cup of cornmeal would soak up the extra liquid and give the bread a little more bite and flavor. The cheese just seemed wrong to me. Jalapenos just scream out for cheddar or jack. I decided to increase the cheese to a half a cup and use a sharp white cheddar instead. Something still seemed missing….what to do, what to do?? I remembered how much I loved the caraway seeds in the sour corn rye I made a few weeks ago. Is there something similar I could use that would give this bread the same texture and punch that the caraway seeds did in my rye bread? Oh… yes… I had whole cumin seeds in my pantry. I took a taste of one and it was so good!

The dough came together as if the recipe was prewritten with my changes. It seemed so perfect. I baked the bread which smelled so delicious. I pulled it out of the oven and it looked amazing. After it cooled, I sliced it and tasted it. The bread was not spicy in a hot way but had a pleasing complex flavor the way that good Indian food does. As I sampled the bread, my mind went wild imagining all of the food this bread could accompany, the interesting sandwiches it could make and the kick ass croutons that would be so delicious on soups and salads. I think I have my baking confidence now.

I am submitting this lovely bread to YeastSpotting on Wild Yeast.  Click here to see all of the other wonderful yeasty baked goods that other people have made this week.


Cumin scented chili cheese sourdough

3 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup rye flour

¼ cup cornmeal

1 tsp salt

½ cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup water

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

1 tbsp honey

¼ cup minced jalapeno chilies

1 tbsp whole cumin seeds

In a large bowl, combine, white flour, rye flour, cornmeal, salt and cheese. In another bowl, combine water, starter and honey. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until a dough forms. Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a wooden board. Mix and knead the dough until it is well combined and pliable. Flatten the dough. Add the minced Jalapeno chilies and the cumin seeds. Wrap the dough around the chilies and seeds and then continue to knead vigorously for 12 – 14 minutes making sure that the chilies and seeds are well distributed throughout the dough. Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled about 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball and place it in a floured banneton. Let the dough rise until doubled again up to 3 hours.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.