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.



  1. August 26, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for sharing such a nice post.
    Freeze Dried and Frozen Fruit

  2. drfugawe said,

    August 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Congrats Mimi! The cook inside you is rising to the surface – I’m convinced that until cooks start questioning “why” and “why not”, they will not have enough of a feel for cooking to be really competent – But they also must be ready for things that don’t work out – it’s important to view mistakes as learning pieces.

    Boldly carry on with your new confidence!

  3. Andreas said,

    August 26, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Truly beautiful bread with great oven spring. Jalapenos with cheese sound like a killer combination. Hooray for confidence! 🙂

  4. August 28, 2009 at 7:04 am

    […] Cumin Scented Chili Cheese Sourdough […]

  5. August 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    The shift that happens when you gain the confidence to experiment and trust your instincts is really something, isn’t it? Congratulations, the bread looks amazing!

  6. Phoo-D said,

    August 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Wow – this looks absolutely incredible! I love the combination of flavors.

  7. Paul said,

    August 29, 2009 at 2:17 am

    The recipe you figured out sounds very intriguing and one I definitely would like to try. Very nice, indeed…

  8. pragmaticattic said,

    August 30, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Wow, the bread looks amazing! Great job.

  9. Madam Chow said,

    September 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    What a great job. I’ve been gathering the courage to fully substitute starter for yeast, and this post helped a lot!

    • Mimi said,

      September 1, 2009 at 4:31 pm

      I’m glad I can help.

      One thing you’lll notice when you start to experiment on your own is that proofing times will be a little longer with the starter. I don’t really mind because I usually set aside a day for baking and I think the longer fermentation times helps the flavor, but it is something to be aware of and be ready for.

  10. Mary Dunaway said,

    March 22, 2010 at 6:38 am

    This is the recipe I’ve been looking for since we took a trip to Colorado several years ago. However, I need a good starter recipe to begin my sourdough. What do you use for that? Thanks so much.

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