Jalapeño-Cheddar Sourdough Bread

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Growing up here in New Mexico means constant exposure to spicy foods. Red and green chile grow well here in the arid southwest of the USA, and you'll find a spicy version of everything on the menu (even sushi). And for good reason, really, there's an addictive quality to a well-roasted chile, and regardless of your spiciness tolerance, you might find if you eat it often you'll soon begin to crave its impact and flavor. With this jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread I'm channeling some of this, even if I call for jalapeño and not green chile, where the former is typically less spicy than the latter2.

I'm certainly not the first baker to bake this combination, and I honestly can't say where I first saw it (perhaps from my Southwest neighbor Barrio Bread), but after baking this in testing, I'm not sure I can avoid baking this often (and especially for visiting guests). I adore the aroma of the green, grassy jalapeños when chopped and mixed into the dough—so vibrant, so fresh, so pungent. The cheddar steals the spotlight when the bread is baking, though, and depending on how you shred, slice, or cube the cheese, you can either have a gentle or extremely evident melting situation—do as prefer, and more on this later.

Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread crust
Hello gooey, cheesy crust.

This is one of those loaves that's less on the refined side and more on the do-whatever-it-wants side. But, melted cheese.

The flavor of this bread is spicy, but for me, not so much you can't feel your tongue at the end of each bite. The savory and salty contribution from the cheese balances out the spice of the jalapeños, and the two work in unison to make those tastebuds dance.

Flour and ingredient selection

Flour

Any high-quality whole wheat flour will work well for the whole-grain portion of this loaf. I used Carolina Ground whole wheat for the entire 30%, which brought a significant amount of flavor all on its own.

I also call for a 5% addition of whole rye flour, which I've come to realize is one of my favorite ways to bring color to the crust and add in some of that delicious and hearty rye flavor. It's not a lot, but with rye, even a little goes a long way. If you don't have rye flour, substitute it out for more whole wheat or even whole spelt.

Jalapeño

I used your standard green jalapeño from the market for the pepper component in this recipe. However, you could also go with a serrano for a more spicy result, or fire-roasted green chile to go full New Mexican (and it's so, so good). While you may not always see little green bits of jalapeño in the interior of the loaf, you'll taste and smell its impact.

Adding jalapeño and cheddar cheese to dough in bulk fermentation
Adding jalapeño and cheddar cheese to dough in bulk fermentation.

Cheese

I've tested this with aged yellow and white cheddar and both are excellent. My preference, though, is for thickly shredded aged yellow sharp cheddar, which not only looks visually stunning, it tastes great when paired with the spicy jalapeño.

If you thickly cut or cube the cheese instead of shred it, you'll end up with pockets of slightly melted cheese throughout the loaf, which may or may not be your thing. I find a combination works really well: some shredded (for maximum dispersion through the loaf) and some cut thick (for an unexpected and always welcome pool of golden flavor). Pre-shredded sharp cheddar is a great option for the cheese.

Jalapeño cheddar sourdough bread schedule

Baking schedule

This jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread is made over the course of two days. Cold proofing this dough brings additional flavor, but you can always do a same-day bake. Instead of placing the shaped dough into the refrigerator to proof overnight (shape retarded), leave it out, covered, to proof for 1-3 hours (depending on kitchen temperatures, colder means longer) until ready to bake.

Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread formula

Vitals

Total Dough Weight1,800 grams
Hydration75%
Pre-fermented Flour8.50%
Levain in final dough19.51%
Yield2 x 900g loaves

This recipe makes two loaves. If you'd like to make a single loaf of jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread, divide all the ingredients in half. See my guide to using baker's percentages for further help with scaling.

Total formula

Desired dough temperature: 78°F (25°C). See my post on the importance of dough temperature for more information on dough temperatures.

WeightIngredientBaker’s Percentage
629gMedium-protein bread flour or All-purpose flour (~11% protein, Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft, or King Arthur Baking All-Purpose)75.00%
168gWhole wheat flour (Carolina Ground Whole Wheat or King Arthur Baking Whole Wheat)20.00%
42gWhole rye flour (Central Milling Whole Rye)5.00%
210gSharp cheddar cheese 25.00%
67gJalapeño pepper, finely diced (1-2 medium peppers)8.00%
34gHoney4.00%
587gWater 1 (levain and autolyse)70.00%
42gWater 2 (reserve for mixing)5.00%
15gFine sea salt1.80%
7gRipe sourdough starter0.85%
Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough shaped as a boule
Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough shaped as a boule.

Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread method

1. Prepare the levain – 9:00 p.m. (the night before mixing)

Mix the following ingredients in a container and leave them covered to ripen at a warm temperature, about 74-76°F (23-24°C) for 12 hours.

WeightIngredientBaker’s Percentage
36gMedium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour50.00%
36gWhole wheat flour50.00%
72gWater100.00%
7gRipe sourdough starter10.00%

2. Autolyse and prepare jalapeño and cheddar – 8:30 a.m. (the next morning)

This recipe uses the autolyse technique to increase the extensibility of the dough and make mixing by hand easier. Add the following to a mixing bowl and mix until incorporated. Let the mixture rest, covered, for 30-minutes.

WeightIngredient
593gMedium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour
132gWhole wheat flour
42gWhole rye flour
516gWater 1 (this is the remaining water 1 after taking some for levain and soaker)

At this time it's also convenient to wash and finely dice the jalapeño peppers and shred or cube the cheddar cheese. Place the two in a small bowl and reserve until called for in bulk fermentation.

WeightIngredient
67gJalapeño, washed and finely diced
210gSharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed

3. Mix – 9:00 a.m.

WeightIngredient
34gHoney
42gWater 2
15gFine sea salt
149gRipe levain (from step 1)

Add the honey, levain, and salt to the top of your dough already in the mixing bowl, and use a splash of water 2 to moisten. Mix the additions in thoroughly and if the dough feels like it can handle it, add the remainder of the water. Next, knead the dough for a few minutes either with the slap and fold technique or do folds in the bowl. For this dough, I did this for about 5 minutes until the dough begins to smooth out and become elastic.

Transfer the dough to a container for bulk fermentation and cover.

4. Bulk fermentation – 9:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. (3 1/2 hours)

At a warm room temperature, around 74-76°F (23-24°C), bulk fermentation should take about 3 1/2 hours. If your kitchen is cooler, place your bulk container in a small home dough proofer, or extend the bulk fermentation time to give the dough more time to ferment. This dough needs around three sets of stretch and folds during this time.

Adding jalapeño and cheddar cheese to dough during bulk fermentation
Adding jalapeño and cheddar cheese to dough during bulk fermentation

After the first thirty minutes into bulk fermentation, but before you give your dough its first set of stretches and folds, spread about 1/4 of the jalapeños and cheese over the top of the dough. Then, grab one side of the dough and stretch it up and over it to the other side. Next, spread on another 1/4 of the inclusions to the new top. Rotate the bowl 180° and perform another stretch and fold. Spread on another 1/4 of the inclusions, rotate the bowl 90° and do another stretch and fold. Finally, spread on the last of the peppers and cheese, turn the bowl 180°, and do one last stretch and fold.

And the end of each set, try to have the dough neatly folded up in the bowl.

The remaining two sets of stretch and folds should be more gentle. After the third set, let the dough rest, covered, for the remainder of bulk fermentation.

5. Divide and preshape – 12:45 p.m.

At the end of bulk fermentation, your dough should have risen in the container, but not a great deal. You should see signs of strong fermentation: some bubbles, a smooth texture, and an increase in elasticity (strength). As you can see below, my dough was ready to divide.

Dough at end of bulk fermentation
The dough at end of bulk fermentation.

Fill a bowl with some water and place it on your work surface. Scrape out your dough from the bulk container onto your dry counter. Divide the mass in half using a bench knife. Using a wet hand and the knife in the other, gently preshape each half into a taut round.

This dough was still rather elastic and only required a very gentle preshape. Avoid being too aggressive with the dough, which may cause it to tear given the high percentage of peppers and cheese added.

Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

6. Shape – 1:15 p.m.

Shaped jalapeño-cheddar sourdough
Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread shaped as a batard (oval).

I shaped this dough as both a boule (round) and a batard (oval) in testing—both work equally well. After shaping, place the dough seam side up in a 10-inch long proofing basket lined with canvas or a clean kitchen towel.

7. Proof – 1:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. (overnight)

Cover the baskets with a large, reusable plastic bag and seal it shut. Then, place the baskets into your refrigerator to proof overnight.

8. Bake – 9:00 a.m. (next day)

Preheat your oven with a baking stone or Baking Steel inside to 450°F (230°C).

NOTE: I would recommend that whatever method you use to bake this jalapeńo-cheddar sourdough bread, you use a piece of parchment paper below the dough—the cheese tends to leak out of the dough just a bit!

I baked these loaves in my Challenger bread pan, but you could also follow my guide to steaming an oven for baking bread.

Score each piece of dough and slide it into the oven—bake for 20 minutes with steam. Then, remove the steaming pans from inside the oven (or remove the lid to your baking pan) and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the crust is deeply colored and the interior temperature registers around 204°F (95°C).

Once fully baked, cool your loaves on a cooling rack for 1-2 hours. See my post on the best way to store bread to keep it fresh for a week or longer.

Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread crust

When I was in college one of my favorite snacks was simply a plate of tortilla chips with shredded cheddar and a can of Hatch green chile on top, microwaved for 30 seconds to ensure a gooey situation was properly achieved—ahh the humanity! It was my form of quick “nachos,” and for some reason, this bread brought me back to the old days of cooking in the dorm with nothing but a microwave. While this bread is certainly a level up (maybe 10 levels?), the ethos of that snack somehow pervades. And the funny thing is, every time I bake this bread I now snack on it in just the same way, that is to say, slices toasted and eaten plain right off a plate.

This jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread is an absolute treat and I hope you enjoy it just the same as I have been while sitting in my kitchen, thinking back to simpler times and just how special cheddar cheese can be on almost everything.

Buon appetito!

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Jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread crust

Jalapeño-Cheddar Sourdough Bread

  • Author: Maurizio Leo
  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 25 hours
  • Yield: 2 loaves
  • Category: Bread, Sourdough

Description

This savory sourdough bread with fresh jalapeño and cheddar cheese is a gooey, savory treat.


Ingredients

Levain

  • 36g medium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 36g whole wheat flour
  • 72g water
  • 7g ripe sourdough starter

Main Dough

  • 593g medium-protein bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 132g whole wheat flour
  • 42g whole rye flour
  • 210g Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
  • 67g Jalapeño, finely diced
  • 34g Honey
  • 558g water (water 1 + water 2)
  • 15g salt
  • 149g levain (from above, made in step 1 below)

Instructions

  1. Levain (9:00 p.m.)
    In a small bowl or jar, mix the Levain ingredients. Cover the jar and keep it at a warm temperature for 12 hours.
  2. Autolyse and prepare inclusion (8:30 a.m)
    In a medium mixing bowl, add the 593g medium-protein bread flour, 132g whole wheat flour, 42g whole rye flour, and 516g water 1 and mix until no dry bits remain. Cover the bowl and let rest for 1-hour. Wash and dice the jalapeño peppers and shred/cube the cheddar cheese. Reserve until bulk fermentation.
  3. Mix (9:00 a.m.)
    Add the honeylevain, and salt to the top of your dough already in the mixing bowl, and use a splash of water 2 (reserved water) to moisten. Mix the additions in thoroughly and if the dough feels like it can handle it, add the remainder of the water. Next, knead the dough for a few minutes either with the slap and fold technique or do folds in the bowl. For this dough, I did this for about 5 minutes until the dough begins to smooth out and become elastic. Transfer the dough to a container for bulk fermentation and cover.
  4. Bulk Fermentation (9:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.)
    This dough will need 3 sets of stretches and folds during bulk fermentation where the first set starts after 30 minutes into bulk fermentation and the subsequent sets are at 30-minute intervals. During the first set of stretches and folds, add the jalapeño and cheese as you perform each stretch and fold. After the third set of stretches and folds, let the dough rest, covered, for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
  5. Divide and Preshape (12:45 p.m.)
    Lightly flour your work surface and scrape out your dough. Using your bench knife, divide the dough in half. Lightly shape each half into a round shape. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, uncovered.
  6. Shape (1:15 p.m.)
    Shape the dough into a round (boule) or oval (batard). Then, place the dough in proofing baskets, seam side up.
  7. Proof (1:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. the next day)
    Cover proofing baskets with reusable plastic and seal shut. Then, place both baskets into the refrigerator and proof overnight.
  8. Bake (The next day, bake at 9:00 a.m.)
    Preheat your oven with a baking surface or combo cooker/Dutch oven inside to 450°F (230°C).

    I recommend baking this dough on a piece of parchment as the cheese might melt out slightly. When the oven is preheated, remove your dough from the fridge, score it, and transfer it to the preheated baking surface or combo cooker. Bake for 20 minutes with steam. After this time, vent the steam in the oven or remove the lid (you can keep it in the oven or remove it) and continue to bake for 30 minutes longer. When done, the internal temperature should be around 204°F (95°C).

    Let the loaves cool for 2 hours on a wire rack before slicing.


Notes

  • Yellow or white sharp cheddar cheese will work equally well for this recipe
  • Instead of jalapeño peppers, use serrano or fire-roasted green/red chile for a more spicy bread

  1. Though this is not always true, it depends on the chile variety used.

  2. Though this is not always true, it depends on the chile variety used.

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