Kefir Whey Sourdough No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread Questions

Kefir Whey Sourdough No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread Questions

Submitted by in_quest on November 12, 2015 – 4:30pm.

My need is for counsel from sage TFL members who have achieved more success than I with this kind of bread, or most of its key variables: no-knead technique, kefir whey, refrigerated fermentation, dutch oven baking.

My nirvana goal: a (mostly) reliable low-labor recipe and technique for a well-risen, tasty, holey, crusty artisan outcome (not a soft sandwich loaf).

Over time, I’ve tried to compile, understand, and eclectically merge ideas from a host of what appeared to be smart articles and books (source bibliography is available) into my own recipe. And while I like a lot of my progress, it still doesn’t hit my desired expectations. After every effort, I try to hypothesize the most likely improvements and carefully modify both my working version of my text recipe, as well as a careful math formula spreadsheet for my next venture.

My hope is that I’ve thought through enough experienced shortcomings and issues that I can somewhat competently articulate relevant issues, at least enough so you might be willing to help.

Rather than overload this post with all the minute recipe details and variations so far, I will try to summarize enough information to allow for your useful reply.

Several factors guided me to pursue this kind of recipe. Start with I love a chewy, crusty, sturdy loaf that I can thin-slice to make great adult flat hand-sized sandwiches that don’t fall apart. I love the tangy taste of sourdough, whether rye or wheat. I want to minimize hands-on time for preparation. And I’d like to have some flexibility in controlling the timeline.

No-Kneed seemed to support cutting back on hands-on preparation time. Dutch Oven seemed to support better achievement of oven spring. Kefir Whey attracted me because I always have a batch of kefir going, and this seemed to be an approach to get sourdough type taste (and maybe some rise) without the repetitive maintenance and builds of true sourdough. Refrigerated fermentation seemed to build taste and texture while providing timeline flexibility.

My recipe to-date summarized:


Most recent version:
736 g (90%) AP flour,
70 g (10%) dark rye flour, [have also tried various proportions of bread flour, whole wheat flour, spelt flour, AP and rye flours];
24.3 g (2.9%) vital gluten flour;
8.3 g (1.0%) diastatic malt powder,
8.4 g (1.0%) instant yeast [relying totally on whey worked, but not as well],
20.1 g (2.4%) salt;
29 g (3.5%) wheat bran;
694 g (83%) milk kefir whey.
Total 1605 g.


  1. Warm kefir whey to room temperature.
  2. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients.
  3. Add and mix in kefir whey.
  4. Cover bowl; allow dough to rise about 2 hours (approximately double).
  5. Refrigerate plastic covered bowl 2-5 days.
  6. Flour and “gluten cloak” dough, quickly and lightly shaping into ball.
  7. Plastic cover dutch oven; allow to rise in warm place about 2 hours to double or a little less.
  8. Preheat oven and dutch oven lid to 450°F for 30 min.
  9. Slash and mist dough; cover with heated metal lid. Bake 40 min.
  10. Lower heat to 400°F; bake until probe registers 205°F internal temperature.
  11. After 10 min, remove loaf to cool on rack until room temperature.

Results: Gluten strands in the refrigerated dough are beautiful. Typically, I’ve been getting only about 3 ½ to 3 ¾ inch high loaves the diameter of the dutch oven. (I’ve used a 3 ½ quart vessel for doughs weighing about ¾ the one described above.) The crust is good, crumb is chewy, but the holes are fairly small and uniform. (Crust is not as crunchy and crumb somewhat gummy when lid is removed after 20 min.)

So now my questions:

  • Are there ways to simplify this recipe and still achieve my goal (2nd sentence)?
  • How do I get higher rise and bigger holes?
  • Is the vital gluten a help or hindrance?
  • Would autolyse before adding non-flour ingredients make a significant difference?
  • Can 1st or 2nd rises be improved?
  • Does pre-heating the Dutch Oven make a real difference (several articles say “no”)?
  • Does internal capacity of the Dutch Oven matter (i.e., is there an optimum dough:oven volume ratio)?
  • How should lid-on time and temperature intervals be adjusted for loaf volume?
  • Optionally, I like to add some wheat bran. Proportionately, how much can I add without sacrificing loaf size and texture?
  • Any other relevant self-discoveries and observations you deem helpful?

1st time posting in this august forum; please be gentle.

Thanks for your help!