Rustic rye sourdough bread with milk kefir

Freestyling is a kind of skill I am still learning in my life. It's about how to act spontaneously, from the heart and without being burdened by many "what if-s" and "it should-s". It's about riding the flow and about being present in each moment, observing what is happening and re-acting accordingly.

Writing this, I remembered the words by John F. Demartini, one of the most inspiring people on the planet, that whenever we think something is missing in our lives, we actually already have it - but just in different form. I realized that in my life freestyling comes in the form of sourdough bread baking.

I visualize, mix and then I ride the flow - the act of creating something new.

In today's post I share my latest freestyling - rustic rye sourdough bread with milk kefir. This hearty and warm loaf will charm you with its deep earthy flavor and lightness in every bite.  Just like that - spontaneously.

Rustic rye sourdough bread

Rustic rye sourdough bread with milk kefir
Yields: one big loaf

Baking schedule:
This bread was mixed in the morning, left to rise for 3 hours at the room temperature, shaped, left to rise again at the room temperature and baked on a baking stone.

250 g whole grain rye flour
250 g white wheat flour
110 g milk kefir
250 g water
200 g active whole grain rye sourdough starter (100 % hydration)
10 g fine sea salt


1. In the evening prepare your sourdough starter. Mix 100 g of whole grain rye flour with 100 g of water and one teaspoon of your active (or straight from the fridge) sourdough starter and let it ferment until puffed and bubbly (until the next morning).

2. In the morning, dissolve all of your risen starter in the mixture of 110 g of milk kefir and 250 g of water. Next, add all of the flour (500 g), and 10 g of salt and mix all ingredients until they come together. Knead the dough for 5 minutes so it becomes a little bit stretchier. Since there is rye flour, the dough will stick to your fingers. Try to wet your hands in-between the kneading from time to time to avoid that.

Rustic rye sourdough bread

Left: mature rye sourdough starter. Right: Mixed dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and let it rise until doubled in volume. Cover it with a lid or a piece of cling film to prevent the dough from drying out. My dough needed three hours to double, yours might take less or more, depending on the environmental temperature and activity of your starter. If you want to speed up the fermenetation, place the bowl to a warm place, i.e. slightly warm oven.

4. When the dough has risen, take it out to the working surface using your plastic dough scraper. Dust the dough with a flour, flip it upside down and fold it in half and slightly shape it into a ball. Let it rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, prepare a piece of parchment paper and dust it with any bran (I used spelt bran) or coarsely milled flour.

5. Take your bench knife and transfer the dough to a parchment paper. Use your hands to shape the dough to a round shape (see the photo below) and then generously dust it with any of white flours (I used wheat flour). As the dough will rise and expand  it will leave a beautiful pattern (see the photo of the baked bread above).

Rustic rye sourdough bread

Left: Proofed dough ready to be shaped. Right: shaped bread.

6. Leave the bread to rise. My dough took 2 hours, yours might take less or more. As the dough will rise, it will expand and it also might tear at some places, but that's OK. How will you know your bread is ready to be put in the oven? Check the dough by pressing it lightly with your finger from time to time. If the indent comes back slowly, it is ready.

7. At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready to be put in the oven, preheat your baking stone and a separate baking tray that you put on the lower rack to the highest temperature of your oven.

8. When ready, load the bread with a parchment paper on a pizza peel and slide it on a baking stone. Throw 10 ice cubes on a baking tray, close the oven door and lower the temperature to 230°C (446°F). Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 220°C (428°F). Bake for another 30 minutes or until the bread's crust gets beautifully dark. When baked, let it cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 hours before slicing.

If the bread was perfectly fermented, it will feel light in your hands and the crumb will be uniformly aerated. The crumb of the underproofed bread will be dense and crust pale. 

Rustic rye sourdough bread

Enjoy your bread with a slice of sheep cheese, fresh tomatoes and a glass of wine ;)

15 thoughts on “Rustic rye sourdough bread with milk kefir

    1. Hana, thank you for testing out the recipe, I really appreciate it :)

      Looking forward to see your bread, I know it’s going to be delicious.

      Cheers to my fellow baker, Natasa

  1. Wow, this truly lookes amazing. Goes directly in my to-do-recipe list ;-) Do you use white wheat because of gluten? I usually make a bread with only whole rye flour bread and it comes out nice. I just want to try with a kefir…What do you mean by 100% hydration? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ivy!

      Apologies for late reply!
      Yes, you are right, I used it for a little gluten, it gives nice soft crumb, though it could work with only rye as well (with little bit of hydration adjustment), need to try that in the future, thank you for reminder :)

      100% hydration means the equal amounts of flour and water. So, to get 200 g of starter, mix 100 g of flour and 100 g of water.

      Hope your bread turns out great, would love to see it, if you make it in the future :)

      Wish you a nice day,

  2. Hey Natasa,
    I have made this bread yesterday and it turned out very well with a nice softness. It was actually the first time using kefir for me, usually I go for buttermilk. But I might just use kefir again :) It is a rather flat bread so with that the shape is a bit unusal, but that’s totally fine with me as the taste is so nice :)
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!


    1. Hi Lea!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience, so happy you like it! :)

      Yes, it’s a free from loaf so anything can happen with the shape :) but very delicious, I like to eat it with cheese and pickles.

      I’ll be back with some new recipes soon ;)
      Enjoy, Natasa

  3. can’t thank you enough! I be made this and loved it! this is a keeper.
    keep up the good sourdough work and I’m following you all the way from Cyprus!!!

  4. Hi Natasa!

    I have a question for you. Do you think that if I used whole white wheat flour, the dough will become too dense to rise?

    Thank you!

  5. Hi Natasa, I would like to give a try to your rye bread recipe, but I have not milk kefir..will it work but I replace it with milk?

    1. I wouldn’t use milk as substitute. Better to use another type of plain yogurt. I have done this recipe many times and it is fantastic

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