Traditional sourdough bread relies on natural leavening, and was the reigning king of breads until the introduction of commercial yeasts. This easy, thick crusted yet soft-hearted bread takes much of the effort – most crucially the intensive kneading - out of crafting a perfect boule that will complement any homemade soup or chili.
In a large bowl, combine kefir and sugar. Stir in yeast and let stand for about 10 minutes or until frothy. Stir in flour, Italian seasoning and salt until a shaggy dough forms. Bring dough together with your hands incorporating all the flour mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 12 hours (overnight).
Heat oven to 450°F (232°C). When oven temperature has been achieved, place a clay pot with a lid in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn out dough onto a heavily-floured piece of parchment paper and gently shape into a ball (the dough will be sticky, so be sure to keep your hands well floured).
Wrap gently with plastic wrap and let stand while the pot is heating.
Remove hot pot from the oven with heavy oven mitts and place parchment paper and bread inside the pot. Cover pot with lid and return to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until crust is deep golden brown. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack.
Tip: Clay pots are perfect for bread baking and are less expensive than Dutch ovens. The truth is that both will work just fine and which is best is, like so many things, a matter of preference and good-natured debate.