5 Ingredients or Fewer

Table Loaf

February 26, 2019
80 Ratings
Photo by Gabriella Mangino
  • Prep time 48 hours
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes 1 loaf
Author Notes

This loaf is a basic, everyday bread harnessing the microbial power of sourdough as natural leavening using stone-ground flours. Although commodity, industrial brands will work in this recipe, you will likely need to decrease the amount of water needed. Practice this recipe until you feel comfortable with the process and the flours you have sourced before moving on to other more complicated recipes.

Home ovens vary widely in their performance. Use an oven thermometer to gauge the proper temperature, making minor adjustments to the preheating temperatures and baking times if necessary. If your oven is equipped with a fan assist, turn it off during baking if possible to prevent the crust from setting before the loaf has fully expanded.

I prefer my crust as thick and dark as possible, but if you are using a cast iron pot, you may need to tip the loaf out of the Dutch oven after about 25 minutes of baking time to avoid the bottom from burning before the loaf is done. This must be done carefully to avoid burning yourself. Finish baking on the middle rack for an additional 12 to 20 minutes, or to your liking.

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Food52 x Dansk Kobenstyle Casserole
- Five Two Essential Kitchen Knives
- Five Two Double-Sided Bamboo Cutting Board
Sarah Owens

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Table Loaf
  • Leaven
  • 10 grams 100% hydration active starter, refreshed (fed)
  • 25 grams whole-grain flour (rye or whole-wheat works well)
  • 25 grams water, tepid (70–75°F)
  • Bread dough
  • 60 grams leaven
  • 300 grams water, tepid (75°F)
  • 310 grams bread flour
  • 80 grams whole-wheat bread flour
  • 8 grams fine sea salt
  1. Prepare the leaven: 8 to 12 hours before you mix your dough, prepare the leaven. Place the refreshed starter and water in a large bowl and stir to break up the starter. Add the flour and mix with a spoon until no dry lumps remain. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature until you are ready to mix your dough.
  2. Mix the dough: When bubbles break the surface of the leaven, it smells ripe, and it has swelled considerably in size, add the water and stir to combine. Measure the flours into the bowl and use your hands to mix and squeeze the dough in a circular motion until no dry lumps remain. Cover and rest the dough for 20 minutes, allowing the flour to fully hydrate before adding the salt. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the surface of the dough and mix well to combine. This is an ideal time to observe your flour performance, as you may need to make adjustments with the addition of water. If the dough feels resistant to mixing and difficult to work inside the bowl, add more water in 20 to 25 gram increments, thoroughly mixing it in with the salt until the dough is no longer slick on the surface. The dough should feel supple and somewhat sticky at this point.
  3. Bulk fermentation: Place the dough back into the bowl and cover once more. Set the bowl aside in a warm location (ideally 75°F) to bulk ferment for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours (perhaps 1/2 hour shorter in the summer, possibly 1/2 hour longer in the winter months). During this time, stretch-and-fold the dough in the bowl to help develop the gluten network essential for trapping fermentation gases. To do this, wet your hands first to prevent the dough from sticking and gently slide your fingers of both hands under the dough. Release the dough from the sides of the bowl and gently fold it to the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat 3 to 4 more times until you have worked your way around the dough. Repeat this process every 30 to 45 minutes, being especially careful toward the end of bulk fermentation not to aggressively handle or deflate the dough. You should notice it progress from a ‘shaggy mass’ at the beginning of the mix to exhibiting a more cohesive and smooth character by the end of bulk fermentation.
  4. Shape the dough: When the dough has increased by at least 1/3 of its size and you see fermentation bubbles breaking the surface (about 3 1/2 to 4 hours or longer depending on room temperature), it is time to shape the dough. This is done in two stages: pre-shape with a short bench resting period, followed by a tighter final shaping. Using a bowl scraper, swiftly remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, bring the top of the dough to the center, followed by the bottom, and two sides in a north, south, east, west motion. Tuck the resulting four corners to the middle as well, resulting in a slightly rounded form. Using your bench scraper, release the dough from the surface and flip it over seam side down. Cover with plastic and allow to bench rest for 10 to 30 minutes until it visibly relaxes.
  5. To final shape, use the bench scraper to flip the dough over onto a lightly floured surface, seam side up. Starting from the top, tuck the right side to the center, holding it in place while you bring the left side to the center overlapping with the first. Repeat this side-to-side stitching until you reach the bottom of the dough. Roll the bottom toward the center, repeating as necessary until the seam is facing down, tucking as you go to create tension. Flour the top of the loaf generously. Use your bench scraper to pick up the dough and flip it over, seam side up. Cradle it into your proofing basket before covering with a cloth. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator to retard for at least 8 hours or up to 24 before baking.
  6. Before bake your loaf: Remove your loaf from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about 1 hour. When it is ready to bake, it should feel like an inflated water balloon when gently poked with your index finger. The impression should linger in the dough rather than immediately bouncing back. Depending on the temperature of your refrigerator and your kitchen, this may take more or less time to final proof before baking.
  7. Preheat a Dutch oven to 480°F on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the Dutch oven and carefully flip your loaf onto it seam side down. You may choose to sprinkle a little flour onto the surface before scoring to get a more graphic contrast, dusting off any excess. Score the top of the loaf with a razor blade about 1/4-inch deep to allow the loaf to fully expand in a controlled manner while baking. You may add additional decorative scoring flourishes but be aware that the loaf will continue to spread before going into the oven as you do so. Carefully lower it into the preheated Dutch oven, position the lid, and return it to the oven. Bake with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and lower the oven temperature 10 to 15°F. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is a deep, rusty brown or darker if desired. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Sarah Owens

Recipe by: Sarah Owens

Sarah Owens is a New York City based cookbook author, baker, horticulturist, and instructor. She was awarded a James Beard for her first book Sourdough and released her second in August 2017 titled Toast & Jam with Roost Books. Sarah curates private dining events, cooks for public pop-up dinners, and teaches baking and preservation gobally. Her subscription and wholesale bakery BK17bakery.com is located seaside in Rockaway Beach where she also teaches the alchemy and digestive benefits of natural leavening.

277 Reviews

Sunny_V February 8, 2024
This was my first ever sourdough bread bake, and I must say, I did pretty darn good. Thank you for the detailed instructions! I can only imagine the outcome if I had proofed overnight! Had sourdough grilled cheese and soup for dinner, spread butter on each slice and cooked in a cast iron skillet until bread was nice and brown and the cheese gooey. Best grilled cheese I’ve ever had! I will definitely save this in my recipes!
Cuenmartin June 10, 2023
I always make 1 1/2 recipe of levain. I am a big fan of Sarah Owens and her recipe for the Table Loaf. When I first started using her recipe I found that the levain recipe was not quite enough; so instead of stressing over it; I increase the recipe by 1/2. It is more than enough; I just weigh out 60 grams for the Table Loaf recipe and toss the extra levain.
I use 100% Rye flour for my levain and have found that I need to add a little extra water because the rye seems to be thirstier than whole wheat flour; so I need a tiny bit more water approximately 1 1/2 tsp.. Not sure what Sarah would recommend for adding a bit more water when using only rye flour for the levain?
Good luck to all you bakers!!
Sarahb June 10, 2023
Instructions to bake this in an oven without a Dutch oven? I want to try and bake multiple loaves at a time without a Dutch oven.
Nancy P. June 10, 2023
The Dutch oven allows you to bake with steam, which is critical for development of the bread. If you aren’t going to use a Dutch oven, then you’ll need to create the steam by placing a pan on the shelf below your loaves (while the oven is pre-heating) and adding a bit of water to it when you put in your loaves. This should create steam for you.
Sarahb June 10, 2023
Correct. But, is it the same time and temp, without the Dutch oven, or 2 loaves vs. 1? Do I remove the pan with water after a certain amount of time? And is a good time for adding the water to the pan, just before I add the loaves to the oven? Hope I am making sense. And thanks for the quick reply!
Nancy P. June 10, 2023
Same time and temp, and for both loaves. Do not remove the pan. I would put the loaves in and then add the water immediately and shut the door. That way, they should get the most steam. What sort of pan are you baking the loaves on?
Sarahb July 8, 2023
I’ve always used a Dutch oven, but want to try to bake multiple loaves at a time. For now I’ll use a sheet pan, until i purchase a baking steel. The pan with the added water would be removed from the oven, around the same time a lid would be removed from the pot, is that right?
Nancy P. July 8, 2023
You could remove it then, or not. The water should have all evaporated by that time. I use a sheet pan on the rack under my Dutch oven to keep the bottom of the bread from getting too dark.
Kay K. April 30, 2023
I found this video during the pandemic and baked a few loaves. This Spring, I got the baking bug again and came back to this comprehensive and soothing video. The first time around I watched so many you tube videos, I was completely confused. This recipe and video are easy to follow (even though I've watched it about 25 times and have it going during baking.) I currently have loaves #3 and #4 proofing in the fridge. I've been using Sunrise Flour Mill bread flour with a bit of fine rye and using all rye for my starter. the loaves are nutty and deeply flavorful. I'm still getting the hang of it but even failure tastes delicious! My biggest takeaway - be patient! Love the dynamic between hosts. Thank you Sarah and Josh! <3
Goose January 26, 2023
I grew my own wheat for this poop
1 star
Susan January 8, 2023
This video turned my sourdough baking around. It is the best instruction with a beautiful product that has changed my bread baking and made it much more fun.
Nancy P. November 6, 2022
I now all of Sarah’s cookbooks and they are all fabulous. This Table Loaf recipe is a great basic recipe that everyone can make.
Cuenmartin September 5, 2022
Dear Sarah -
I want to thank you for your stellar recipe, instructions and video. I had failed so many times over the years and believed I would never be able to make sourdough bread, although I was proficient at making bread with commercial yeast. It was a complete mystery to me! I had an active starter and continued to fail and finally, I watched your video, followed your instructions and recipe to the letter and made my first sourdough bread loaf. The spring was excellent, and I was more than thrilled! I have been making this bread now, for over a year and am able to make a perfect loaf every time; it is flavorful and moist. I cannot thank you enough and think of you every time I bake bread, which is once a week. Best regards -
Bgospo July 10, 2022
I double this recipe every time and have only had issues once with high hydration (the bread was fine, just a little flat). I think when you double the recipe it can be a little forgiving if you're off a bit on ingredients.

I also suggest writing out the recipe in your own words and process. There's a lot of suggested ranges and this will help keep things consistent.
fellowcitizen February 11, 2022
Loved this video and recipe as soon as I sat with it. I am a beginner sourdough bread maker and I am hooked. This was only my second time making it or any bread (I am not a baker) and it answered ALL my questions. The consistency felt a little bit sticky but I went forward anyway with the exact measurements. Perfection! I am so pleased. The details really helped. Crispy crust & tender inside. I kept in fridge for 20 hours. Thanx so much.
Dana C. April 25, 2021
I'm a newby with sour dough starter. I keep mine in the fridge but I don't use very often, maybe once a month. I find that it gets separated with liquid on top. After watching your video I know I have to keep my starter healthier. But, What do I do with the liquid? Do I have to make a new starter?
Erika Y. April 25, 2021
Just stir the liquid back in and refresh a portion with more flour and water. However, if you see black mold, toss it.
Melanie P. April 8, 2021
This recipe is the best. I read, studied and tried many other recipes before this one and hands down this is the best. It always turns out great.
Does anyone know how I would be able to teach this to my High School Culinary students. We have class five days per week, for about an hour and fifteen minutes each day? I am not sure at what points there are some flexibility to refrigerate. Thanks for any help.
SHARON S. April 8, 2021
I think it would be best to teach making the starter and then the Leaven the first lesson (have a freshened starter already made). Then, each class, have the next stage ready (will take a lot of prep on your part). ☺️
hannah52 March 24, 2021
I come back to this recipe every time I make a loaf! Especially at the beginning, I would be nervous before baking it because my load didn't always look as perfect as Sarahs and definitely didn't always have the perfect bounce back she mentions in step 6. My advice if anyone else is feeling this way as well is to just bake it!! It always comes out beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and tips!!
Pio D. January 26, 2021
This recipe was perfection. I'm on my third loaf and success every single time. Thank you for the thorough explanation and detailed info. I also tried the pizza recipe and it was amazing. Sara is the best, and Josh too :)
slradke January 26, 2021
What pizza recipe???
Charmedyarn February 10, 2021
Charmedyarn February 10, 2021
laura W. December 22, 2020
I’m an experienced sourdough baker and I come back to this formula time & time again for an everyday loaf. It’s delicious and freezes well. Try add 20 grams of spelt as part of the whole wheat component. It’s magical
Gradysandi December 29, 2020
Laura, this was encouraging to hear before taking the recipe on. I'm using it for literally my first loaf after creating my starter a few weeks ago! Rookie question; freeze the cooked loaf or the dough? Thank you! Grady
laura W. December 30, 2020
You can slice it after it cools and then freeze the slices in a ziploc bag. They're delicious pan fried in a bit of olive oil and rubbed with garlic.
Good luck with your first loaf!
Gradysandi December 30, 2020
Thanks, Laura! I guess I'll do that in the future. My loaf turned out good, not great. I think I can get a better rise and of course since my starter from scratch is just a few weeks old will get better in flavor, too. It is very good and I will eat all of it in the next few days so no excess to freeze, this time. Thanks again! Grady
Anish U. February 22, 2021
New to sourdough. If you add 20 grams of say Rye. Do you subtract that total from the whole wheat component? So instead of 80 it would be 60 grams of whole wheat?
Divya P. November 18, 2020
Hi my oven's max temperature is 240 C can I bake in that temperature, for 25 mins instead with lid closed?
JV November 1, 2020
Help: I used an active starter at its peak then made the levain, once with rye flour and another time with unbleached white and either doubled in size after 12 hours. I saw some small bubbles on top and sides but I would not say it doubled or looked terribly robust. I also kept the temperatures constant so does anyone else find this to be the case or is just me. My starter seems very strong, strong enough to push the lid open and spill out so what could be the problem. Thanks for any help.
mollyesmuffins November 1, 2020
Make sure to read how long before you make the dough you should mix the levain. Usually it’s 8-10 hours before, and if it’s bubbly you should be fine and it will work. It doesn’t need to double in size exactly. I’d say go for it and I believe it will work!
mollyesmuffins November 1, 2020
Sorry, I just re read this recipe. I’ve been following many of Sarah’s other sourdough recipes and they say 8-10 hrs. But as long as mine has bubbles that have broken the surface I continue with my recipe and it always works.
SHARON S. November 2, 2020
That happened to me too. I use Rye most of the time. I then left the levain for several more hours and it almost tripled in volume.
JV November 2, 2020
Thanks for your help Molly, much appreciated.
mollyesmuffins November 2, 2020
Let us know how it goes!
Rescue723 November 1, 2020
I’ve been baking sourdough since the start of the pandemic and I began with the very complicated recipe on the NYT cooking app. Those loaves were very unwieldy and wet, though delicious. So I’ve been experimenting. I’m the cookbook manager at a NY independent and a customer special ordered Sarah Owens sourdough cookbook, so I decided to try her recipe for Table Loaf. I have to say with a bit of experience and your very helpful video, I produced the tastiest and most beautiful sourdough yet, using a starter I’ve been cultivating for months. Highly recommended! Thank you!
JV October 25, 2020
The mistake I made with this recipe was mixing my active starter with the Levin- ingredients but not waiting for 8-12 hours before making the bread. Instead I used it a few hours later. It turned out terrible due to not following the directions properly. I should have read the directions first then watched the vidio as the vidio had a ready to go Levin, duh.
Phil.B September 8, 2020
I have tried this recipe 3 times and always the same result.
My starter and Levain are great. Both easily double in size. I follow all the steps religeously and the dough feels good but when it gets to the bulk fermentation it does not increase in size. I get air pockets but no increase in size
When I do the initial shape it is a bit of a wet blob. After shaping and resting it resembles a pancake, flat as.
I must be doing something wrong but after lots, and I mean lots of googling I am at a loss.
Would really love it if someone could shed some light on what I am doing wrong.
Anna F. September 8, 2020
It's not just you. I followed this recipe about three or four times and it came out well. Suddenly it just stopped working for me. My dough became this huge sloppy mess that could not be shaped whatever I did. I threw it out because it was a such a huge mess and it was not salvageable . So I quit this recipe and stuck with another.
SHARON S. September 8, 2020
That happened to me once. I decided my starter had gone bad. Are you making your Leaven with a "freshened" starter. Also, when I was having issues, another reviewer suggested that I may have been "over proofing" it. I started paying more attention to my time and it started coming out good again. So, before you give up on your starter or this recipe (which I love), make sure you are not over-proofing it. I was just up in the mountains and was concerned that the altitude affected my bread since it came out similar to what you described and another reviewer advised she was also at 3,400 altitude and had no issues. I then had my Leaven ferment longer - it like tripled in size and my loaves came out great then! Don't give up!!!!
Phil.B September 8, 2020
Yes fresh levain, good quality flour, indoor temp 24C today. All the signs were good until bulk then disaster.

Going to try another batch tomorrow and leave the levain for another couple of hours maybe and 25g less water maybe.
paulcc2020 September 10, 2020
I reduced the water Phil to 70-72% and gently folded throughout working in the air and building up structure, no kneading! If it comes still comes out flat try a much gentler folding touch and less water throughout to build up structure. The video shows how less is more.
Gradysandi December 29, 2020
Anna, what recipe/recourse is now your go-to? Thanks for sharing!
Anna F. December 29, 2020
Hi Gradysandi. I use the recipe from Simple Living Alaska that I follow from Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JnSMjSjbxg&t=511s You can also follow instructions underneath the video because her instructions can be a little bit confusing in the beginning. Good luck. This comes out really well!
Gradysandi December 29, 2020
Thanks, Anna! I'll check them out. I just took my first loaf out of the oven (this Sarah Owens recipe) and am excited about how it looks... May be a little on the small side and dense but won't know for a couple of hours. Thanks again!
Mariem January 2, 2022
This happened to my first loaves also. I’m in New Zealand and wondered if it is due to the flour I’m using… So I reduced the water component by 25mls and now the dough is easier to work with and shape, I get great oven spring and the loaves are delicious! A household favourite recipe 😊