5 Ingredients or Fewer

Table Loaf

February 26, 2019
60 Ratings
Photo by Gabriella Mangino
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. —Sarah Owens

Watch This Recipe
Table Loaf
  • Prep time 48 hours
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 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
In This Recipe
Directions
  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.

  • Pio Del Castillo
    Pio Del Castillo
  • Divya Pandeswara
    Divya Pandeswara
  • David Harding
    David Harding
  • suziqcu
    suziqcu
  • Erika Yen
    Erika Yen
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.

261 Reviews

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
https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Ffood52.com%2Frecipes%2F83103-salad-pizza-with-mushrooms-mozzarella-recipe%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR2WcwTRJRngRVEcrGaVzvtQedg8FlbuuCyptaMl24Py_z0NZAD_YodwGkM&h=AT1vl2j-J46AI6pdew3ss3eawmISp-OkxgbBZPdwBv1UnHtQQM5io3iPDxsRZNawVJ2BR4_NvaL9qEJtbrTpEoMJ385MuUETaOHzuKjI1dr8T21-a1bmzm6wtZ5t0OF4YUFKNQWOuZ30
 
Charmedyarn February 10, 2021
https://food52.com/recipes/83103-salad-pizza-with-mushrooms-mozzarella-recipe?fbclid=IwAR2WcwTRJRngRVEcrGaVzvtQedg8FlbuuCyptaMl24Py_z0NZAD_YodwGkM
 
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
Help!
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
Hello,
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!
 
sonaliddas September 5, 2020
Despite 3 attempts, my leaven never measures 60 grams. It's always about 10 grams short despite using accurate measurements. Anyone have any ideas why and how I can fix this?
 
Julie J. September 6, 2020
Yes I think I can help. Just like after you feed your starter, your levain deflates after a certain point. How long are you leaving it out before you begin to make your dough? If it’s 24 hours that’s way too long. It could be that the temperature in your kitchen is making it deflate sooner. I would use it RIGHT at the 8 hour mark. And make sure you’re keeping it covered and in the counter. Oh and Also is your starter ready to use when you’re adding it to the levain? Does it pass the float test. If you do all of these things, it should be fool proof.
 
sonaliddas September 6, 2020
My kitchen is on the warmer side during these summer months. I was leaving it out for around 12 hours but I cannot be exactly sure. My starter did pass the float test when I added it originally. I'll try all the things you mention and see if anything changes.
 
paulcc2020 September 10, 2020
I made 25% extra starter the night before, took out the required amount on the day and used the remainder for my next starter Sonaliddas. So long as you use equal amounts of flour & water you can make more as a safety margin. Use an elastic band to mark it, and wait until expands and perhaps even doubles in height the next day. It's doesn't have to be precise or even float, just expand with air bubbles.
 
Bakerboy February 26, 2021
Sure. You can fix it by making sure that the weight of your ingredients adds up to 60grams.
 
SHARON S. August 21, 2020
I have been making Sarah's recipe for some time and love it. I am wondering if anyone have made it in a "high altitude"? I am in the mountains (3,800 feet) for a couple of weeks and think I need to make an adjustment. Can anyone shed some light? Thanks! Sharon :)
 
Cathy K. August 21, 2020
Hi. I'm at 3400 feet and follow the directions. However I did change from a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven to Staub. The Lodge just charred it too much. I hope that helps and good luck. LOVE this recipe and bake it all the time!
 
Beena August 13, 2020
Following the 3 part video of this recipe took my sourdough bread game from complete beginner dense loaf to the best I've made so far. The first couple times the dough was too wet for me to handle but after I reduced the water by 30 gms it's been coming out perfect nearly every time. The game changer for me was also using the dutch oven method and the high heat. I was baking at 450 before. Thank you for the amazing directions and recipe.
 
David H. August 8, 2020
What a superb recipe, I have followed this for the last three weeks and I am getting some fabulous loaves, we don’t eat any other bread now except for homemade sourdough!
 
Tjgoside July 25, 2020
Outstanding recipe! First time I attempted sourdough bread, it was a disaster and scared me away from trying again for a year. Found this recipe, followed it step by step, watching the video was a huge help, and I nailed it. I saw in the comments that some people were complaining about the dough being too wet, I think using great quality, organic flour will help with this issue. Low quality flour gives low quality bread. Thank you again Sarah! Now my family gets to enjoy sourdough every week! :)
 
Nathan L. July 17, 2020
No disrespect to Sarah, but, these directions are pretty confusing, even for someone who has been making sourdough bread for several years now. For anyone who is having trouble finding a "beginners recipe" that is much much simpler to follow I suggest you tube "Bake With Jack" and watch his video called "Sourdough 101." I have recommended it to several friends who were trying to learn sourdough during this pandemic and it's worked well for everyone. Cheers!
 
2tattered July 17, 2020
Only confusing for someone who struggles with reading comprehension....
 
Julie J. July 17, 2020
It is somewhat involved but to me it isn't too much work per day and the results are beyond worth it. I've made this recipe probably 10 times by now and the results just keep getting better. Yesterday I baked 4 back to back. I've tried other recipes but this bread comes out unbelievably delicious and the slice freeze and reheat perfectly!
 
Nathan L. July 17, 2020
Way to go Tracey. Thanks for being so positive and kind. Have a wonderful day.
 
Nathan L. July 17, 2020
Cool glad to hear Julie. I was only saying this because if you read through the comments/reviews there are MANY people having trouble with this recipe. I'm not saying it's a bad recipe I'm simply saying it is not for beginners.
 
2tattered July 17, 2020
Passive-aggressive King of the Universe, perhaps?🤗
 
J. R. October 9, 2020
unhelpful reply
 
J. R. October 9, 2020
second unhelpful reply from 2tattered
 
Anna F. July 9, 2020
Well twice in a row I haven't managed to create a firm looking dough. So today after hours of stretching and pulling and relaxing the result was this mess of wet, extremely sticky pizza dough. Then I tried to shape it over and over again and I just made it worse. So I just pitched the watery looking lump of slime into the compost bin and will never make this recipe again. I'm done.
 
Julie J. July 9, 2020
Noo! don't give up. I am a newbie and I have tried 5 different recipes but I always come back to this one bc it makes the most delicious bread. At first it wasn't rising enough but it always comes out as bread and tastes good. When did it feel like it was all going south? I personally have to add less water AND extra flour to this recipe in order for the dough to look like hers during bulk fermentation.
 
Julie J. July 9, 2020
If you go over the 3 hours of stretch and fold and its humid then it can become tooo sticky and past the point of no return
 
Anna F. July 9, 2020
Yep. And frankly, my patience was wearing thin so I just threw it out. I'm not making this again. I do have one that comes out beautifully.
 
Anna F. July 9, 2020
I think it need a WHOLE lot more flour that's for sure. But I've tried maybe four different recipes and I have one that comes out amazing. I just wanted to switch flours and try this one again. FAIL.
 
drileung July 9, 2020
What size of proofing basket did you use?
 
drileung July 9, 2020
Please disregard. I just saw the answer on the "questions" tab.
 
Baking N. July 3, 2020
As a baking newb that has never gone beyond the bread machine, I followed these instructions to the letter, and made a perfect loaf on the first time! And, the second and third! While I have nothing to compare these breads to, I think they are fantastic. On the third loaf, I decreased the water by 10ml and increased the whole wheat flour by 10g because the dough for the first two loaves was very wet. The wetter dough was harder to handle but still made great bread. The flour I'm using does not absorb as much water as the flour in the recipe so I'm tweaking the recipe. Thank you, Sarah! And Food52, I never imagined making bread this good.
 
suziqcu July 3, 2020
I just got Sarah's book "Sourdough" and tried the friendship bread. After stretch and fold I was saddened that it hadn't really risen much. My starter was active when I started process. I carefully measured and followed all directions. After overnight fermentation in refrigerator, my dough doesn't look much different, sadly. I have gone over all directions and I am so disheartened. This is my second attempt in 2020 and I don't know what is going so wrong. I had high hopes after buying the book. I've watched the video numerous times.
 
Claire July 3, 2020
What was the temperature of the dough during the first fermentation?
 
slradke July 3, 2020
I'm sorry you are struggling with these recipes. I've followed both the video and a number of recipes from her book, and they have turned out perfect every time. Not sure where you are going wrong, but maybe your starter isn't active enough? Have you successfully baked other recipes with the same starter? Also, you didn't say how it baked, only that it didn't rise after stretch & fold, and in fridge. I find that the dough doesn't rise that much, especially after the long cold fermentation. The rise really happens in the first 20 min in the oven when its either in the dutch oven, or on a stone with a pan of water for moisture below it (depending on your baking preference). So, how did your actual bake go?
 
suziqcu July 4, 2020
It was in a room with a temperature between 73-75 degrees. I didn't realize it was the leaven that should sit overnight...my fault entirely...and it still made a decent loaf. One stuck so bad to the floured tea cloth, that I threw away the dough. The one in a rattan basket and better tea towel made it to the dutch oven. Today I'm baking 2 more using levain I allowed to ferment overnight. Fingers crossed.
 
slradke July 4, 2020
A dusting of rice flour on the towel or directly into the basket takes care of the dough sticking. Drops out perfectly and ready to bake! Good luck.