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By Submitted by Vicki Hayman
UW Extension Food and Nutrition 

Storing bread for maximum freshness

 

June 6, 2019



Do you enjoy fresh bakery bread or making it yourself? A loaf of bread purchased at a supermarket is made with preservatives, which serve to prolong the product shelf life. Homemade bread made without added preservatives will grow mold quicker than a store-bought one. Today, I will share tips on how to store bread, how to freeze bread, and how to refresh bread so that it tastes fresh baked. Bread usually tastes best the day it is made.

How to store bread

Allow freshly baked bread to cool completely to room temperature before slicing or storing. Place it on a cooling rack and make sure air can circulate and to prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

Slicing fresh warm bread out of the oven, while extremely tempting, affects its texture and flavor. It will be gummier and less airy, which will result in a loaf that dries out much faster. To slice bread, use a serrated knife with deep serrations, to cut with a “sawing” motion. Some bread, such as baguettes, have a more attractive texture when torn rather than cut. To retain the freshness of a crusty loaf of bread, store it unwrapped at room temperature. This method will ensure that you keep that crisp, crusty exterior for as long as possible. The crust on freshly baked bread will remain at its best texture for at least one day, if not two full days. I am referring to artisanal baguettes, boules, etc., not your typical grocery store sandwich bread.

If you slice into your bread, leave it cut-side down on a cutting board uncovered. This will help protect the interior crumb from drying out, but not result in any moisture collecting on the crust, and it becoming too soft. To maintain freshness of soft-crust loaves, store in airtight plastic bags or wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and store at room temperature.

A couple of days after the bread has baked, wrap it in a dish towel or paper bag, which is porous and won’t cause as much moisture to be trapped! In addition, keep it in a dry place to help prevent it from becoming stale.

Never store your bread in the refrigerator! Refrigeration actually shortens the bread’s shelf-life. While this will prevent the bread from going moldy, unfortunately, it speeds up the staling process faster than anything else.

How to freeze bread

While keeping bread at room temperature and eating it within three days is optimal, your next best option is to freeze it. If you do not plan on consuming your whole loaf of bread within the first few days of baking, I recommend storing it in the freezer. Freeze the bread before the bread’s texture begins decreasing in quality.

For freezing bread, it is very important to allow your bread to cool completely before freezing. If stored properly, bread can be stored in the freezer for one to three months; however, its flavor will diminish the longer it is stored.

To freeze bread, wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a freezer zipper-top bag, press out any excess air, and seal.

If you only consume a small amount of bread at a time, one way to store bread is to slice it before freezing. To do this, slice your bread evenly, wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a freezer zipper-top bag, press out any excess air, and seal.

If the crumb is extremely moist, I recommend placing a small piece of parchment paper between each slice to ensure that the slices do not stick together. This method allows you to take one slice out at a time and use it whenever you want!

How to refresh bread

All bread will eventually go stale. Allow the frozen loaf of bread to thaw in the bag at room temperature for several hours or overnight on the kitchen countertop. When the bread has defrosted, preheat your oven to 350°F for at least 20 minutes with a rack in the center position.

Remove the loaf of bread from the bag and briefly pass it under a running faucet of cold water. You do not want to saturate your loaf of bread, just lightly douse it evenly with cold water on all sides. This light coating of water steams in the oven and results in a crisper, fresher crust than placing a loaf in the oven dry. Do not complete this step until your oven is completely preheated and you’re ready to stick it in the oven.

Place the whole loaf of bread directly on the oven rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and cracks slightly when lightly compressed. This time might vary slightly depending upon the size of your loaf of bread.

Remove and allow the perfectly crisped, refreshed loaf of bread to cool completely on a cooling rack – usually at least an hour – before slicing.

Since homemade bread contains no preservatives; it usually stays fresh for a short period of time. When bread has lost its freshness, remember, there are bread crumbs, croutons, bread pudding, and French toast.

(Sources: http://www.cooksillustrated.com; http://www.epicurious.com; http://www.kingarthurflour.com; redstaryeast.com)

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