Photo (cc) by jeffreyw
Nothing ruins a sandwich quite like stale (or moldy) bread. Yuck.
If you love bread, buns and rolls — especially when they’re fresh-baked — then pay attention because you’re going to love this simple trick to keep your bread fresh for as long as possible.
But first, a quick lesson on how bread goes from fresh and delicious to moldy or tough:
- Moldy bread: Mold needs nutrients (in this example, a piece of bread), warmth and moisture to thrive. “If you store your bread in plastic (which traps moisture) and keep it in a warm place (like on top of the refrigerator or over the dishwasher), you’re giving mold everything it needs to grow unchecked,” according to Tasting Table.
- Stale bread: As soon as bread is taken out of the oven to cool, its starch molecules begin to crystallize, which forces water out of the bread and makes it stale, says Chatelaine Kitchen. The process is known as starch retrogradation. Exposing bread to air also leads to loss of moisture and results in staling.
Now that you know how and why your bread goes bad, here are some things you can do to prolong its freshness:
- Avoid pre-sliced bread: “Pre-sliced bread has many more exposed surface areas, which allows air to work its way into the bread,” Laura Holman writes on Food Hacks.
- Slice into the middle of your bread rather than the ends: Holman also recommends that you slice your bread from the center of the loaf, then remove the slices you plan to eat and push the two cut pieces back together. “The two heels act as a barrier against the air, preventing air from having ready access to the crumb (which is much more susceptible to staling),” Holman writes.
- Don’t put your bread in the refrigerator: Although storing your bread in the fridge does delay the development of mold, it is the absolute worst environment for preventing staleness because starch retrogradation occurs rapidly in the refrigerator. “The fridge is your enemy when it comes to bread,” says Chatelaine Kitchen.
Those tips are great, but if you want to keep your bread fresh for up to a month, bakers and food experts recommend one thing: Put it in the freezer. Says Chatelaine Kitchen:
It prevents staling as freezer temperatures arrest starch retrogradation, holding the bread in a stable state. To get the most out of your frozen bread, freeze it as soon as possible after baking and cooling, and consume it equally as fast after thawing. Bread needs to be properly wrapped in plastic and it’s also a good idea to slice your bread into portions prior to freezing.
You may also want to keep in mind that bread tastes its best when it’s eaten right out of the oven.
“Bread is best when just baked,” baking master Eric Kayser told the Tasting Table. “It can have a shelf life of two or three days, but it will taste best within hours of coming out of the oven.”
How do you store your bread? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.