There are 3 main features of fresh, good bread. The crackle or crinkle noise it makes when you lightly touch it. The smell, a tart, hot bouquet for your nose. And the taste, the crisp yet soft way it melts in your mouth. No one likes a hard-as-nails loaf or a smelly, doughy slice. And no one likes the little white spots that form on old or stale bread. Depending on the type of bread and the storage methods, there are many ways to keep bread fresh.
How to Keep Bread Fresh Longer
Store bread is best stored in its original packaging or wrapping, tightly closed with a twist tie or a freshness clip. Avoid keeping the bread in direct sunlight. Homemade bread does not have the long shelf life of store bread. If you intend to consume the bread immediately, or over the next few days, then store it at room temperature.
For long-term use or if the climate is warm or humid, a freezer is the best bread storage option. Bread kept in a freezer stays fresh for 2 months. If you have baked or heated the bread, let it cool completely first. Wrap the entire piece of bread in a single sheet of aluminum foil and store it in the freezer. You can also use a plastic freezer bag, but make sure most of the air in the bag, is let out. Do not slice the bread, prior to freezing. To use frozen bread, place it in aluminum foil and warm it in the oven at 350° F for 8-12 minutes.
Bread is best stored at room temperature in a dark area in a paper bag. It will remain fresh for a maximum of 3 days. Avoid plastic bags as plastic makes the crust spongy and speeds up mold growth. A common mistake is to store bread in a refrigerator. The low temperature of a fridge spoils the bread much faster than keeping it at room temperature. Storing bread for 1 day in a fridge is equivalent to storing it for 3 days at room temperature.
There are ways to keep bread fresh without plastic. You can wrap it in a cloth bag or thin towel, then store it in an airtight tin. Crusty breads like French baguettes actually remain crisp and toasty in paper bags. An old-fashioned bread storage method is to use a bread box or bread bin. These small but functional boxes, store bread in a clean and contained manner. Wooden bread boxes are a dying, vintage bread box style, but a unique woodsy smell is infused into the stored bread, using such boxes. Metal boxes are also classic containers, but in hot or humid climates, they can create moistness in the bread. Bread boxes retain freshness up to one week in summer and even longer during winter.
How to Identify Tainted Bread
- Check the center of the bread slice. A moist or soggy center means tainted bread.
- Fruit and sweet breads have thick batter, and hence sometimes their center remains uncooked. So these breads can ferment too much and go bad. They give off a strong sour smell.
How to Freshen Stale Bread
- Single bread servings like rolls, buns, bagels and croissants can be wrapped in a damp (not soaking wet) paper towel and heated for 10 secs in the microwave.
- For a large loaf, dampen paper towels and wrap the loaf in them, or dampen the loaf with milk and place it in foil. Then heat the loaf in the oven for 3-4 minutes at medium heat.
Everyone has a different idea of keeping bread fresh, but the above methods are the most commonly used. If all your storage techniques fail, and you are stuck with stale bread, do not despair! French toast is one easy and delicious way to finish off stale bread. Make croûtons for salads and soups or use the stale bread as a filling in meat loaf or turkey. Bread, even unfresh, has its uses.