Saturday, January 22, 2011

How do you keep your bread?

How do you keep your bread? I have been agonizing about this since I decided to go a whole year without buying bread. Bread box? Plastic bags? Aluminum foil? Fridge? Freezer? Sliced or whole? I mean, bread starts going stale the moment it comes out of the oven. Of course it is best eaten fresh and warm, but we can't eat it all in one sitting!

After some research, reading comments and checking out other blogs, this is what I have learned:

1. Bread should be stored at room temperature. Storing bread in the refrigerator will actually cause it to stale faster.

2. Bread should be stored out of direct sunlight. This is why bread boxes work really well - they keep the bread in a cool, dark location. They can even be trendy and match the theme of your kitchen, though their size might be prohibitive. (When I was younger we had a bread box like this, but once my mom found a mouse in it and threw it out. Now I just have a bad association with bread boxes... aren't they supposed to keep critters out?!?!) So I didn't really have the space or want one of those...

3. Most breads should be stored in an airtight container, yet breathable. However, crusty breads should be stored in paper, or use the end to protect the bread, or store it cut side down on a cutting board. So, no Tupperware/Pyrex, since they don't breathe...

4. It may not be the best idea to store bread in plastic bags from store-bought bread, as the bag might have mold spores already inside, and it will be ready to attack your bread sooner than you might imagine. (Thanks Blake!) So, no reused plastic bags...

5. To keep bread longer than 4-5 days, you can freeze it. Pre-slice the bread and it will keep in the freezer for 3-4 months. To defrost, simply leave it on the counter for a few hours. You can bake it for 5-10 minutes to put crispiness back in the crust, or to serve it warm. A solid option, though it will be susceptible to freezer burn, and still, what do I put it in?

6. So what did I decide on? A reusable, air-tight, cloth bag that is "twill cotton/polyester in a natural-color canvas with thick-gauge polyethylene plastic lining for air-tightness." I found them from a recommendation and bought them on Perhaps a little pricey - $11 each - but I only have to buy them once and won't be throwing them away!

They are working really well for us, and are both dishwasher safe and machine washable. The Velcro keeps it airtight. You can use them for loaves, bagels, buns, or any bread except crusty breads.

Other storage tips: 

1. Don't store your bread until it has completely cooled. Bread will continue steaming for some time after it is baked, and if you put it in an air-tight container right away it will get soggy. Moisture = mold.

2. You can par-bake bread, freeze it, then finish baking it in the over when they are ready. (To par-bake, bake it for 3/4 of the time, then freeze it, and defrost and bake it when you're ready.)  

3. Breads with some sort of fat in them will last longer than without. 

Whew... that was a lot of information! Most importantly... enjoy eating your bread!