A good loaf of fresh bread is a staple food in most kitchens. I'm holding one forin the morning or a midnight PB & J. If bread is suddenly stale earlier than it should be, it can be frustrating. So keep the bread fresh so you can enjoy it for as long as possible and prepare it for long-term storage.
Not every bread is the same or has the same shelf life. Loaves you get from a bakery and home-baked bread have a shorter shelf life because of the lack of preservatives found in commercially-made sliced bread and rolls. Breads with extra fat, such as Brioche or Challah, however, last a little longer. For a searchable guide to bread life (and freezer) shelf life, start with the USDA FoodKeeper Database
What makes bread stale
Stale bread feels as if it has lost too much moisture, and that's partly true. When bread is stale, it is the result of chemical reactions in the bread. Flour used in most breads contains starch molecules that form a crystalline structure, but when water is added to the baking process, this structure is reversed and water is absorbed. These rigid starch molecules become more gelatinous and give your fresh, warm bread a loose texture.
When the bread cools, water leaves the starch and absorbs into other parts of the bread. What remains are hard, recrystallized starch molecules that make the bread taste dry and crispy. Therefore, even a refrigerator can not stop the bread from getting stale. In fact, the cool temperatures of your refrigerator are likely to speed up the process.
Where to Store It
Bread storage is a matter of temperature and humidity control. It is best to store the bread at room temperature in a dark and airtight box. Traditional lunchboxes were created for this special purpose.
If you do not have one, you can store your bread in a microwave, plastic food storage bin or pantry. It is important to keep the bread airtight, but remember that warm temperatures or increased humidity make bread more susceptible to mold.
If you can not eat it, freeze it
While you hold the bread at room temperature and eat it within five days, your next best option is to freeze it. Preparing for frozen food is a good idea to preslice your bread. It is much easier to thaw individual slices than a whole loaf of bread. Make sure the bread is tightly wrapped to contain as much moisture as possible. Most wheat breads can be stored in the freezer for up to three months
Even individual bread rolls or bagels can be frozen. Simply wrap in plastic wrap and place in a zippered freezer bag.
If you decide to freeze your bread as a whole, plan to thaw it at 350 degrees for 4-5 hours at room temperature or 30-40 minutes in an oven. When your frozen bread is sliced, a toaster can quickly bring it back to life. Your toaster may even come with a defrost flap. Once you've thawed your bread, eat or use it within hours.
And hey, if you lose your time and your bread gets stale, there are dozens of great recipes that need the stale stuff. Bread pudding or French toast for everyone?
When will sugar, flour and other baked goods go bad?.
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