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Storing the bread
Everybody knows the best approach to homemade bread is to eat it on the day it was made. It is perfect, but not always possible.
If you do not plan to eat after you bake it, you need to keep it fresh for as long as possible until it is time to eat or serve it.
Make sure the bread has completely cooled before storing it
Hot or warm bread, when stored, will sweat, which can make the bread soggy, causing it to mould very rapidly.
The internal temperature of the bread should reach 35°C/95°F, which usually takes 2-3 hours at room temperature.
How do you store homemade bread?
You have some options that depend on the circumstances. The best choice for storing bread depends on when you plan to eat it.
- You can store the bread at room temperature (20-22°C/68-72°F), which maximizes the time the loaf remains fresh and soft. Store fresh bread tightly sealed (sealable plastic bags or plastic containers or bread box or cloth bag) in a cool, dry place for up to 3-5 days.
- For more extended storage, place it double-wrapped in the freezer.
Never store bread in the refrigerator
A common mistake is storing bread in the fridge. You may think it will stay fresh because it is cool, but refrigeration causes the opposite effect. It will take a long time to develop mould. Still, unfortunately, it will dry out and go stale approximately six times faster than if you left it in a plastic bag sitting on your counter at room temperature.
How long does homemade bread last?
Homemade baked bread will always taste its best on the day it is made. It tends to dry out after about 3 days. But it can stay good for as long as 3 to 5 days if stored in ideal conditions protected from the air, mould, and insects.
Why does store-bought bread last longer?
Homemade bread does not contain preservatives (a good thing) found in store-bought bread. However, since it has no preservatives, it won’t last as long as shop-bought bread, and it tends to dry out and become stale faster than commercially-made bread.
Why is it better than bread with preservatives?
There are many reasons for home baking, and health is one example. You want to avoid bread from the grocery store when you prefer healthy, nutritious bread. Although bread from a bakery is somewhat better, it is still not as beneficial as homemade bread.
Homemade bread is much healthier than ready-made bread. It does not contain any unnatural ingredients. When you bake your own, you can accommodate your personal preferences by adding, leaving out, or substituting some ingredients. And your entire family will prefer the taste of homemade bread.
The only disadvantage to bread without preservatives is it can spoil much faster.
The smart solution is to take the best approach when storing the bread for a few days or weeks.
What causes homemade bread to go bad faster?
Bread lasts longer if stored at room temperature.
Heat dries it out and fosters mould and bacterial growth when wet.
Light helps some mould grow.
High humidity fuels fungal growth. If desired, especially for humid environments, enclose a stalk of celery in the bag to keep bread fresh longer.
Gluten-free bread is more prone to mould than conventional bread.
Dough containing eggs and milk is very perishable.
Anything that fosters bacterial growth will cause the bread to go bad faster. This means you don’t want to add butter to the top of your loaf and then let everything sit out overnight. It also means you don’t want to add sugar or icing to the top of your bread or muffins unless you’re about to eat it.
Don’t put hot bread in a sealed container; wait until after it cools. This includes a closed bread box.
The steam escaping from the bread will condense on any surface around it. Ironically, this is why bread boxes have air holes. A little air won’t hurt the bread, but too much dries it out.
Bread will go bad faster if you don’t tie off the plastic bag. Twisting the plastic bag and folding that under the loaf of bread is better than leaving the bag open, but that still shortens the bread’s shelf life.
Don’t store bread in the wrapper on top of the fridge. Put it on the counter or somewhere else instead. The waste heat from the refrigerator will dry it out faster.
Never store bread in a paper wrapper. That paper lets the humidity escape, and it will dry out.
How can you naturally extend the life of your homemade bread?
As commercial bakers do, can homemade bread stay soft and moist for several days? Do they add an ingredient to keep it that way?
In theory, adding salt will help kill bacteria and mould, but that alters the texture and flavour of the loaf. The amount of fat your bread contains will affect its shelf life as the fat will act as a preservative. Bread with fat will last the longest. French bread goes stale very quickly. Whole-grain bread keeps longer.
Unfortunately, you can add nothing to bread to make it as shelf-stable as commercial bread. There are a few things, however, that you can do to ensure that homemade bread stays fresh.
Tips to help to keep your bread fresh more successfully
It is better to store the bread in a cool, dark place.
Never store bread by leaving the loaf open and exposed to the atmosphere. This exposes the bread to dryness, mould, bacteria, and everything else you want to protect it from. This also allows flies to land on it and dogs to lick or eat it.
The good news is that the average bread box is good enough. Furthermore, sitting in a plastic bag in a dark pantry or cabinet is fine, too.
Airtight plastic container or resealable bag
Once the bread has cooled to room temperature, the bread needs to be put in a sealed container. This could be a bread box or plastic bag.
This won’t prevent mould particles in the air from causing mould to grow on it, but it will stay soft as long as possible. The bread’s natural moisture will be trapped within the plastic.
However, be aware that storing French bread in a plastic storage container or a resealable plastic bag will cause the crusts to soften. French bread is better stored in cloth bags.
Another option is a cloth bag. You can find cloth bags specifically made to store bread or make your own. A cotton bag will keep your bread fresh if you store it for a short period.
Use a cotton or linen towel to wrap the bread, and place it in the bread box.
A bread box is a good choice if you are using the bread within a few days. While bread is not meant to last for an extended period, bread boxes keep bread fresh longer than other popular storage methods. It can keep your bread fresh and flavourful between 4 days and 1 week. That’s assuming it is properly stored as soon as you can put it away.
Bread boxes are slightly cooler since it blocks out the sun and electric lights.
The ideal box will allow a little air to circulate, be sturdy, and easily keep closed. It has a tight lid to slow down bread’s drying while letting in enough air to reduce condensation, slowing mould development.
However, bread boxes should not be considered part of your home decor. They have a practical purpose. As the reason for a bread box is to keep bread fresh, there are better locations than your kitchen. You should not keep your bread box on a countertop exposed to kitchen heat and direct sunlight. When you use your stove or oven, the heat will make the kitchen too humid for bread. It will quickly lose its freshness, and mould may develop.
If you use a bread box, find a more appropriate location. You may have a separate cupboard or a cabinet in another room. Your chosen place should be cool, dark, and free of moisture and excess humidity.
Note: putting dried-out bread in the bread box means you won’t do much more than protect the bread from pests.
Always ensure that the bread box is clean
Always ensure the bread box is clean of crumbs and debris since rot on these food particles will spread to anything you put in it.
If your bread is going mouldy much faster than expected, you could have mould spores in the bread box. That’s often the case if the issue just started occurring, and it is more likely in wood-bread boxes.
In this case, you can clean the bread box, disinfect it, let it dry and then resume using it. Or you can replace the bread box with a clean one.
Paper bag is NOT a good option
Some individuals use paper bags. While this approach is common in bakeries, you will not like the results of your homemade bread.
If you use paper, air will seep into the bag. The bread will become dry or stale if it is not eaten immediately.
You can use a paper bag if you put it in a bread box, but a paper bag alone will not keep your bread fresh. Instead of soft, it will be dry. If you do not want stale, tasteless bread, this is a storage method to avoid.
Storing bread in a warm place
In a plastic bag
It would be best not to store the bread in a plastic bag in a location much warmer than standard room temperature (20-22°C/68-72°F).
If the bread has not yet vented the excess moisture before being put in a bag, it will become a breeding ground for mould. And the damage is made worse by higher temperatures.
In a paper (or cloth) bag
If you store the bread in a paper (or cloth) bag, it could be edible for up to 12 hours in a warm place at nearly 38°C/100°F.
Note that it has to be sealed. If it is exposed to the air at that temperature, it would dry out and foster mould and bacteria growth because of the warmer temperatures. For this reason, you don’t want to store the bread in a warm oven.
It means you can store the bread in the same warm place you let the dough rise, though it needs to be protected from mould and bacteria in the air.
Can you store bread in a warming drawer?
Suppose you just made dinner rolls or a loaf of French bread. You want to keep the bread warm until dinner. The hard part is maintaining the perfect texture.
Put the bread in a warming oven drawer at up to 50-60°C/110-120°F. However, it needs to be covered (with paper or cloth) to help it maintain its moisture.
And ideally, you’re putting the bread there immediately after you bake it, so it is still basically cooling. Then you can put it on the table shortly before serving everyone.
Storing bread at a colder temperature
At colder temperatures, you risk the bread drying out faster than desired if it isn’t adequately covered. This is because it crystalizes or stales faster than in warmer temperatures – below room temperature (20-22°C/68-72°F).
Again, Never store your bread in the refrigerator
The worst-case scenario is storing the bread in the refrigerator. In theory, putting bread in the fridge will keep it safe to eat longer, as you’ll slow down mould and bacteria growth; however, the starch will crystallize, and the loaf will go stale more rapidly. You end up with dried-out bread that is safe to eat but only suitable for bread pudding, stuffing and some other fallback recipe instead of sandwiches.
In short, do NOT try to put bread in the refrigerator to extend its life. Either freeze or store it in a cool, dry place at room temperature.
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