Keep Bread Fresh: Best Ways to Store, Freeze, and Dethaw
By Melissa Schneider July 6, 2013 No Comments
Nothing is more disappointing (in the bread world, that is) than triumphantly lifting a freshly baked loaf from the oven only to find its remaining slices are dry and brittle within a day or two. The same goes for bagels, baguettes, and fresh artisanal breads—they are often delicious on day one, edible on day two, and crouton fodder on day three. But don’t despair. The way you store your bread is vital to its freshness, and with a few easy tricks, you can keep bread fresh for days or even weeks. Read on for our answer on how to store, freeze, and dethaw your bread products for maximum deliciousness.
Why Does Bread Dry Out in the First Place?
Bread flour contains natural oils and minerals that break down pretty quickly after baking, causing the bread to dry out. Simple, traditional flatbreads, made from flour, salt, water, and yeast, will dry out the fastest. Adding yeast, eggs, milk, or butter, can enhance flavor and extend the life of your bread by a day or two. Without preservatives, though, most breads cannot stay moist and fresh longer than three or four days. Luckily, all breads freeze well, and that is the life-extending secret to your freshness dilemma. But first, let’s talk about making the most out of those first few days.
Store Fresh Breads at Room Temperature
Avoid the refrigerator—this is the first step to keeping bread fresh. The fridge wicks the moisture out of bread and causes its starch molecules to crystalize, thereby hastening the drying-out process. Instead, protect the sliced end of fresh baguettes and loaves with aluminum foil to keep them from getting hard and store them at room temperature in a tightly folded paper bag. Paper is preferable to plastic bags in most cases, as plastic traps in mold-inducing moisture and will ruin any crustiness. If you only have plastic bags on hand, make sure you cool any fresh bread completely before storing it in plastic. You can keep store-bought sandwich breads in their original plastic, though. Those loaves contain preservatives that will keep them fresh and un-moldy for several days. Lastly, to extend the life of fresh breads, look for loaves that include olive oil, fresh butter, or milk. For example, you can mix up Lu Austin’s Whole Wheat Bounty Beer Mix yourself, or enjoy the fresh-baked goodness of Pumpkin Bread from Outrageous Baking. (Both products available for online sale.)
Immediately Freeze Anything You Can’t Eat Within Two or Three Days
Hands down, the freezer is the best-kept secret to fresh bread. Unless I am going to eat the rest of a fresh loaf the very next morning, I always freeze bread the same day I buy it. I find the flavor and texture is much better preserved in the freezer than on the counter, and you can freeze all kinds of breads. Everything from quick breads and biscuits to homemade loaves will taste great when properly defrosted. Consider these three tips to optimally freeze and dethaw your loaves, bagels, and baguettes.
- Freeze Well: Before you freeze, cool your bread completely and slice it so you can grab the perfect portion later. Wrap all kinds of bread and bagels tightly in aluminum foil. Make sure to use the heavy-duty kind, as the light-weight stuff doesn’t hold up well in the freezer. Place your foil-wrapped loaf in a plastic freezer bag, flatten out all the air, and seal it. Wrap foil around the original plastic of your store-bought breads before freezing them. If you freeze them well, bread products will keep for two to four months before freezer burn sets in.
- Dethaw with Water and Heat: When you are ready to serve, preheat your oven to 300°F. Once the oven has reached its temperature, remove your bread from its wrappings, or snag a few slices from a pre-sliced frozen loaf. If you want crunchy, crusty bread, pass it quickly under running water, just enough to get the surface wet, and shake off the excess. If you want soft bread, leave it wrapped in foil. Either way, place the bread directly on a middle oven rack and heat for 10 minutes. Then flip it upside down and heat for another 5-10 minutes, until bread is golden and warmed through.
- Or…Dethaw at Room Temperature: If you don’t want to serve your bread warm, and it does not have a firm crust, you can always dethaw it at room temperature. Just let it stand on the bread board for up to six hours. It is best to leave the bread wrapped tightly in foil as it dethaws.
Bread-eaters of the world, go forth and enjoy your loaves…for a bit longer than before.