We can only consume SO MANY croutons.
July 13, 2010 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Help us keep our home baked bread fresh. Well, freshish.

I looked through a whole bunch of older askme questions and none quite hit what we're looking for.

Due to the recent acquisition of a KitchenAid mixer, there is a whole lot of bread making going on. It is DELICIOUS. But there are only 2 of us, and already being somewhat chubby, we can only eat so much bread in a day.

We're not too concerned about mold, but would like to keep a better texture and keep it from going stale.

Does anyone know of a good way to make bread last a couple or few days longer? We don't want to freeze or refrigerate it, but will take any other ideas you may have. We have about a loaf at a time waiting to be consumed.
posted by bibliogrrl to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure you don't want to refrigerate it? Take bread out of the frig and give it 5-10 seconds in your microwave, and it'll seem fresh-baked.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:30 PM on July 13, 2010

I would highly recommend freezing the dough of one loaf before the second rising ... then let thaw, rise and bake.
posted by batikrose at 9:33 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: When you make a batch of dough, shape it into several small, one-day size loaves, dust them with flour and wrap them in cloth napkins or dish towels. Put them in the back of the bottom shelf of your fridge, where it is the coldest. The dough will not rise very much, and indeed will be better the longer you keep it there (up to a limit of about a week). Bake a loaf a day. Just pop it into the oven, wait, and enjoy.

If you have any next-day leftovers, toast them, or turn them into breadcrumbs, croutons, bread pudding, a thickener for your gazpacho, or something to soak up the juices of whatever else you're eating.

go to the home depot and buy enough cheap, plain white or brick tiles to cover the bottom of your oven (or the bottom rack, if you have an exposed heating element). Line the bottom of your oven with the tiles and leave them there. Not only will they make your oven work better overall, but you can just plop the loaf straight onto the tile, and it produces a far superior bread. And it costs a heck of a lot less than a pizza stone (but makes better pizza, too).
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:36 PM on July 13, 2010 [12 favorites]

A bit of honey in the dough really helps with this.
posted by tetralix at 9:37 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not freeze it? That really does work better than refrigerating, and does a remarkable job of preserving texture. Other than that, freezing the dough.

You can also:

- Make sure there are no bread mold spores in your kitchen. Thoroughly cleaning will help.

- Refresh day- or two-day-old bread by steaming it.

- Make French toast or croutons with less-fresh bread.
posted by amtho at 9:39 PM on July 13, 2010

Response by poster: Jon-Evil - that is an EXCELLENT suggestion, the mini loaves. The only problem with it is if you saw how packed full of food our fridge was, you would either laugh or cry. But I like it, and we may need to figure out a way to make it work.

Amtho & Batikrode - I'm beginning to rethink the freezing. I have a feeling it will work a LOT better with home baked than grocery store bread. I just hate the way refrigerating bread makes the texture all weird.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:54 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: I have a similar problem, and the closest I get to being able to stretch the loaf for an extra day or two is to cut the end off a loaf, about half an inch thick, and then keep that end against the cut part of the bread when storing -- and wrap it all tightly in cling film. Once the crumb is done for, I cut the bread into cubes and let it sit out on a cookie tin for a day or so to dry out, and then, depending on what sort of bread it is, I use it for various things, including a delectable baked french toast.
posted by shamash at 9:59 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

We just put ours in a sealed plastic bag (after it has cooled!) and it is tolerable for a couple of days, longer still if you want toast.
posted by bystander at 10:02 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: Never refrigerate baked bread. (Dough can be refrigerated for ages.) Refrigeration will make homemade bread go stale almost instantly. Bread should always be stored either at room temperature or in the freezer.

If you want to try freezing it, do this: slice it up first. Then freeze all the slices. Now you can just take out the exact amount that you need! This works really well.

I got a bit of sourdough starter from another Mefite earlier this year, and have been baking up a storm ever since. I bake a loaf a week, and can usually manage to get through at least 80% of it before it starts to go seriously stale or mold.

I store my loaves at room temperature, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel. Of course, I live in a climate which is mild in temperature but very damp. If you live in a dry climate, most experts advise that you store your bread in a produce bag which is only loosely shut at the end, to let the loaf breathe.

And don't give up if your bread goes stale! It can be made into croutons, bread pudding, and a truly fantastic french toast.
posted by ErikaB at 10:14 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you said you don't want to freeze it, but you should give it a try if you haven't. I've had very good results freezing my bread, though I usually make a dense-ish whole-wheat bread in case that matters. My usual practice is to make two loaves at once. One goes on the counter and the other into the freezer. Honestly, I can hardly tell the difference between the second loaf and the first, after thawing.

I also like the idea of making many small loaves; maybe I'll try that too!
posted by Maximian at 10:14 PM on July 13, 2010

Lean, non-sourdough bread stales the most quickly. Adding sugar, honey, or shortening will help prolong its life. And sourdough keeps in rough proportion to how long it cultured / its strength.

I've had good luck with the mini-loaf concept. I've made some unbaked rolls, and every morning I'd put one into the toaster oven before taking a shower, and it was ready by the time I finished. Yum.
posted by Hither at 10:16 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Adding diastatic malt powder is supposed to extend shelf life.
posted by Ouisch at 10:25 PM on July 13, 2010

I've been using a large ziploc bag, and squeezing out most of the excess air before sealing the bag around the bulk of the loaf. It gives us a few more days and slows the drying out process a little bit.
posted by metaphorical at 10:27 PM on July 13, 2010

Oh, also lecithin.
posted by Ouisch at 10:30 PM on July 13, 2010

Some ideas:
- sourdough leaven
- wetter dough
- more oil in the dough
- more sugar in the dough
- some rye flour (rye absorbs more water)
- toast! bread pudding! minestrone! gazpacho! bruschetta! and the many other fine products that start with stale bread.

But all home-made and artisanal bread stales quicker than commercial bread, because it doesn't have the myriad of additives in it. That's a good thing.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:45 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh MAN these are great ideas. Keep them coming!

I may be talked out my fear of freezing. :D
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:57 PM on July 13, 2010

Don't refrigerate bread. Read what Harold McGee has to say on the subject (unfortunately, the most important page is not freely available online).
posted by halogen at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2010

Yup, I don't make bread, but buy it from the bakery, it goes stale in the fridge in a day or two. Freezing, it lasts weeks, no problem. Just take out the slices you want, let them sit out for 10 min to thaw (make a little pyramid, so the air can get to them), or toast if you're in a hurry.
posted by defcom1 at 12:01 AM on July 14, 2010

Yeah, staling is caused by starch retrogradation, in which the starch molecules kind of separate out of the moist starchy gel they form with water at higher temps, and instead form a tougher structure apart. It might not be due to net water so much, but maybe the cooler temperatures that cause the gel to separate.
posted by Ouisch at 12:02 AM on July 14, 2010

Smaller loaves + freezing/refrigerating dough + more frequent baking is indeed a great combination. Also, you don't mention what sort of bread you are making, but my whole-wheat-and-rye-heavy loaves stay pretty tasty for a surprisingly long time, longer than I am used to for white bread. Upping the whole grain flour content of your loaves might help if you are making white bread now.
posted by mandanza at 12:04 AM on July 14, 2010

*net water loss
posted by Ouisch at 12:08 AM on July 14, 2010

Modern bread recipes tend to go too heavy on the baker's yeast. In industrial bread production, adding a lot of yeast is 'desirable' because it reduces the rising time (i.e. lowers costs); the fact that this results in bread that goes stale quickly is then offset with further additives, leading to the sort of bread that, as a frankly quite disturbing tagline from an old advert had it, "will go mouldy before it goes stale".

You don't want either of these things. The solution is to use less yeast and longer rising times. It's easy to do this either with a sourdough starter (no baker's yeast involved) or a sponge (small amount of yeast added to very wet dough mix the night before you bake, then left to reproduce at a more civilized speed). These methods don't take any more of your time--they just alter your schedule a bit. And they give you delicious bread, too, in which the flavours have had longer to develop and 'complexify'.

Also, when you're mixing and kneading your dough, repeat the words "Wetter is better" as a mantra. You can probably make the dough much wetter than you think.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:32 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh--and yes, freeezing the bread (slice it first!) is much better than refrigerating it. See the temperature range in that link Ouisch posted? A baker told me that +5ºC (fridge temperature) is worst of all. He reckoned that when you freeze bread you get about the equivalent of one day's accelerated aging as it passes through that temperature range, but once it's properly frozen the process is more or less suspended.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:36 AM on July 14, 2010

If you have been leaving some or all of the fat out of the recipe in an attempt to make the bread healthier... don't.
posted by emilyw at 1:43 AM on July 14, 2010

My boyfriend and I had the exact same problem. He insisted we get a bread bin. I was not convinced, but became a convert and believer with the first loaf. We actually get to eat the entire loaf of bread now. All Hail Bread Bin.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:04 AM on July 14, 2010

You can refresh a stale loaf by wetting it and re-baking for about 5-10 minutes in a warm oven. Comes out fresh as new. You need to wet the loaf with more than a sprinkle of water but less than a dousing for this to work.
posted by essexjan at 2:27 AM on July 14, 2010

Freezing the dough in smaller loaves, absolutely. If you take dough out in the evening, let it rise overnight, and bake it in the morning, it will make your whole day better. (By the way, you can find some very twee bread pans, and smaller loaves are just awesome in general.)
posted by anaelith at 3:29 AM on July 14, 2010

I'm a fan of freezing, but my husband says it changes the texture, so I got an air tight container that just sits on the counter. Not a miracle, but it really helps. Team air tight container!
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:00 AM on July 14, 2010

I’m another bread bin believer. I was given a bread keeper and it keeps my homemade bread fresh a few extra days.
posted by bCat at 5:20 AM on July 14, 2010

I use an expandable bread keeper as well. Keeps the bread fresh and also has a slicing guide built in.
posted by torquemaniac at 5:42 AM on July 14, 2010

If you're into the mini loaves idea/can make room in the fridge you might want to check out Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You make a big batch of bread (enough for 4 loaves) and it can just hang out in your fridge for two weeks. When you want to make a loaf just pull it out, shape it, let it sit for an hour or so and then bake. I've found the loaves I make are the perfect size for 2 people with maybe a slice leftover for breakfast toast the next morning. I think you can also freeze the loaves before baking, but I haven't tried that.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 5:53 AM on July 14, 2010

I use my microwave as a high-tech breadbox.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:57 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

We use a domed glass cake platter as a breadbox. And sometimes for cakes, which means no bread and cake at the same time. :) It works quite well, plus you can see what you've got.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:42 AM on July 14, 2010

I'm with the slice-and-freeze crowd, but I generally eat bread as toast. I've also heard good things about bread "keepers' such as this one from King Arthur Flour. I'll also second Artisan Bread in 5 and the mini loaf concept - theirs is the only pizza dough I use anymore. They've also recently come out with Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by hungrybruno at 6:58 AM on July 14, 2010

I'm a fan of freezing, but my husband says it changes the texture, so I got an air tight container that just sits on the counter. Not a miracle, but it really helps. Team air tight container!


I've been keeping my bread/bagels in a Lock & Lock container (you can get them at most grocery stores) for a year or two now. Thin little plastic bags and plastic wrap really do not compare to the awesomeness of the Lock & Lock container!

(As a side note, I keep my lettuce in one, too, and I really had no idea lettuce could last so long! Long live Lock & Lock!)
posted by StarmanDXE at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have a distinct feeling we will be freezing bread now. (Probably in half loaves. We like bread).

Emilyw - haha. There is nothing ow fat in this house (ourselves included). We eat healthier than we did, but we do it with whole foods and will NOT skimp on anything required to make things delicious.

I love you AskMe. You guys know EVERYTHING. :D
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: mandanza - to start, baxter_ilion has been baking maple wheat bread. Holy jinkies it's good.

And to all who suggested a bread bin - I want to get one when I can find one we like. Then we will have to magically find some counter space. But OH will it be worth it.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:55 AM on July 14, 2010

Yes, freeze your bread. Do NOT refrigerate it.
posted by trip and a half at 8:32 AM on July 14, 2010

Store it in the microwave! Less air for it to get all stale-y with. Also frees up counter space.
posted by Grither at 9:10 AM on July 14, 2010

We make no-knead bread quite a bit, and the heavy crust protects it from drying out, except on the cut side. So we store it cut side down in the bread bin. I find covering the loaf in any way makes the crust chewier, which is undesirable, so I prefer to let it sit uncovered.
posted by Dragonness at 9:47 AM on July 14, 2010

And to all who suggested a bread bin - I want to get one when I can find one we like. Then we will have to magically find some counter space.

I don't understand... Isn't your bread on the counter right now? That's where the bread bin/container will go...
posted by StarmanDXE at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2010

I have the relevant section of the Howard McGhee book open and he is giving the same advice as people here as regards storage (with extra science). He does give the temperature at which staling reverses when you reheat bread : 140°F/60°C.
posted by tallus at 10:55 AM on July 14, 2010

Another way to retard bread staling is to add some scalded flour. Apparently, there's been some research on this, and about 2% seems to be a good proportion of scalded flour, and it works better with scalded whole wheat flour than with scalded white flour. So take about 2% of the flour you're going to use for the bread, pour on some boiling water (use about twice as much water as flour), stir, and cover. The flour mixture should turn somewhat gelatinous when you add the boiling water. After it's come to around room temperature, just add it to the rest of your bread ingredients (minus the flour and water you've already put into the scalded flour mixture) and proceed to make the bread as usual.
posted by klausness at 3:30 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Windows 7 login required. WTF?   |   How can I stop the noise coming from the steam... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.