How to keep bread fresh?
July 2, 2005 2:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep bread for more than a few days?

It doesn't seem particularly humid in my kitchen, but If I leave bread in a plastic bag, it stays plenty soft, but grows mold, sometimes within two days. If I leave it out, it gets stale. There must be a useful middle ground somewhere.

I'm not a big fan of thawed frozen bread. I've tried keeping it in the microwave when I'm not using it (which is most of the time), but that doesn't seem to help the mold problem.

Any tricks? Are there some kinds of bread boxes that work better than others? Do I just have unreasonable expectations about how long a loaf of bread (or rolls) should last?
posted by Caviar to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
well, it keeps longer in the fridge, but dries out. the best compromise i know of (if you can't buy fresh each day, which hasn't been that hard in most places i've lived) is to freeze a sliced loaf and toast slices as required.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:18 PM on July 2, 2005

Try putting it in a plastic bag with a packet or two of desiccant.
posted by nicwolff at 2:29 PM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: While I have a toaster, it lives up in the top of my closet most of the time. Counter space is at a premium, and I just don't eat that much bread.

While I can buy fresh bread every day, it's sometimes difficult to plan, particularly since I tend to have some bread around from last time that's either gone stale or moldy.

As you might expect, I don't eat that much bread, but I'd just as soon not have to keep throwing away half a loaf when it goes bad.
posted by Caviar at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2005

We use this breadbin and even baguettes last for a good few days. Much better than our old 'classic metal' one.
posted by azlondon at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2005

You can toast the bread in the oven. Toasting/heating the slighly dryer refrigerated bread revives it considerably without the hassle of frozen bread.
posted by desuetude at 2:40 PM on July 2, 2005

Freeze the bread the day you buy it. If it's not sliced, thaw it (for a minute or less) on low in the microwave--just enough to slice it. Mist it with water, and heat it in the toaster or oven. The water makes all the difference--it will taste freshly baked.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2005

No, I don't think that you have unreasonable expectations. My bread lasts at least a week without showing signs of mold - about 10 days, actually. I wonder why your bread gets moldy within a day or two? Is this all year round or only in summer? Maybe your kitchen is a lot more humid than you think, and you should try a dehumidifier.
posted by iconomy at 2:58 PM on July 2, 2005

Are you referring to "wonderbread" style "bread" or stuff from your local bakery? Have you tried switiching to a different brand/source of bread?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2005

what you need is a "breadbox". Really. They work.

alternately, I find that a paper bag inside a plastic bag is usually the best on-the-go compromise.
posted by mdn at 3:48 PM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: Mostly stuff from local bakery / farmer's market, or "packaged" bread from the organic food mart.

iconomy - it's year round, regardless of whether the air conditioner is running or not.

azlondon - is that a flat glaze? Do you know if it comes in glossy? I find using most kinds of matte ceramic to be like scratching fingernails on a chalkboard (which, ironically, itself doesn't bother me).

Okay - so maybe I need a breadbox. What kinds work or don't? Do you keep bread in the bag in the breadbox?
posted by Caviar at 4:16 PM on July 2, 2005

Ah, your bread likely contains no preservatives.

That is why "Ezekiel Bread" is kept in the grocery or health food freezer. It will go bad in a day or so if you don't. It was recommended to me to simply thaw what I needed for each day and keep the rest in the freezer.
posted by konolia at 4:29 PM on July 2, 2005

I eat the same kind of bread you do -- multi-grain, organic, dense, moist -- and I keep it in the fridge. It'll last much, much longer that way.

It's true that artisanal or small-bakery bread just has a shorter shelf life than that square bread from commercial bakeries. Part of eating that kind of bread is adjusting to the bread's characteristics - you try to make a point of eating it when you have it around fresh; you learn some great recipes that use stale bread (like tuscan bread salads, bread pudding, your own croutons and bread crumbs); and you buy fresh much more often than you would if you were using the junk bread. It's the same idea when you purchase farm produce, organic produce, organic milk, etc -- this stuff isn't full of chemicals and it hasn't been bred for resistance to spoilage. It has to be eaten more quickly!

Breadboxes are not a good idea for people in humid climates. They just trap moisture in the air and cause it to condense in the box overnight, actually hastening mold.
posted by Miko at 5:08 PM on July 2, 2005

I'm in the same situation, I use the fridge, and while it does dry out a little, it's perfectly acceptable.
posted by furiousthought at 5:18 PM on July 2, 2005

Stu's (bread) web page

He mentions double plastic bagging + refrigeration, which is a new one on me.

I get about a week out of my bread (from an nyc bakery) in a perforated plastic bag inside of a coated paper bag, loosely folded over. That's just the way it comes, I didn't really research it.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 5:25 PM on July 2, 2005

i second the freezing it right after you buy it.
Then you can by a bunch from costco all atonce.
If its already sliced its even easier, then you just have to chip of the slices you want to eat. Then either put them directly in the toaster or if you dont want toast, just put the slices out to defrost, and if a few minutes they are ready.
posted by Iax at 7:09 PM on July 2, 2005

The combination of plastic bag a cold temperature seems to keep the bread reasonably moist. I baked bread for years and experimented with moisture content. I like a heavy multi-grain bread. However, I do not enjoy this when it has lost its moistness. The problem is that the moisture promotes the growth of mold. I also discovered that in this type of bread, even when it is sealed in a tight plastic container, it will become dry tasting within a few days at room temperature. I concluded that the moisture is somehow being bound up by the ingredients in some form of chemical reaction, since it is clearly not escaping from its container. This process is significantly slowed by refrigeration.

While I enjoyed the process of baking bread and experimenting with recipes, it takes a fair amount of time and the tantalizing smell of baking bread dominates the house. Too much of a good thing can become tedious. I came to discover that a local supermarket bakes an excellent 12 grain, heavy loaf at a fraction of what it cost me, without any mess. For the most part this has become my loaf of choice.

I discovered that having the bread sliced by the store greatly accelerates the development of mold. Some investigation revealed that the store does not systematically disinfect the blades of the bread slicer, so that they eventually are host to a culture which is passed on to each loaf they slice.

I do not enjoy dry bread, so immediately upon arriving home from the store, I place the bread inside a plastic bag and seal it. I then store the bread on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator (where it is coldest). I have found that bread treated this way will routinely last 7-10 days without either becoming too dry or developing mold.

I have tried freezing the fresh bread and thawing what I need at the moment. Not only is this a hassle with unsliced bread (one almost needs a saw to cut off a slice), but the taste and texture of the slice is significantly altered. In addition, some vitamins (especially vitamin E) are degraded by freezing.
posted by RMALCOLM at 7:14 PM on July 2, 2005

We bake our own bread (rye, whole grain, peasant bread, sourdough, etc.) and despair of keeping it more than a couple of days in muggy Toronto where this apartment has no air conditioning. So we just cut up each freshly baked loaf into 4 or more pieces as soon as it has cooled and freeze them in plastic bags.

We take a chunk of bread out of the freezer each evening and find that it's thawed gently on its own by morning. It tastes pretty damn fresh. If we eat the whole chunk partway through the day, we take out another chunk and usually find that it's thawed nicely in 1-2 hours.

I find that refrigerated bread never tastes good again, but freezing the very fresh bread and letting it thaw naturally keeps both taste and texture.
posted by maudlin at 9:53 PM on July 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

The answer to question 9 is d:

Yes, believe it or not, bread stales much more quickly at lower temperatures. The rate of staling reaches a maximum at about -5° C and decreases linearly till about 50° C. This results from a change in the starch fraction of wheat flourinvolving crystallization called retrogradation. Of course, if bread were to be stored at elevated temperatures it would become mouldy much more rapidly. The starch crystallization reaction can be reversed, which explains why stale bread can be softened by a gentle heating process. The main commercial method for delaying staling is the use of an additive such as glyceryl monostearate, or methylcellulose; moulding can be partially inhibited by incorporating an antimicrobial agent, for example propionic acid.

That doesn't solve the mold problem though. That desiccant idea sounds interesting... I find wrapping veggies in paper towel can help, maybe that would work for the bread too.
posted by Chuckles at 9:56 PM on July 2, 2005

Oh ya, I should have mentioned... $90 for a bread tin? andrew cooke please come and save me!!!
posted by Chuckles at 10:02 PM on July 2, 2005

I live in a hot climate, and keeping bread in the fridge is a must. I mostly eat wholegrain sandwich breads or sliced sourdough loafs.

Anything else like baguettes or artisans I plan on eating as quickly as possible.

Freezing bread for longer storage works as well, but is indeed even less palatable.
posted by loquacious at 2:37 AM on July 3, 2005

Nice link, Chuckles. "The retrogradation of the starch can be reversed by gentle heating", which means that a microwave or light toasting should do the job. The bottom area of a refrigerator is about 8-10 degrees C, which would inhibit the molding problem without freezing the bread. Restoring its freshness is then as simple as heating it.
posted by RMALCOLM at 9:52 AM on July 3, 2005

I've read those anti-refrigerator statements talking about "staling", and I have to say that I really don't notice too many ill effects. Refrigerated bread tastes much better than it would if left at room temperature, even in a paper bag, and I never have mold problems.

I don't find that the bread hardens or gets an off taste from being in the fridge. It doesn't taste first-day fresh, but then it would be unreasonable to expect any bread to taste first-day fresh if it wasn't baked that day (or frozen the day it was baked and thawed that day). That's just not what bread is all about. It tastes great, though. I like a bread with some firmness and 'tooth' anyway, so starting with it a bit chilled isn't altogether a bad thing. It toasts quite well.

I am heartened to see others who prefer refrigeration; I always knew I was going against the grain of received wisdom, but I've experimented with all storage methods and empirical evidence has shown that the best longevity with good flavor and texture results from fridge storage.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2005

I keep my loaf of bread in a dark, coolish area of the pantry and it lasts about a week. My roommate keeps her bread on top of the microwave where it gets direct sun shining on it for several hours a day, which seems to cause condensation inside the plastic bag which quickly causes mold (2-3 days).

I slice fresh bagels when I get them and put them into a plastic bag and then immediately into the freezer. When I want a bagel, I just pop the frozen bagel directly into the toaster. They pop up toasted and fresh-tasting.
posted by bonheur at 10:25 AM on July 3, 2005

I freeze the artisan bread wrapped in aluminum foil. Then I just pop the whole thing in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes when I'm ready for it. Tastes the same way it did when I got it. If I have to buy supermarket bread, I don't care if it spoils and I just take my chances.
posted by evariste at 10:35 AM on July 3, 2005

« Older Is there a one-click memory card copy utility?   |   What is the opening song in Stalag 17? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.