If you’ve turned to bread baking as a way to relax or learn a new skill during the pandemic, you’re not alone. You may have noticed a rise in social media photos of homemade focaccia, challah, and banana bread as well as a notable absence of flour from grocery store shelves.
“We are making the flour as fast as we possibly can and shipping it to our customers,” says Brent Minner, a marketing director for flour brands like Pillsbury, Arrowhead Mills, and Martha White, “and it’s flying off the shelves as soon as it gets there.”
As many people continue to refine their newfound pastime, some have realized there’s more to baking and enjoying bread than simply following a recipe. What’s the best way to store bread? Does it matter where it’s stored? How to maintain freshness beyond a couple of days? Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your fresh-baked loaf.
Let bread cool before slicing
Allow bread to fully cool and set before slicing. This will not only improve the taste but also ensure your bread stays fresh as long as possible. Experts recommend waiting at least an hour, but some suggest two or more.
Some loaves take even longer to cool and set. If your loaf has a high quantity of whole grains, you may want to let it sit for a couple of days. With rye bread, for example, it’s customary to let it rest 1-2 days before slicing.
Consider a bread box
If you’re planning to store your bread for more than a couple of days, a bread box is a good option.
“Bread boxes are a great way to keep bread and a fun way to add style to your kitchen,” says Madelyn Osten, head baker at Sullivan Street Bakery’s Miami location. “They have small holes in them, which allow just a little air to circulate, keeping the bread from molding.”
There are different materials to choose from including ceramic, wood, and stainless steel. All of them will keep bread fresh, so you may want to base the decision on your personal aesthetic.
Paper, plastic, or reusable bread bag?
Wrapping your loaf in a paper bag will help keep it fresh by preventing excess drying. Some professionals say to store the loaf with the cut side down, or to use heels from other loaves to cover the cut side during storage.
Osten says always opt for paper over plastic because plastic will actually encourage mold growth. But others acknowledge that plastic might be necessary under certain circumstances, such as if you live in a particularly dry climate. Make sure to squeeze all the air out of a plastic bag before sealing.
If you want to avoid the paper versus plastic debate altogether and reduce waste while you’re at it, reusable bags and wraps are an option. They’re inexpensive, made of breathable material and most are machine washable.
Where you store your bread also makes a difference. No matter what materials you wrap it in, keeping your loaf on top of the refrigerator or near the dishwasher will expose it to excess heat and moisture. Choose a cool, dry spot to maximize freshness.
Freeze your bread
For long-term storage, freezing bread is ideal. “Freezing bread is the best way to preserve that crusty loaf for the longest time possible,” explains Osten.
Slicing bread before freezing makes for easy and convenient reheating. You can take out as many or as few slices as you need without having to defrost and refreeze the whole loaf. Bread can typically be frozen for up to three months.
If you find that, even with these tips, your bread goes stale before you had intended, you don’t need to throw it away. Consider that stale bread makes great croutons, bruschetta, and French toast. Happy baking!