Have you ever wondered why homemade bread goes stale so quickly? We have, too. But you are in luck because we have compiled a comprehensive list of nine reasons why your homemade bread keeps drying out.
Follow along below to learn why your homemade bread keeps drying out and ways to prevent it. Additionally, we will discuss different tips for baking, myths about homemade bread, best storage practices, and uses for homemade bread once it goes stale.
Why Does Homemade Bread Dry Out?
Homemade bread can dry out in one to three days after it is made. Homemade bread rarely lasts three days at our house but still, why is this the case? The main cause for homemade bread drying out so quickly is the fact that no preservatives are used in the baking process.
Store-bought bread uses preservatives that not only keep it moist but also help keep mold away. Homemade bread lacks preservatives, and so it does not last nearly as long as a store-bought loaf.
In addition to the lack of preservatives, there are eight more reasons why homemade bread dries out quickly. Here is an abridged summary of all the reasons your bread dries out, which we will cover in more detail below:
- You are not storing it correctly – Whether it is on the counter or in the fridge or freezer, we will tell you the best way to store it and which ways to avoid
- You are not using the proper recipe or technique – Simply put, not every recipe is created equal when it comes to breadmaking. We give you the rundown of what constitutes a good recipe and good baking techniques.
- You become impatient with the baking process – Patience is key when it comes to breadmaking, as you must wait for it to rise for extended periods and take the time to measure everything properly.
We dive deeper into each of these reasons and expound upon them in the next few sections. Let us start first with improper storage.
You Are Not Storing Your Homemade Bread Properly
One of the most common reasons your homemade bread dries out faster than you would like is because you are not storing it properly. In the following three sections, we discuss different ways you may be storing your homemade bread and how to improve your storage practices.
The following table describes different ways in which you may store your homemade bread and summarizes the best ways:
|Type of Storage||Why You Should Use It|
While this table quickly summarized the best ways to store your homemade loaves, if you still are unsure, we expound upon the best ways to store homemade bread later.
Alright, so now that we have summarized the best ways to store your bread, let us dive into how you might be storing it in a way that makes it go stale quickly.
You Put Your Homemade Bread in The Fridge – Issue #1
If you have the problem of your bread drying out too quickly, it could be because you keep it in the fridge. The fridge is designed to be low in humidity and a cool environment. While lower temperatures are great for homemade bread, the low humidity sucks out all the moisture from your homemade bread.
A fridge is a great place to store homemade bread if you live in a humid and/or warm environment.
This is because if you leave homemade bread at room temperature in a plastic or paper bag when it is overly humid and warm, you are likely to be promoting mold growth. Molds grow well in moist and warm environments. And your homemade bread, which lacks preservatives, is a great food source for molds.
However, you should not store homemade bread in the fridge if you can help it because it will cause it to dry out within a day or two of storage. Sometimes it is inevitable, though, as your environment dictates the best storage scenario.
You Keep Your Homemade Bread at Room Temperature – Issue #2
You may be storing your homemade bread wrong if you keep it at room temperature. This is more so if you have baked so much homemade bread that you can’t consume it all in about three days. After three days on the counter at room temperature, homemade bread tends to dry out.
Use the following table to gauge whether you should store your homemade bread at room temperature:
|Potential Scenario||Should You Store Your Homemade Bread At Room Temperature?|
|You plan to eat the whole loaf within three to four days.||Yes, store your homemade loaf at room temperature. Store it in your choice of a plastic, paper, or linen bag.|
|You live in a warm and humid climate.||No, store your bread in the fridge or freezer to avoid mold growth.|
|You do not plan to eat the whole loaf in four days but do not live in a humid climate.||Yes, store the portion of homemade bread that you will eat in three days at room temperature and freeze the remaining portion.|
To avoid having your homemade bread dry out, you can place it in the freezer for up to one month of freshness. And we cover exactly what steps to take to store your homemade bread in the freezer toward the end of our article!
You Wrap Your Homemade Bread In Plastic Wrap – Issue #3
If you wrap your homemade bread in plastic wrap or keep it in a plastic container, it will likely mold faster than if you use a paper or linen bag for storage. This is again because of the inability for air to properly exchange and keep moisture levels reasonable.
You can use a plastic container or plastic wrap to store your homemade bread, but you will want to keep it in a cool place. This includes avoiding the following locations in your home kitchen:
- Storage above or around the stove
- Storage in direct sunlight, at any point of the day
- Storage in any other place that tends to get unusually warm
While a plastic container may not be the worst option for storage, it could be causing your homemade bread to dry out quickly. If you have sliced your homemade bread or baked a soft crust loaf, plastic is one of the preferred storage methods to keep your homemade bread from drying out.
If you baked a hard crust loaf, use a different storage method, like a paper or linen bag for storage.
One of the best times to use plastic wrap is when you are freezing your whole or partial homemade bread loaves. Wrap up to the loaf tightly with plastic wrap and then place it into an airtight plastic bag or container. Again, we have more specific instructions on freezing a loaf of homemade bread later!
You Are not Using The Proper Recipe or Technique – Issue #4
Another issue that many at-home bakers run into is using a poor recipe or technique as a starting point for their homemade bread journey. Baking is a more precise science than cooking, and if you have the wrong amount of flour to water ratio, your dough may turn out dry.
In the next four sections, we cover a few different ways you may need to alter your recipe or change your technique. The following list summarizes these sections, which we cover in-depth below:
- Avoid over-proofing
- Measure ingredients correctly
- Adjust based on your elevation
- Avoid over-baking
You Over-Proof & It Robs Your Bread of Moisture – Issue #5
Over-proofing can make your homemade bread dry out faster than you would like. But you may be asking what is over-proofing, especially if you are new to the baking world. Over-proofing occurs when the dough is left to rest for too long. This means all the carbon dioxide released by the yeast has dissipated, and the gluten stretches poorly.
Over-proofing results in the following when baking a homemade loaf of bread:
- A dense dough
- A dry dough
- A dough with no springiness or bounce back
- A dough that does not rise well during baking
Your Recipe’s Dry to Wet Ratio Is Slightly Off – Issue #6
There are a few different things that can go wrong with your homemade bread recipe’s ingredients. There can be either too much flour and not enough liquid or vice versa.
In either circumstance, you will get an inconsistent dough, resulting in poor quality proofing and leading to drying out. And, if the ratios are off, your bread may not rise correctly, which can also lead to a drier result.
You Added Too Much Flour To Your Dough
You may have added too much flour if you did the following things:
- You used an excessive amount of flour during the kneading process
- You measured the flour by scooping it right out of the bag instead of spooning it into the measuring cup and leveling it off
- You added all the flour to the wet ingredients at the same time
This can result in any of the following if you have too much flour in your homemade dough, you could experience:
- Poor proofing and rising
- Thick and lumpy dough
Generally, it is the fact that if you have too much flour in your homemade bread, it causes extra dryness.
It is hard to create a balanced dough once you have added too much flour because you can get stuck in a loop of: now it has too much liquid and cycling back and forth between those two extremes.
Always follow along carefully with the recipe to make sure you add the correct amount of ingredients and add the dry mixture slowly to the wet mixture until you get a dough of balanced wetness and dryness.
o avoid over-proofing, remember, for the final rise, the dough should only double in size. Do not let the dough rise more than this. Additionally, this final rise should not exceed one hour, but make sure you check with the recipe for the exact timing.
You Are Not Adjusting For A Higher Altitude – Issue #7
Another hiccup with homemade bread recipes can occur if you are at a higher altitude. If you do not adjust for the higher altitude, your homemade bread will be dry. This is because, at higher elevations, liquids evaporate faster, and homemade loaves of bread will thus dry out faster.
In this case, you want to use less flour and more liquid. Many recipes have adjustments for elevations above 2,500 feet. Make sure you read through the recipe, especially if you live at a higher altitude. Sometimes these adjustments are noted at the end of a recipe.
Baking at a higher elevation can be difficult, so we have compiled some tips for you. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when you are baking at a high altitude to avoid drying out your homemade bread through improper baking:
- Increase oven temperatures by 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit
- Decrease the baking time
- Watch that the bread does not over-proof, as it tends to rise faster at higher altitudes
- Increase the liquid by one to two tablespoons per cup of liquid, increase further at elevations above 3,000 feet
- Increase the total amount of flour by one to four tablespoons, if higher than 5,000 feet
As you become more familiar with baking at a higher altitude, your homemade bread should turn out quite moist. As you get into higher elevations, recipes tend to look different, and thus there is more onus on the baker to perfect the dough through sight and touch.
You Have Overbaked Your Homemade Bread – Issue #8
If you overbake your homemade bread loaf, it will be dry. And overbaking is easy to do, so we have gathered some tips to help you avoid drying out your homemade bread during the baking process.
The following is a list of things you can do to reduce the chances of overbaking your homemade loaf of bread:
- Bake it according to the recipe baking range, but start with the lower end of the range first
- Check your crusty bread for a hollow sound if you tap the bottom or sides after removing it from the pan – this hollow sound means it is done
- Use an oven thermometer to verify the temperature is correct and matches what is stated in the recipe
By using the above steps, you will make sure your homemade bread loaf is perfectly baked with a crispy crust and a moist and fluffy inside.
You Don’t Wait to Store or Slice the Homemade Loaf – Issue #9
Are you impatient when baking? Our last section is on impatience, something that we all know can be a challenging personality trait. And, unfortunately, it is not welcome in the kitchen. When baking, you need precision and patience. Both of these tend to get disrupted when we are feeling impatient.
Before storing or slicing, you should allow the loaf of bread to cool fully. This can be super tempting to slice up your homemade bread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Who does not like warm bread with a dab of butter? But it can do some damage to your homemade bread’s final cooking process and cause it to dry out quicker than usual.
Allowing the loaf of bread to cool fully lets the bread continue to cook after it has been removed from the oven.
You can certainly slice your homemade bread up right away if you plan to serve it all immediately. This way, whomever you are sharing with gets the best flavor, the warmth, and the joy that a freshly baked loaf brings.
If you are not serving your homemade loaf immediately, wait to slice it and let it continue to rest at room temperature. Cool your homemade bread on a mesh or wire rack and let it rest for three or more hours.
Some Quick Homemade Bread Recipe Tips
In addition to the high-altitude baking tips we shared above, we wanted to discuss a few more quick tips that you can keep in mind when choosing your next homemade bread recipe. Not every recipe is built the same. Some are made up of a simple ingredient list. Others have more complex ingredient lists to enhance flavor and texture.
A basic homemade bread recipe generally calls for for main ingredients:
- Water, or in some cases, milk
And to those four ingredients, you can add sweeteners, savory bites, or sugary add-ins. A lot of recipes use bread flour or your standard all-purpose flour. Those recipes that other types of flour may have additional ingredients to enhance the natural flavors.
The following is a list of recipe tips to further improve the moisture content of your homemade bread and improve its shelf life:
- Use a supplemented dough – Add butter, honey, or oil. The extra fats and sugars help retain moisture and keep your bread from drying out in a few days. Supplemented doughs can last up to a week in comparison to lean dough.
- Use a natural preservative – Add fruit pectin, liquid soy lecithin, liquid sunflower lecithin, or lemon juice. You can add the dry preservatives to the flour mixture, and you can add the liquid ingredients to the wet mixture. Use one teaspoon of pectin for every cup of flour or one and a half tablespoons of lemon juice.
The most important part of baking is finding a method that works well for you and that you enjoy not only making but eating, too.
Some Homemade Bread Recipe Myths
There are a bunch of myths out there about baking homemade bread. In this section, we will dispel those myths.
The following are a few different myths that may be lending to your homemade bread drying out:
- Myth One: You can’t over-knead your dough – This myth is false. You absolutely can over-knead the dough, and if you do so, it can cause improper rising and create a dry loaf.
- Myth Two: You can’t get the ingredient ratios wrong – This is another myth that is not true. It is best to weigh all of your dry ingredients and use a standard measuring cup for liquids. Using the “eyeballing” technique in making bread does not work. You can end up with a loaf that is too dry, dense, soft, or airy, depending on your ingredient ratios.
- Myth Three: The water temperature does not matter – Once again, this myth is false. When a recipe calls for water between 100 and 120 degrees, using a thermometer is the best way to go. Trying to estimate the temperature can result in killing your yeast. And then you will have a dry, dense loaf of bread that no one will enjoy!
Keep these myths in mind next time you make a loaf of homemade bread to avoid any disasters.
The Best Way to Store Your Homemade Bread
Now that we have covered how your homemade bread is possibly drying out, let us talk about storing your homemade loaf. As we briefly described earlier, there are quite a few ways to store homemade bread.
The worst place to store homemade bread is in the fridge because it speeds up the drying process.
And the best place to store your homemade bread is on the counter. Crusty loaves of bread that are unsliced can sit on the counter, in a paper bag, or in a bread box. Soft crust loaves of bread should be placed in linen or paper bag.
If you can’t store it at room temperature due to the climate, storing it in the fridge is acceptable, but know it will dry the bread out much quicker. However, it delays mold growth.
Finally, if you are not going to eat any portion of the homemade loaves you make within three days, slice off those portions and freeze them. This leads us perfectly to our next section on how to freeze your homemade bread for the best results.
How To Store Your Bread in the Freezer
So, we have talked about it throughout this post, but freezing your homemade bread is one of the best ways to preserve your loaf’s freshness and keep it from drying out. You do still need to worry about freezer burn, depending on how long you plan to keep your bread in the freezer, so these next steps are important.
Use the following four steps to store your homemade bread in the freezer properly:
- Wait for your homemade bread to cool completely. This can take a few hours.
- Wrap your homemade loaf in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Make sure you wrap it tightly to limit the chances of freezer burn.
- Place the wrapped loaf into an airtight plastic bag or container. Again, make sure as much air is out of the bag as possible.
- Store your homemade loaf in the freezer for one to three months for peak freshness.
Another tip is to freeze only as much bread as you will use in one sitting. This means if you tend to use two slices at a time, wrap up slices in pairs of two, so you do not need to defrost and refreeze the same loaf again and again, which will ultimately diminish the flavor of the bread.
How To Use Homemade Bread Once It Is Stale
One of the worst things is discovering your homemade bread loaf is stale, but this often happens faster than anyone would like. And there are a few different ways you can use it once it becomes stale.
One way to still consume the stale bread, but add some life back into it, so it is not hard as a rock, is to wash the loaf with water and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes. This restores some of the texture but does not enhance the flavor much.
You can use stale bread in the following ways and keep your homemade bread from going to waste:
- Make croutons – Homemade croutons can be stored in an airtight plastic bag or container and can be used to top salads. They can also be frozen for up to three months.
- Make breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are a great way to repurpose stale bread. You can use breadcrumbs to top your next mac and cheese or incorporate them into your meatballs or meatloaf.
- Make bread pudding – A great option if you need a quick dessert. Bread pudding can be flavorful and comes together relatively quickly.
- Make French toast – If you are looking for a breakfast option to use up all your stale bread, try a French toast recipe. By dipping the bread in an egg mixture, you will not even notice the bread’s dry staleness.
- Make a Panzanella– This is roughly translated as bread salad, where you have croutons as the base of the salad instead of leafy greens.
- Use the stale bread in stuffing or dressing – Perfect around the holidays or any time of year, stuffing is a great accompaniment to any poultry meal.
No matter which way you choose to use up any stale bread you have, there are a variety of ways to do so. And if all else fails, you can feed it to your pets! Chickens, dogs, pigs, and more all love some bread slices.
In Summary: Homemade Bread Dries Out For 9 Reasons
There are nine major reasons why your homemade bread could be going stale, but it boils down to these three points:
- You are storing your homemade bread wrong – it should not be (1) in the fridge, (2) at room temp, or (3) in plastic.
- You are using the improper recipe or technique – you should always (4) follow the recipe exactly, (5) adjust for high altitudes, (6) avoid over-proofing, and (7) avoid overbaking.
- You are being impatient with the baking process – You should always (8) wait to slice and (9) wait to store your homemade loaf.
No matter what the reason is, we have given you a handful of tips and tricks you can use going forward to increase the length of time before your homemade loaves get dry.