I always found it confusing that my family kept our bread in a large wooden bread box but my best friend’s family kept their bread in the fridge. When I grew-up and had my own family I wondered which way was the best, so I went on a search to find what is the best way to keep bread fresh and extend the shelf-life for at least a few more days. This is what I found.
To keep your bread the freshest the longest, simply wrap it in plastic wrap or foil and FREEZE it! However, if you are like me and want to have soft, fluffy and unfrozen fresh bread, do one of these 3 things.
- Keep it in a bread box.
- Wrap it in foil, paper or plastic wrap
- Combine steps one and two by wrapping your bread and keeping it in your bread box
So to keep your bread freshest, wrap it in plastic and store it in a bread box to maximize your shelf life and have fresh soft bread.
Every Sunday growing up you could find my family devouring a fresh batch of homemade dinner rolls. My dad would come home from church, put on his apron, and start the process of making delicious knot style dinner rolls. After dinner if any rolls were left (which was very rare) I would wrap them in plastic and hide them. If I would have left them for my Dad to put away he would have put them in our wooden bread box (insert link) and my siblings would have gotten to them way before me. I would hide a few in a baggie behind the oldest can in the pantry. Seriously why was there always a can of oysters in our pantry! Once we had oysters in a stuffing dish at Thanksgiving and my poor husband, who was dating me at that time was at that Thanksgiving. YUCK! I can still remember his face when my Dad offered him some of this special Oyster Stuffing. Adding oysters to bread or stuffing is a horrible idea so, this was a perfect hiding spot. No one would touch the oyster can. Come Monday I would get up in the morning and grab my baggie of rolls, heat them in the bag in the microwave for 10 seconds, put honey and butter on them and call it the best on the go breakfast. If I forgot about my homemade Sunday rolls for a few days they inevitably would be stale. There was nothing I could do except throw them in the trash. Now, if my family would have added commercial bread baking products like liquid soy lecithin, lecithin granules or high power premium instant yeast with an ascorbic acid (purchased here or on Amazon here), to our Sunday roll recipe then the baggie of rolls, behind the can of oysters, would have survived a few more days.
The Don’ts of Keeping Bread Fresh
Contrary to popular belief, DO NOT keep homemade bread in the fridge! If you keep bread in the fridge it can go stale in less than a week, especially if it’s homemade bread or rolls. The cold refrigerator dries out the bread and completely destroys the texture both inside and out. There is a term called “retrogradation” that happens to bread in the fridge. Basically, it means that the starch in the bread will crystalize and it is much more likely to happen in the fridge than anywhere else.
Difference between store bought and homemade bread
It’s a simple fact that basic homemade bread recipe ingredients do not have the preservatives needed to extend shelf life. My dad’s homemade roll recipe was made up of the these common basic ingredients which were all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, salt, active dry yeast, water, milk and butter. These simple ingredients do not have any natural preservatives. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or lecithin are natural preservatives. They act to preserve the bread naturally and if you added ascorbic acid or lecithin to this recipe then the bread would last longer.
What do these natural preservatives do to insure freshness? The best way to understand these freshness extending preservatives is comparing ingredients. Now, if you buy store bought bread, chances are it has all of the following ingredients to keep your bread fresh. My absolute most favorite store bought white bread is Grandma Sycamore. I seriously should own stock in this “Carb Heaven on Earth” company! This bread is fluffy and delicious. The ingredients are as follows.
Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid), Water, Sugar. Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Salt, Potato Flour, Cultured Wheat Flour, Yeast, Distilled Vinegar, Dough Conditioners (Monoglycerides, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes), Sorbitan Monostearate, Soy Lecithin, Milk, Soy Flour.
As I mentioned if you add ascorbic acid and soy lecithin they are natural preservatives. So what do these two ingredients do to extend the shelf life of your bread? They essentially slow down the decaying process.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) – Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. The preserving properties of ascorbic acid happen when oxygen comes into contact with it. Oxygen allows foods to continue to ripen, but when ascorbic acid is added slows or neutralizes these events. When I make homemade bread, I use Saf-Instant High Power Premium Yeast that contains ascorbic acid. That way I don’t even have to add the preservative and the yeast is amazingly easy to use.
Soy Lecithin – Soy Lecithin is a form of fatty compounds that come from soybeans and acts as an emulsifier. The fat content in food can turn rancid quickly so naturally occurring acids such as citric acid, tartaric acid, & lecithin can be used as preservatives. Lecithin is a natural preservative and will add shelf life to your bread. If you look at the ingredients of most commercial goods, you will notice lecithin in almost everything. That is because it will add shelf life to products without adding any harmful chemicals.
Methods for Keeping Bread Fresh
Freezing Bread – The best way to keep your bread fresh the longest is to freeze it. This is because freezing the bread stops the decaying process. The only problem with freezing it is that you have to thaw it out or defrost it and you can’t freeze and defrost your loaf multiple times. To avoid this you can cut the loaf into slices and separate the slices so you can grab a slice or a few slices at a time. To defrost your bread you can heat it in the microwave (10 seconds should be long enough), warm it in the oven at 350 degrees by placing it on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, leave it on the counter until it comes back to room temperature or simply toast it.
Bread Boxes – There are a few different types of bread boxes but the bigger the bread box the better. A bread box keeps bread fresh by providing a cool place with adequate air flow and it should keep the moisture out. Most people only have so much counter space so find a bread box that you will be happy with on your counter. The bread box we had while I was growing up was most similar to this bread box on Amazon. Having a large family who eats a lot of bread, our bread box ended up with two loaves of bread and lots of almost empty bags that just had the bread butts. No one seemed to like the butts so they were always in there but if we got desperate they would usually still be fresh and we would make a sandwich out of them.
Foil – Foil keeps bread fresh because the foil locks in freshness and keeps moisture out. It is a good idea to wrap pre-sliced bread in plastic and then wrap foil around it tightly. This creates a stronger barrier to keep freshness in and freezer burn out. It’s a good idea to wrap a snug layer of heavy duty foil around plastic-wrapped foods you plan to freeze because it keeps the oxygen out and oxygen is what causes freezer burn. Just be sure to seal as tightly as possible without crushing the bread. Heavy Duty foil is thicker than regular foil and is ideal if you’ll be reheating the bread in the oven, since it can withstand heat.
Plastic bag– As you’ve noticed, almost all commercial bread comes in a plastic bag with a twist tie on it. Keeping the twist tie on the plastic is so important to keep the bread fresh because it keeps the air out. We currently live in a desert climate so if the bread is left exposed then it gets hard quickly. If my kids decide to make themselves a sandwich they inevitably leave the bag open to dry out the loaf in minutes. Now all the good pieces are stale and you have no choice but to yell or silently swear. It is then that I realize that my parents were right, I was a wasteful child who left milk out to spoil and bread unwrapped to go stale. I guess it is my turn to teach my children how to keep bread fresh longer.
According to this research, my family was right because our bread was homemade so it was best kept in the bread box. My best friend’s family was wrong to keep it in the fridge but their bread was store bought and it had preservatives to keep it fresh longer. Their bread lasted longer because of the “fresh” preservatives added to it but not as long as it would have lasted if they would have kept it out of the fridge in a bread box. Not to mention that they could have saved the fridge space and kept their bread in the pantry, in a bread box or on the counter wrapped in plastic or foil.
What I have learned from this research is when making homemade bread add natural preservatives like ascorbic acid and soy lecithin. When storing any kind of bread for the short term, wrap it in foil or plastic and put it in the bread box or pantry. For longer term freshness preservation, put it in the freezer wrapped in plastic and to avoid freezer burn add another layer, this time with heavy duty foil.
How to keep bread fresh in hot weather?
Storing bread in hot weather is very similar to anywhere else. Oxygen contains mold spores so keep the bread away from oxygen with plastic or some other container that keeps the air out. You might even want to wrap the homemade bread in wax paper before putting it in the air tight container or plastic.
Do cloth or linen bread bags work to keep bread fresh?
There are three types of bags for bread. Plastic, paper, and cloth are all used for bread. Cloth bags really should be used to store more hard crust types of bread. If these types of bread are stored in plastic the trapped moisture may ruin the crust and make it chewy. The cloth bags are not for long term storage but are good to preserve texture.