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 searched to find the best way to keep bread fresh and extend the shelf-life for at least a few more days. This is what I found.
Best Way to Keep Bread Fresh
To keep your bread the freshest and the longest, wrap it in plastic or foil and FREEZE it! However, if you are like me and want soft, fluffy, unfrozen fresh bread, do one of these three 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.
How do we store bread at home?
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 make delicious knot-style dinner rolls. After dinner, if any rolls were left (very rare), I would wrap them in plastic and hide them. If I had left them for my Dad to put away he would have put them in our wooden bread box, 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 then, was there that Thanksgiving. YUCK! I still remember his face when my Dad offered him some of this special Oyster Stuffing.
How is adding oysters to bread?
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 refrigerator, 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 destroys the texture both inside and out. There is a term called “retrogradation“ that happens to bread in the fridge. It means that the bread’s starch will crystalize and 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 comprised basic ingredients: 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 ensure freshness?
The best way to understand these freshness-extending preservatives is by comparing ingredients. Now, if you buy store-bought bread, it has all of the following ingredients to keep your bread fresh. My absolute 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 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 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
- Bread Boxes
- Wrapping in Foil
- Using a Plastic Bag
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 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 toast it.
There are a few bread boxes, but the bigger the bread box, the better. A bread box keeps bread fresh by providing a cool place with adequate airflow, 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.
Wrapping in 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.
Using a Plastic Bag
As you’ve noticed, almost all commercial bread comes in a plastic bag with a twist tie. Keeping the twist tie on the plastic is important to keep the bread fresh because it keeps the air out. We live in a desert climate, so if the bread is left exposed, it gets hard quickly.
What have I learned from the research?
I have learned from this research that I add natural preservatives like ascorbic acid and soy lecithin when making homemade bread. When storing any 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.
According to this research, my family was right because our bread was homemade and 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 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 had 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.
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 should wrap the homemade bread in wax paper before putting it in an 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-crusted 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 for preserving texture.
What are the signs that bread has gone stale or bad?
A hard texture, sour smell, visible mold, or a flavor change indicate that bread may have gone bad.
Does the type of bread influence how it should be stored?
For example, sourdough can stay fresh longer than enriched white bread. Always consider the bread’s ingredients and moisture content.