Even with the vast number of delicious meals you can make with bread—fluffy French toast, avocado toast, paninis—chances are that you aren’t going through a whole loaf in the span of a couple of days unless you’re cooking for a whole household of people. And if you’ve ever tried making a sandwich with stale bread, you know it just won’t cut it. (Literally…it’s super hard to cut.) Or even worse, the nightmare of biting into moldy bread—bleh!
Bread has a relatively short shelf life. Homemade bread lasts only three to four days and store-bought bread lasts about a week. But according to expert bread maker and the author of Artisan Sourdough Made Simple ($17) Emilie Raffa, how you’re storing your bread makes a huge difference in terms of how long it maintains that just-baked quality, either extending its life or drastically cutting it down.
Raffa has baked a lot of bread (like, a lot) and she’s learned first-hand that keeping it fresh comes down to avoiding three things: heat, moisture, and air. “This will prevent fresh bread from becoming stale and moldy,” she explains. Raffa says when she first started making bread, she used to keep it in a drawer next to the fridge. “Everything in the drawer quickly molded due to excess heat the fridge gave off,” she explains. This also means that if you have a bread box that’s kept anywhere near your stove, you’re going to have the same problem.
The best way to store bread, according to Raffa, is in a paper, plastic, or reusable bread bag. “Seal it loosely at room temperature,” she instructs. One bread storage mistake she says she sees people making a lot is keeping their bread in a sealed Ziploc bag. “This locks the moisture in, allowing mold to grow quickly,” she says. When stored correctly, your bread will stay as springy and moist as the day it came out of the oven for up to four days.
Raffa also says different types of bread have slightly different shelf lives. If you want to make or buy bread that can last as long as possible, she recommends going for sourdough—already a favorite in the wellness world for its gut health-supporting properties. “The naturally occurring enzymes in sourdough bread act as a natural preservative, keeping homemade bread fresher for longer,” she explains.
When you are reheating bread, Raffa offers up her insider intel on bringing it back to its just-baked self: “Wrap the loaf in foil and bake it at 300°F until warmed through,” she says, adding that the timing depends on the thickness and style of bread. “Then, remove the foil and bake for a little longer to crisp the crust to your liking.”
If you don’t plan on eating your bread in the next week, Raffa says you can always freeze it, saving it for weeks and even months later. “You can freeze the loaf whole or cut it into slices,” she says. “When you are ready to eat it, defrost the bread at room temperature and reheat or toast to serve.”
And while the freezer can be fresh bread’s BFF, its biggest enemy is (believe it or not) the fridge. Keeping a loaf in your refrigerator can certainly help curtail mold growth, but it also dries out your bread, meaning you can bid farewell to that deliciously fluffy, pillowy texture.
Of course, if your bread does go stale, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. Stale bread can make delicious croutons or breadcrumbs.
Whether your loaf is just-baked or starting to harden, really what using it all comes down to is mindfulness. Taking the time to store your bread properly will make it last as long as possible—and that’s good advice no matter how you slice it.
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