Is there any smell quite so comforting as that of freshly baked bread emanating from your oven and filling your home?
Although store-bought bread doesn’t fill our homes with that smell, people often eat it because it is easier, faster, and lasts longer than homemade. But it’s also chock-full of unhealthy preservatives. If we want truly delicious bread, industrially manufactured bread is no match for the inviting smell and fresh, fluffy texture of homemade bread.
If you have taken the time to bake homemade bread (or bought artisanal bread from the bakery), the next thing you’ll need to know is how to store your homemade bread. After all, it would be a shame if all that hard work went to waste.
How Long Can You Store Homemade Bread?
So how should you store homemade bread? According to Justin Ward, French baker, international restaurant and baking consultant and culinary arts instructor at La Cuisine, Paris (a cooking school on the banks of the Seine), “that is a loaded question.”
One of the biggest differences between homemade bread and industrially manufactured sandwich bread is the amount of preservatives put into the store-bought version — the reason that store-bought bread lasts so much longer than homemade bread.
“Bread, by nature, is not meant to be kept long,” Ward said. “A baguette, for example, is bought not for the week, not for a few days, not even one day, but instead it is meant to be consumed at a certain meal.”
According to Ward, that is the reason most French people go to the local bakery at least twice a day, if not three times. If you are planning to store bread and not use it in one sitting, he emphasizes that the shape of the bread matters. A French baguette, for example, which is long and thin in shape, will dry out or absorb moisture faster than rounder-shaped bread, making it stale. For this reason, he advises considering the shape of your bread before you start baking it — especially if you plan to store it.
“Shape your bread in a ‘boule’,” Ward said. (Boule is the French word for ball.)
The decreased surface area of a large round loaf will prevent it from drying out or absorbing moisture. Whether your bread dries out or absorbs moisture depends on the humidity of your environment.
If you know you will be storing excess bread, it’s better to make two smaller “boules” instead of one. One can be eaten the day it’s made, and the other stored for the next day. Ward said you should try not to cut or slice your bread until that loaf is ready to be eaten.
The crust of the bread acts as a natural protective shield, so once you slice or cut your bread, you will see it lose freshness quicker.
While there’s a lot of information out there regarding storing bread for as long as 2-3 days, it’s important to note that if you want to do it like the French, don’t store your fresh-baked bread for longer than a day.
Also, certain types of bread do keep longer than others. Sourdough bread, for instance, keeps longer than bread leavened with industrial baker’s yeast. The same applies to homemade bread made without yeast.
“In the French countryside, in isolated areas where bakeries are not prevalent, the preferred bread of ‘paysans’ (country people) is leavened with sourdough,” Ward said.
Using sourdough bread means that they can keep it up to a week, the maximum length for storing sourdough bread.
What Are the Best Ways to Store Homemade Bread?
There are a number of different ways you can store your homemade bread to keep it from becoming stale. The most important aspect of your choice, Ward said, is how well it keeps moisture from getting in or out.
Wrappers Like Plastic and Paper
Ward’s preference for storing homemade bread is to wrap the loaf in plastic wrap, creating a hermetic seal and keeping the bread from drying out until he uses it the next day. If you’d like to avoid plastic, a reusable wrap made of beeswax can create the same type of seal but without the waste. Simply cover the loaf tightly with the wrap and, using the warmth from your hands, mold the beeswax-lined cloth to fit.
For when you are ready to enjoy your stored loaves, Ward suggested slightly dampening the crust with a water bottle with a spray nozzle and putting it in a hot oven (450-500F) until the crust is crispy again.
Ward added that, if you want to store your bread in the freezer, you can do that as well. Once you have sealed your loaf within a wrapper or airtight plastic bag of your preference, it can be then put in the freezer for up to a week. After removing your bread from the freezer and defrosting it, you can refresh it by dampening and placing it in the oven until the crust is crispy once again.
How Do You Store Homemade Bread Without Plastic?
If you want to store your homemade bread without using plastic wrap or bags, consider investing in a bread box or ceramic container.
Bread boxes provide a zero-waste and sustainable option compared to plastic wrap or a plastic bag. A household staple before the rise of store-bought bread, the bread box (also known as a bread bin) is a container that keeps bread and other baked goods fresh.
Ward recommended purchasing a bread box or ceramic container that has a hermetic (air-tight) seal, or else your bread won’t last long. If you have cut or slice the bread, try to store it cut-side down to better preserve that now unprotected portion.
Can You Leave Freshly Baked Bread Out Overnight?
Depending on the type of bread you’ve decided to bake, chances are you can leave it out overnight in the oven rack or inside of a bread box. It’s important to store it in the right environment to ensure freshness. In most cases, as long as you don’t slice through the crust, the bread should keep until the next day.
While homemade bread left out overnight should still be tasty, it won’t have that same texture or softness as bread that is fresh out of the oven.
Don’t Let Your Dough Go Sour
While homemade bread is superior in taste, smell and texture, it does quickly lose its freshness and starts to get stale. It is a small price to pay for avoiding industrially-produced preservatives. Most breads won’t necessarily “go bad” in 2-3 days, but you should probably eat it within a day to get the best flavor, especially if you’ve decided to cut or slice it.
If the bread starts to go bad, Ward said there is nothing you can do. Before it gets to that point, you can refresh it through the dampening and recooking method, or you can reuse your stale bread in new ways. According to him, the most classic examples are pain perdu (French toast), bread crumbs, croutons, bread pudding, and anything that uses toast as a base.
Enjoying bread pudding certainly doesn’t seem like too high a price to pay. But if you want to utilize your homemade loaf in a more traditional way, make sure you follow these tips on how to store bread.
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