You left the bakery with a fresh warm loaf of bread, or better yet, you baked your own handmade bread at home. After enjoying a few delicious slices, the question is what now? How do you keep the remaining bread fresh and enjoy it for as long as possible?
Bread should be stored in a dry, cool and dark place. The bread itself should never be stored directly in a plastic bag. If stored properly bread should stay fresh for about 3 days ( if it is a highly hydrated sourdough bread you could keep it fresh for about 4-5 days ).
There are 2 ways your bread will go bad if not properly stored:
- The bread will grow mold on it due to a lack of airflow. This usually happens when you store bread in a sealed plastic bag and also if you store your bread in a warm place.
The plastic bag prevents the bread from breathing which in turn keeps the moisture inside the bag. When storing bread in the plastic back it actually acts as an incubator for all the microorganisms still left in the bread thus creating the perfect environment to grow mold. If you store bread this way and if it happens to be in a warm place you will quickly find mold all of your bread.
- The bread goes stale or dry due to dehydration. This, on the other hand, happens when the bread is exposed to too much air as opposed to closing it in a plastic bag. The water particles that bonded with the flour during the mixing and baking process are now evaporating. you will notice your bread becoming crumbly, or cracking from the inside.
Having said all that, here are the best methods and places to store and extend your bread’s shelflife.
- Bread box or bread bin
- Inside a Drawer
- Inside an Appliance Garage
- Paper bag
- A linen bread bag
- On the counter in a room temperature
- Freeze it
When storing your bread you are trying to slow down the process that causes the bread to become stale, dry or moldy in the first place. so finding the perfect place and method to store it is what we are after.
Store-bought bread usually has baking enhancers added making sure to give it longer shelf life, these enhancers usually extend the life of your bread by 2-3 days more than if you did not have these added additives. Eventually, time will prevail and win over your bread dehydrating your bread and causing it to go stale.
Stale bread can be detected by the look of it: white coating or green mold, the smell of it (you guessed it, it smells like mold and if feels hard as a rock. Either of these symptoms means your bread is “6 feet under”.
Know Your Bread
Certain types of bread tend to grow mold quickly and others tend to dry up quickly. Let’s examine this for a moment.
The bread that tends to mold quickly are ones that have a high hydration level AFTER baking. I emphasize AFTER because if your bread has a high hydration level before you bake it, it does not mean that it will have high water content after.
For example; Foccacia and Ciabatta bread have high hydration levels before you bake them but after the bake the are very airy and light as most of the water has evaporated.
On the other hand, bread, like rye, pumpernickel and even whole wheat bread ( 50% or more ) usually have a high hydration level after baking. This is because these types of flour tend to soak up more water and retain it after baking.
It is pretty simple to tell if your bread has a high hydration level after baking. If your bread is fluffy and airy it is usually an indication of low hydration and if it is dense and heavy it is high in water content.
Other factors might also attribute to bread going moldy even if your bread is fluffy and airy. Rich bread like brioche or challah that have eggs, sugar and oils in them also tend to go moldy before they go dry. Make sure that these types of bread are not stored in an airtight container.
Note: bread with higher water content or bread that are rich in sugars, eggs, and oil tends to have a longer shelf life than bread made with just flour, water, and salt. These rich and highly hydrated bread can usualy stay fresh for about 5 days or so.
Bread that is low in water content tends to dry out more quickly so you might want to store these in a less ventilated place.
Now lets examine where and how to store your bread.
The Ideal Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature for preserving your bread fresh is room temperature.
Room temperature is considered between 20 to 22 ° C (or 68 to 72 ° F).
That means that if you live in a particularly cold or warm area, consider that the weather may play a role in keeping your bread fresh.
In humid environment bread usually will grow mold quicker, So if you live in a particularly humid area you will need to make sure that wherever you store your bread it will have enough airflow. I would recommend that if you live in very warm and humid conditions to store your bread in the Freezer.
On the other hand. If you live in a cold dry area (and it is quite cold and dry in your home ) you will find that your bread will dry out quickly so consider storing your bread in a more airtight location where the humidity from your loaf will not dissipate too quickly.
Freeze Your Loaf
By far the best solution I can offer.
Freezing your loaf preserves it in its original form: texture, crust, and flavor-wise.
If you properly freeze your bread you will effectively stop the crystallization of starch (retrogradation) in the loaf and you will be able to preserve all of the attributes of a fresh loaf.
The best way to freeze bread will be in an airtight plastic bag. Make sure to extract all the air out of the bag before sealing it as air can have water molecules and it can cause water crystals to form and eventually cause freezer burn on your loaf.
Storing it this way the bread can be kept for a couple of months. (Beyond that it will get frostbite and lose its flavor).
IMPORTANT: If you are going to freeze your bread do so on the first day when it fresh. This way you wll lock in all that moisture. Do not way 2-3 days and then freeze it, as your bread after these 2-3 days would have already lost moisture and freezing it at this point will only bring it back to the same place you started. FREEZE IT FRESH!
BUT… If you bake your own bread or brought home a hot loaf from the bakery do not freeze it right away. You must let you bread cool down compoletely before freezeing. Bread should sit and cool anywhere between 4 hours to 8 hours. Very high hydration breads like 100% rye or pumpernickle breads should cool down between 8 – 24 hours before freezing.
When you feel the hunger kicks in and want to eat your bread again, take it out of the plastic bag and let it sit on the counter for about 30-60 minutes until it defrosts.
If you have a full loaf and would like to reheat it use the oven and avoid the microwave by any means.
Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit or 175 Celsius. The bread should be in the oven for around 8 minutes and walla, Your old bread is as good as new.
Tip: It is good practice to slice your bread besore freezing. This way you can always take out the desired ammount and not have to thaw out the whole loaf over and over again.
Store Your Bread In A Bread Box
A bread box is an ideal solution for storing bread. It allows the optimal conditions for keeping your loaf fresh: a dark and dry environment, with little air penetration that keeps just the right amount of humidity inside it and prevents your bread from growing mold.
Bread should be stored in a breadbox naked. Meaning not in any sort of plastic or paper bags. Just a plane bread in the box. This will ensure you will keep your loaf fresh and your crust crispy.
Bread boxes should not be 100% airtight as to let a small amount of air in and out of the box.
Many bread boxes that you will find on the market are made of wood or bamboo and you will notice that they are not completely airtight. These are the ideal bread boxes. Some bread boxes that are not made of wood or bamboo but do have small holes or air vents in them.
The air vents prevent excess moisture to build up and, on the other hand, do not allow too much air in, to cause the bread to dry. Those conditions will help keep the bread’s most important features: crispy crust, moist crumb, and a perfect chewy texture.
If you have a bread box and it does not have any air vents in it I suggest that you make sure to open the bread box once in the morning ( which you probably already do on a regular basis) and another time in the evening. This will help to get some excess moisture out.
Bread boxes come in a variety of sizes and designs and can add a touch of style to your kitchen design. You can check out my recommended bread box here.
I personally like the look of it and its features. The matte steel finish prevents fingerprints on it and it has a clever magnetic seal that will ensure that there is not too much airflow.
If you do not close your breadbox properly it will cause your bread to dry out quickly so I especially like this feature.
I can’t tell you how many times I have left a bread box not fully sealed. This little magnet really does help and should not be overlooked.
Lastly, the design of it with a flat top as opposed to many other bread boxes out there that are rounded on top, allows for extra storage on top of the box.
NOTE: If you live in a very dry area it might be a good idea to store you bread in a linen bag and then in your bread box
Some kitchens are small and real estate on your countertop is precious. So I f you do not want to have a bread box taking up that space on your counter top you can always store your bread in a drawer.
Some kitchens come build in with a bread drawer. If you are not familiar with these drawers they are basically just a drawer with a cover on top, kind of like a garage door in most cases. These are drawers specifically designed for bread just like a bread box.
If your kitchen does not have one of these simply place the bread in a paper bag or a linen bag. Make sure the paper bag or linen bag is sealed well and make sure to close the drawer. It’s that simple.
The paper bag and linen bags are perfect as they are not 100% airtight and will allow just the right amount of moisture to escape slowly.
Try to choose a drawer far away from your oven as it releases heat you don’t want to be damaging your bread.
If you don’t have the luxury of a bread drawer just choose one that is convenient to reach ( not to close to the floor, so you want to need to bend over all the time, and again, not cloth to the oven. Place your bread there, preferably in a plastic container or a linen bag so it wants to get too messy and attract live pests.
Tip: its a force of a habit to forget what you put in the drawer in the first place. If you don’t want to wake up a few weeks later to a terribly mold smelly bread, make sure to put a little reminder for yourself to check that said drawer from time to time.
An Appliance Garage
You got me, I love my appliance garage:)
Beyond the fact that it hides the small kitchen appliances very well and allows them to be conveniently used, a great bonus is a fact that it is usually spacious enough and you can find additional space to store things that weren’t necessarily planned for it from day one.
I find that an appliance garage is a good choice to store bread.
It is right on the workbench or on your countertop, accessible, and simulates the conditions of a bread box: cool dry place.
Just like in the bread drawer case, I recommend putting your loaf in a paper bag or linen bag, so the crumbs won’t find its way to the appliances.
A Paper Bag
Everyone knows the brown paper bag. Simple and plain but it does the job. This is the reason bakeries sell you bread in a brown paper bag.
As mentioned earlier the paper bag is ideal for storing bread. If you plan on leaving your bread on the countertop then put the bread inside the paper bag and place the paper bag inside a plastic bag.
The plastic bag must be kept open while the paper bag will be closed tightly. Storing it this way will allow air to circulate freely inside the plastic bag but not as much as if your paper bag was out in the open.
The only downside to the paper bag is that they rip easily, especially when:
- You open and close them often and
- If you have a very good artisan bread with a hard crust. you will find the crust will easily rip the bag.
A great alternative to a paper bag is a Linen bag. Keep on reading.
Linen Bread Bag
A linen bread bag is a great way to keep bread fresh at a minimum cost while keeping a conscientious eye on the environment.
The linen fabric slows the process where the bread loses its moisture while in contact with the air, hence buying an extra 2-3 days of freshness. It also will keep your loaf crust crispy better than other methods.
There are many natural linen bread bags in the market in different shapes, sizes and designs. (For baguettes too).
I especially like the bags that come with a drawstring closure that blocks out most of the air but still keeps it breathable making sure the bread won’t dry out so quickly.
They usually pretty cheap (they range from 7-18 $) and come in a pack – check out some linen bags I found on Amazon right here.
Again, I really love these bags, especially because they are reusable and you can always throw them in your washing machine and it comes out good as new.
If for some reason you don’t have a linen bag try using a NEW & CLEAN Cloth diaper or a Cloth kitchen towel that should do the job as well.
The Big No-No: Avoid Storing Your Bread In…
I feel compelled to warn you of these storage options as they will only set your bread back and expedite the expiration date on your bread.
A Plastic bag
This is a common mistake, made by many. I guess it seems like a good idea but boy it’s a bad one…
Storing your loaf in a plastic bag encourages mold growth. It traps the moisture inside the bag and (among others) softens up your crust. The end result being your bread goes bad much faster.
Tinfoil act very similar to a plastic bag, meaning trapping the moisture inside it, making the bread develop mold faster than it normally would.
Storing bread in the fridge
Storing bread in a fridge is a bad choice as your refridgirator is a very dry (too dry) envoirnment.
If you store bread in a fridge you will notice the slices come out crumbly or they just fall aprt. Bread in the fridge will dry out in a matter of hours to one day.
If it is too hot or too humid where you live freeze your bread.
Simply put bread is not meant to stay fresh for long. It is a product that should be consumed in a matter of 2-3 days. If you know ahead of time you will not be able to finsh the whole loaf in this time frame make sure to freeze it. It is truely the best way to keep bread fresh for any longer than 2-3 days.