If you’ve gone a little wild baking delicious loaves of homemade bread, you might now be facing a dilemma: Eat it all in one day or let it stale? Well, the good news is, these aren’t your only choices.
It’s true you have to store homemade bread differently from the kind you buy at the store. Homemade bread doesn’t have any preservatives, so it goes bad faster.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can keep your homemade bread fresh until you’re ready to eat it.
Stock Your Freezer
The best way to keep home-baked bread fresh is simply to freeze it. Wrap it tightly in a freezer bag to keep freezer burn at bay, and it’ll keep for up to six months. It might start to lose quality after about a month, though.
You can freeze a whole loaf, or slice it up so you can easily access and thaw only the amount you need. Try to avoid repeatedly defrosting and refreezing your bread, though, as this can degrade the quality. Only defrost the amount you need.
To defrost bread, just set it on the counter for a while. You can also reheat it immediately in the oven or a toaster, which will help restore its fresh texture.
Invest in a Bread Box or Bag
If you don’t have freezer space, a bread box or bag might be a worthwhile investment. Bread boxes create the ideal conditions for storing bread on the counter: they’re dark with a good balance of humidity and airflow.
For the best results, opt for a larger bread box to provide enough airflow and prevent the humidity from getting too high. Avoid overfilling the box, as this contributes to the humidity level.
Ceramic boxes are best for keeping the right amount of moisture without promoting mold. Unfortunately, they’re also heavy and delicate. If you want something a little more practical (and less likely to end up shattered on the floor) go for bamboo or metal.
You can also use inexpensive reusable bread bags. If you don’t have any extra cash at the moment, though, a cotton pillowcase will work, too.
Paper, Not Plastic
When you buy bread from the bakery, it often comes in a paper bag. This is not just because it looks cute and rustic. Paper actually keeps bread better than plastic.
Plastic traps too much moisture, which encourages mold, whereas paper allows bread to breathe properly, with just a little bit of moisture to keep it from drying out.
Of course, you can also opt for reusable bread bags, or, if you have a bread box, you won’t need bags at all.
Store It Cut-Side Down
Once you cut into a loaf, you can prevent the exposed part from getting stale by storing it cut-side down in a bread box, or bread or paper bag.
Bread crust is less likely to lose its moisture than the exposed inner portion of the loaf. Storing it this way will also keep it from turning into a giant crouton overnight.
Avoid Heat and Humidity
If your bread is exposed to too much warmth and humidity, it’s more likely to grow mold. A little bit of humidity is good, but don’t store your bread anywhere in which it’ll be exposed to extra moisture, such as steam from the dishwasher.
Surprisingly, this also means you shouldn’t store your bread above the refrigerator. This area tends to get warm and, even if you avoid humidity, the heat can dry out your bread and make it stale.
Cool, dry areas are best. If you don’t have counter space, make room for your bread in a cabinet or drawer.
As well as on top of it, you’ll also want to avoid putting your bread in the refrigerator. While storing it in the fridge might help bread ward off mold, it also dries it out, so it stales faster.
Use a countertop storage method or freeze it, instead.
Let It Cool
If you’ve just baked a fresh loaf, let it cool completely before you put it away. If you put it in a container too fast, the trapped steam becomes mold-causing moisture. Even if it doesn’t end in mold, you’ll have a soggy crust.
While a large boule can take quite a while to cool on a counter (even on a cooling rack), it’s worth the wait. It ensures the loaf will still have a nice crackle crust the next day.
Try Different Recipes
Breads you add fat to, such as brioche, can last longer on a countertop without going stale. This is because the fat helps them retain enough moisture to ward it off.
These types of bread might not be the quickest or easiest to make, but they will buy you a little more storage time.
On the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper app, you can quickly check how long different types of bread will last, either on the counter or in the freezer.
If you want information on storing every kind of bread or pastry you bake, it’s worth downloading.
Uses for Stale Bread
Even if you use the best storage techniques, all bread will eventually stale.
However, you still don’t have to toss it! There are actually lots of ways you can put a stale loaf of bread to good use. Croutons, breadcrumbs, and bread pudding are just a few of the things you can make with your not-so-fresh bread.
Making your own bread is fun, and the best part, of course, is eating it. With these tips, you’ll never have to let another homemade loaf go to waste!