This age old question is one that has baffled bread lovers for years. According to expert scientists, bakers and foodies alike, any way you slice it, although it is safe and keeps disgusting mold from growing, it’s not the best way to store your beloved loaf. This sounds counter intuitive because we are taught that storing food in the fridge keeps it fresh for a longer period of time than when stored at room temperature.
With loaves of bread whether it’s white, wheat, whole grain, sour dough or anywhere in between, this just isn’t the case. Bread that is kept in the refrigerator will dry out or go stale must quicker than if it is stored at room temperature. And there is science to back it up. It’s called “retrogradation” and “recrystallization of starch” or complicated words that explain the process.
During a bread’s lifetime that starts when bread is baked in the oven and then cooled, it’s starches, that were rearranged during the baking process, return their original grouping or crystallized state. This causes bread to get really hard or stale. Storing fresh bread in the fridge quickens the process. As a matter of fact, even bread that has been totally sealed in air tight containers to prevent all moisture loss will still go stale if it is stored in the refrigerator.
Experts say that toasting or reheating the bread may revive it for a short while, but after a few hours the bread will go stale and get even harder than the first time. Ah, who knew our bread recipes had a dash or two of science baked in!
What can we do?
There is hope for our fresh bread loving fans. Here are some tips to keeping your bread soft and fresh longer:
-If possible, bake your own. That way you have fresh bread anytime you like. Not to mention you know what ingredients are baked into it.
-If you must buy bread, get it in whole loaves instead of sliced. Since, the shelf life of bread reduces markedly after it is sliced, it makes sense to buy whole loaves. Then, only cut as many slices that you want to eat.
-Another key to keeping bread fresher longer is to only slice it from one end. Then store the loaf cut side down against the counter or table.
-If you purchased multiple loaves, say at a buy one get one free sales event, wrap the extra loaves in airtight containers and freeze them.
–Freezing stops the recrystallization process discussed above so the freezer is our fresh bread’s friend. Then, when you are ready to eat, take the frozen loaf of bread out of the freezer and make sure you let them thaw completely before opening the container.
-Reheating stale bread makes it delicious again. According to a test carried out by Seriouseats.com, reheating can reverse the previously described crystallization process.
Here’s some more food for thought. There is a time and place for stale bread. Homemade croutons recipes include stale bread, bread filling or stuffing recipes include stale bread and even some dishes include stale bread crumbs. So when you are making any recipes that call for day old or stale bread, and you don’t have any on the counter, put a loaf in the fridge and you’ll have stale bread in no time!
You might also want to check out the whole list of foods that should not be placed in the fridge.