How to store bread for next time
As you are no doubt aware, most breads are made to be eaten fresh.
However, fresh is not always practical, so storage becomes necessary.
Here are some options for storing your bread: homemade or purchased. The major factor is how long the storage time will be.
TIP #1: if you know you will be storing a loaf or rolls whole, bake a bit less to keep more moisture in the bread.
TIP #2: if the bread has been cut, store the leftover cut side facing down to minimise the drying out of the exposed crumb surface.
Paper bag (1-2 days)
Paper is a good option for crusty loaves for a day or two. Because the loaf can ‘breathe’ (moisture can exit the bag) it will be slower to go mouldy (compared with plastic), however it will stale as the moisture can escape the loaf through the paper. The acidity of sourdough breads slows the formation of mould.
Plastic bag or replacement wrap (1-4 days [+ frozen])
Love it or loathe it, plastic does a great job of keeping moisture in the bread. But moisture also eventually means mould, so avoid more than a few days in plastic (for breads without artificial preservatives). Plastic is good for breads you desire to be soft (e.g. hot cross buns, soft rolls, brioche). Never put warm bread in plastic as it will sweat and promote mould growth.
Eco bread bag (1-4 days [+ frozen])
Reusable bread bags (we have this type available) are a great replacement for single-use plastic. Different options include calico or cotton; some have linings which retain moisture better than no lining. Often these bags allow the bread to breathe a little more than plastic, so mould formation is slower. Many are also freezer-safe. I have not used beeswax wraps, but I expect they would be similar.
Bread box (1-3 days)
Once common on every kitchen bench, the bread box is designed to keep the moisture in and the bugs out. The enclosed space of the bread box will promote the growth of mould, so avoid for more than a few days. If bread does go mouldy ensure the box is washed to prevent mould spores contaminating the next loaf.
Fridge (1-7 days)
The cold temperatures of refrigeration will slow the growth of mould but quicken the rate of staling. The fridge works reasonably well to keep industrial, additive-filled loaves soft and without mould for several days. Some breads with additives (e.g. cheeses, meats, pizza/vegetable toppings) may require refrigeration for food safety: slowing spoilage due to bacterial growth.
Freezer (5 days +)
For longer storage, freezing is the best option. Ensure bread going into the freezer is well sealed (e.g. plastic, plastic replacement, reusable bread bag) to prevent ice crystals from forming. Slice before freezing for convenient access to individual slices. Bread from the freezer is never quite the same as fresh but toasting or warming in the oven will restore short-term moisture. Dense breads and enriched (added fat, sugar) breads freeze, thaw and reheat better than crusty, low moisture loaves. Rolls that will be served warm are ideal when lightly baked, frozen, re-heated in oven and served immediately.
Dried (a long time +)
A traditional method to keep bread, especially for long-term storage, is dried. It is more common with thinner crispbread style breads, but does work for loaves as well: slice thinly and bake at a low temperature in the oven until dry and hard. Store in an airtight container. A desiccant (found in medicine tablet bottles) are also effective added to the container to absorb any extra moisture.
Staling is starches cooling down (as soon as the bread leaves the oven) and slowly crystallising. This is what makes stale bread firm.
Re-heating bread temporarily changes starches back into a ‘fresh’ form. So, bread, buns, and rolls can be re-heated in an 1800C oven for 5-15mins (depending on the size, density, and frozen or thawed condition of the bread). Enjoy immediately or very soon after.
When heating the bread, wrap in foil to keep the crust softer or leave uncovered for a crusty loaf, or start with foil and remove for final few minutes. This method can be used to heat from frozen or thawed.
You may have seen a ‘viral’ video of recent years with a stale loaf being saturated with running water from a tap, then heated in the oven – it does work! I tried it.
Enjoy your fresh or stored bread!