The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bread Storage?

plnelson's picture

Bread Storage?

Recently I was laid-off from my job as a software engineer, so, since I'm home all day writing software, I've taken up breadmaking as a hobby since it gives me an excuse to get up from my desk every so often to knead or punch down the bread or put it in the oven, take it out, etc. It also saves money since I can make the equivalent of one of the $6 local bakery loaves I ied to buy for about 80 cents in ingredients.

Here's my question: I'm getting pretty good at this and I like to experiment with new recipes (recently I made a delicious rosemary bread using rosemary my wife and I grew in our sunroom) so I often have more bread than I can eat at the moment. But I've seen conflicting advice about storage: airtight, not airtight, how long to go without freezing, etc. Also, one issue I'll have to grapple with as summer nears will be ants.

Googling about bread storage (or even searching TFL) I've seen just about every opinion imaginable. How do I get authoritative information about this?

Thanks in advance!

PS - FWIW, my breads, so far, have been peasant or artisan style breads crusty on the outside, light but chewey inside, sometimes mostly white flour, sometimes mostly whole wheat. The whole wheat ones often are multigrain with rye, spelt, or oat. Most of my breads have a little oil (a tab


Floydm's picture

Lean, crusty breads are best stored in paper at room temperature.  If the moisture is trapped in plastic with them, they'll quickly lose their crispness.

Sourdoughs keep longer than yeasted breads, though breads with a preferment tend to keep longer than quickly risen breads.  In my experience, a quick French bread is only good for 24 hours or so, a Pain sur Poolish for 48, a sourdough loaf 72-96 hours.  Size and shape or the loaf makes a difference too, as does the temperature, moisture in the air, and draftiness of the kitchen.

LindyD's picture

Sorry about the layoff....I hope that trend reverses really soon.

Each time I bake I have at least one extra loaf.  If I don't give it away, I  thoroughly wrap it in plastic wrap as soon as the loaf has fully cooled, making sure there are no air pockets between the bread and the wrap, then place it in a large plastic freezer bag.  Then off it goes into deep freeze.

The bread is removed from the feezer at least 12 hours before I'll need it and allowed to thaw in its wrapping.   It's quite tasty and while it may dry out a bit faster than bread that hasn't been frozen, in most cases it's eaten before it has a chance to do that.  If not, well, SD makes great French toast!

I keep my freshly baked sourdoughs and ryes in plastic ziplock bags.  In my kitchen, bread stored in paper bags becomes dry and hard.  That doesn't happen with the ziplocks.

Ants?  Sounds like you should be using ziplocks too.

ques2008's picture

I'm assuming you mean storing bread after it's baked and cooled.  If I remember right, Peter Reinhart, the guru on bread, said never to store leftover bread in the fridge.  He says it's best to keep it in the freezer.

The funny thing is, I've always stored bought commercial bread in the fridge and as long as they're shoved into the toaster, they taste ok.  Then when I started baking my own bread, I also put them in the fridge, and same thing - great when toasted for breakfast.  My homebaked raisin bread was in the fridge for like 8 days and there was no mold at all, and still tasted good.


xaipete's picture

Toasted bread is a separate case, I think. If its intended use is toast, then I see no problem with storing it in the fridge.

I said this before, but I like to wrap my bread up in the lowest, cheapest, grade of full sheet parchment paper and store it in one of those metal, garage door type bread boxes. The parchment paper doesn't get oily like paper bags and doesn't soften the crust as much as plastic.


plnelson's picture

Just to reference my OP -  my question was really about whether there's an authoritative point of view on this topic.   I'm really not soliciting each person's individual opinion or experience -  I've already searched this forum and others on the web and, as I said, there's a VAST spectrum of opinion out there, with very little consensus.

But people have been baking bread for thousands of years and in recent years a considerable body of kitchen science has developed as well as systematic research by book authors or publications like Cook's Magazine so by now you'd think a clear consensus would have developed.  So my question is whether there IS one and where can I look for it?


Floydm's picture

Just about every bakery I've been to in North America or Europe sells and stores their crusty breads in paper and moist breads in plastic.  I tend to trust that the people who make their livings baking and selling bread know what they are doing.  But if you are looking for something more authoritative than that, you may be SOL.

Also, just a note on netiquette: to join a board and ask for information and then tell the folks who try to help you out you really aren't interested in their opinions isn't a great way to encourage folks to help you out in the future.

LindyD's picture

As you've seen, the experiences and preferences of individuals vary.  Cook's Illustrated found that refrigerated bread degraded six times faster than at room temp, but even their forum members voiced disagreement on the CI recommendations.  As to authorities:

Maggie Glezer recommends bread be stored at room temperature for only one day, then it should be placed in a plastic Ziploc bag and refrigerated for up to a week.  For longer storage, it should be frozen (p 19, "Artisan Baking"). [I find it hard to believe she recommended refrigeration, but she did.  I checked the book twice.]

Dan Lepard doesn't address storage in "The art of Handmade Bread."  If he did, it wasn't indexed.

Peter Reinhart writes that lean, crusty breads stored in paper will become stale within a day.  He suggests they be wrapped in plastic, then either frozen or placed in a dark, cool place. Soft enriched breads are best stored in plastic (p 99, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice).

Daniel Leader states that sourdough bread with crisp crusts should be held in paper bags and should stay fresh for several days.  Bread made with commercial yeast should be stored in plastic bags (p 35, "Local Breads").

Jeffery Hamelman writes that baked breads stale most quickly between 32F and 50F and that the worst enviornment is the refrigerator.  He suggests wrapping the bread tightly in plastic and freezing, but notes that thawed long skinny loaves tend to dry out sooner than larger round or oblong loaves.  He also notes there is a difference between old bread and stale bread:  "Old bread (well made) can, like old people, improve in character."  (pp 28, 29, "Bread, A Baker's Book of Technques and Recipes")

So there you have it.  I think that one's environment, humidity, kitchen temperature, the bread itself, and probably geographic location are all factors that have an effect on the bread, both in the baking and the storage.

Thus, each of us is our own authority on what works and what doesn't in our own kitchens.  What we've baked and our personal preferences also come into play.

The only thing I can suggest is that you experiement and find what method is most acceptable to you.  There is no one right way or one wrong way....and that's just another interesting facet of the wonderful world of bread.

baltochef's picture

Wrapping artisan loaves for freezing can best be accomplished with the commercial-sized boxes of plastic wrap such as are sold at Sam's Club, Restaurant Depot, etc..Far easier to work with, and much more economical in a price-per-square-inch-basis than the size boxes sold in grocery stores..

As modern peoples we tend to overlook the drawbacks of refrigerators and freezers because of the benefits they bring to our lives..All foods begin to deteriorate IMMEDIATELTY after they are harvested / killed / cooked..The only way to keep bread from deteriorating rapidly in a refrigerator is to put the loaf in a vacumn-sealed container that has a very effective vacumn..The only ones that I know to have effective vacumn seals are the VacSy brand made in Italy..Unfortunately, they are expensive, and the largest of the Cheese Bells is only 30cm long so it will not hold a very large loaf of bread..

I keep my breads in 1-gallon and 2-gallon Zip-Loc double-zipper bags which I attempt to squeeze out as much of the air as possible before sealing the bag..These are then placed in a bread box out of direct sunlight with the lid constantly down..I consume most loaves within 5 days after baking / thawing from the freezer..Depending upon the type of bread, some level of staleness is bound to be evident on days 5-6 compared to day 1..This is inevitable, and I do not  sweat the little things in life that I cannot control..

plnelson's picture

Also, just a note on netiquette: to join a board and ask for information and then tell the folks who try to help you out you really aren't interested in their opinions isn't a great way to encourage folks to help you out in the future.

Except that I made it clear in my OP that I was already well-stocked with personal opinions and I was looking for something more authoritative.   If I said I was looking for advice about buying a dog and people suggested breeds of cats would it be inappropriate to remind them of the original question?

Back on topic - 

So far I've been avoiding the refrigerator completely.  Anything that I don't plan to consume in 3 or 4 days I freeze.  The main question is "paper or (zip-lock) plastic"?   The zip-lock bags seem to work well and are ant-proof.   But I've noticed a curious phenomenon -  when I take the bread out it's slightly warm.  At first I thought it was my imagination but I have a remote IR thermometer (used for engineering work - yes, I'm a geek) and it confirmed that the bread in the bag is indeed a couple of degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.  

I assume something biological (and exothermic) is going on in the sealed, moist conditions, but the bread tastes great, stays fresh, and continues to get excellent reviews from guests.  (and the bags don't puff up).  But it made me nervous about plastic despite the other advantages.


plnelson's picture

Cook's Illustrated ...

Maggie Glezer . . .

Dan Lepard . . .

Peter Reinhart . . .

Daniel Leader . . .

Jeffery Hamelman . . .

The only thing I can suggest is that you experiement and find what method is most acceptable to you. There is no one right way or one wrong way....and that's just another interesting facet of the wonderful world of bread.

Excellent, thank you. This is the kind of information I'm looking for. I wanted to make sure, before I embarked on a big project of experiments that might take months and 30 pounds of flour or something, that I wouldn't be reinventing the wheel. My undergraduate background is in scientific design methodology, so when I experiment, I really experiment! I hate to throw out food but I can see myself going, "Well - it didn't last very long with THIS storage method! or "Boy it sure gets stale when I do THAT!" I'll report on what I find out.