The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Bread Shelf Life

Steve H's picture
Steve H

Bread Shelf Life

So, my bread is drying out pretty quickly, which makes me sad.  As a single person with only one girlfriend, we can only eat so much at once, and I am running our of houses for housewarming gifts.  What's the best way to keep bread from getting stale?

LindyD's picture

If the recipe calls for two loaves, you can make three smaller loaves and freeze the excess.

Of course, then you create a situation of running out of freezer space...

xaipete's picture

Try not baking it to an extreme temperature.


Janknitz's picture

Dan Leopard suggests adding approx. 30% of the flour weight in ripe sourdough starter to help the bread last longer.  It seems to be working in my limited experiments.  

Even then the bread still goes stale in a few days because we can't get through an entire loaf in 3 or 4 days.  So after thoroughly cooling the loaf, I slice it and package two slices to a sandwich sized zipper bag with a piece of waxed paper or parchment in between the slices.  These go into the freezer.  

You can thaw the bread quickly in the microwave or I just throw the bag of bread into my lunch bag with the sandwich fillings in another container.  By lunchtime the bread is fully thawed, soft and lovely.  (I keep some staples in the office fridge like peanut butter, mayo, and jelly).  

janij's picture

I make and bake the bread.  Then slice it and freeze it.  That was for sandwiches and stuff you can just break off what you need and toast it.  Works great for us.  That way I can make 4 loaves at one and have 1-2 weeks of bread at a time.

arzajac's picture

Use a preferment.


Sourdough is a preferment, but simply mixing your dough ingredients together and letting them sit on the counter overnight (say, 8 to 24 hours) before developing the dough is another way to preferment your dough.  You can also do this with a small portion of your dough (like 30 percent) and call it a poolish or a biga (but to me, that's too much work, I just preferment the whole thing).

You can also put your dough in the fridge for a few days to let it preferment slowly. 

All of these will bring out more flavor in your bread as well as add to shelf life. 

I think the way it works is that the microorganisms which will cause your bread to go bad will work before the bread is cooked and consume much of the free sugars, as well as create by-products.  Once it's cooked, the microorganisms have less food left to snack on and so your bread is more resistant to them.



Soundman's picture



leucadian's picture

Three ideas for you: Make bread that keeps longer, bake smaller batches more frequently, and store it properly after it's baked.

(By the way, is the problem that the bread dries out or it stales? Leave a loaf in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and it goes stale (tough), but leave a cut loaf in a warm oven and it dries out (brittle).)

Sourdough seems to keep longer, maybe because of the acids that are developed, although I think that may do more to avoid mold than prevent staling.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day proposes keeping the bulk dough in the refrigerator and only baking as much as you want on a daily basis. Try some flatbreads like pita that are very quick to make. Try parbaking and freezing, or even freezing the dough.

Avoid refrigerator temperatures for baked bread. Either room temp or freezing and reheating are OK, but temperatures in the 40 F range seem to accelerate staling. I keep my bread in a plastic bag after the first day or so to keep it from drying out. The crumb goes soft, but it toasts up just fine.  

Good luck.

xaipete's picture

I'm not sure what type of bread you are making but I sometimes bake in mini loaf pans. Two mini loaf pans will hold about the same amount of dough as one 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch pan. I freeze what we aren't planning to eat right away and then thaw out overnight on the counter.

I bake most loaf pan bread types to 190º and most sourdough heath types to 205º.

You definitely don't want to store any leftover bread in the refrigerator as that will make it dry out very rapidly.

Cook's Illustrated has a few tips on storing bread.

Published February 1, 2005. From Cook's Illustrated.

What's the best way to store bread?

We tested several storing several artisinal breads (Olive-Rosemary, baguettes) at room temperature, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. When stored at room temperature, within just three days the loaves were shrunken, discolored, and firm—in other words, they staled. The same bread, stored in the refrigerator, fared even worse, hardening within a day or so. Why? According to food scientists, the major reason that bread stales is not moisture loss, but rather a process called retrogradation, in which the starch molecules in the bread crystallize. Retrogradation occurs about six times faster at refrigerator temperatures (36 - 40 degrees) than at room temperature, thereby making the refrigerator the worst choice for bread storage. However, the retrogradation process does slow down significantly when bread is stored below freezing temperatures. The water molecules in the bread freeze, which immobilizes the starch molecules and prevents them from forming crystalline structures.

Because retrogradation is accelerated by cold temperatures, it’s logical that it would be reversed by heat. Anyone who has ever softened stale bread in an oven or microwave has witnessed retrogradation reversal. Ovens don’t add moisture, but when stale bread (bread with crystallized starch) is heated to temperatures above 140 degrees, the crystals break down, softening the bread, (140 degrees is the gelation temperature of wheat starch—that is, the temperature at which the molecules form a gel).

To minimize retrogradation, store bread at room temperature—for up to two days—in a container that minimizes moisture loss (tightly wrapped in foil or in a zipper-lock bag). After two days, wrap bread tightly wrapped in foil, place in a freezer bag, and freeze. Thaw the slices at room temperature, or in the microwave or oven. (For a frozen full- or half-loaf, we recommend heating the bread, still wrapped in foil, in a 450-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then crisping it by removing the foil and returning it to the oven for a minute or two.) If you find yourself with stale bread, wrap it in plastic wrap and reheat briefly in a microwave, but be prepared to use it almost immediately as retrogradation will set in again fairly quickly. Finally, only refrigerate bread that you’re intending to reheat (e.g., toast or grill) later on.