“Nothing beats the first day on any of these breads,” said Andrew Janjigian, author of the bread-focused Wordloaf newsletter and an upcoming cookbook. But unless you’re only eating freshly baked bread for meals throughout the day, which I wouldn’t judge, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with leftovers.
I baked a new loaf every week for a year. This is why.
To keep bread at its best, it’s important to remember one rule: “You should never put bread in the fridge,” Janjigian said. It’s the worst thing you can do for bread, as it speeds up the aging process.
“Don’t refrigerate unless it’s the only option you have,” former Post writer Stephanie Witt Sedgwick wrote in a 1996 test of the best methods for storing bread. “Refrigerated breads have taken hold. They were really only suitable for toasting.”
Beyond that, it all comes down to moisture control, and the first thing Janjigian considers for storage is what kind of bread it is. “A crusty bread wants to dry out slowly” and “there’s moisture on the inside that’s migrating into the crust, so it’s going to stay well uncovered for a while,” Janjigian said. “Whereas an enriched bread will start to dry out from the outside in.”
“My usual method or approach for crusty bread is to slice it and then store it cut-side down on the cutting board,” Janjigian said. “That prevents the exposed face from drying out.”
You don’t want to wrap the loaves at this point to maintain the integrity of the crust. “It will soften that crust almost immediately because, like I said, there’s moisture that comes from the inside out, and once it hits a barrier like that, it just sits on top of the crust,” he said. “You can protect the bread in the long term, but you’re degrading its initial quality by doing so.”
Janjigian will keep unwrapped bread on the counter for a few days, and Witt Sedgwick doesn’t usually recommend more than two. “You can get a couple more days out of a big loaf, but basically after about 36 hours the loaf starts to dry out from the outside in and you’ll have to cut away the stale parts to get to the good ones,” Witt Sedgwick. she wrote her.
At this point, Janjigian recommends putting the bread in something if you want to squeeze a little more life out of it at room temperature. “By that time, it’s already lost its shine, so it just stays that way a little bit longer.” Janjigian typically uses beeswax wrap or beeswax-lined cloth bags, which she likes because they’re a bit breathable, but some alternatives include bread boxes, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap. With this approach, he can get about a week without sourdough, which “keeps better than leavened bread because of the acids in the sourdough.”
7 No-Knead Bread Recipes for Loaves, Focaccia, Rolls, and More
With enriched breads, those with a higher concentration of fat, sugar, and/or dairy, like sandwich bread, there’s no crust to try to keep crisp, so you just have to focus on not letting them dry out. As such, he recommends putting the enriched breads in a plastic bag as soon as you’re ready to store them.
“With a plastic bag, there is a risk of mold, especially if it’s hot,” Janjigian said. “So I just try to race against time and try not to keep the loaves long enough for mold to be an issue.” Depending on how hot it is in your kitchen, Janjigian said, enriched breads can last for five to seven days.
But with any type of bread, if you know you won’t be able to finish it in a few days, it’s best to pop it in the freezer as soon as you can. “It serves as a kind of pause button, meaning that fresh bread you move into cold storage can turn out almost as good as the day you put it in,” wrote writer Becky Krystal. To freeze the bread, portion as desired (slices are a good option because they can go right into a toaster), wrap the portions in two layers of plastic wrap, and then a layer of aluminum foil or a ziplock bag .
If despite your best efforts you end up with stale bread in your kitchen, there’s still hope: turn it into breadcrumbs or croutons.