01 December 2009
My cutting board is full of bread stumps. This morning there is a loaf of Rosemary (which I'll get to in more detail tomorrow), Christmas Stollen from my holiday bread class, and I think what is the end of a loaf of Ciabatta bread that I brought home for my husband. Believe it or not, this is the best thing I could be doing to keep this bread alive...it's future depends on me and how I handle it.
There are a few important things to remember when storing bread. Delaying the staling process (or retrogradation of starches, for all the dorks like me) starts at the time of purchase.
1. Keep the bread in the brown bag the bakery packs it in. Don't ask for a plastic bag or, EGAD, saran wrap! The plastic will hold moisture in and take away the crispness of the crust. The one exception to this are the cool perferated plastic bags, the cello-like bags with all the tiny holes. They do a great job at prolonging life.
2. Don't ask the bakery to slice your bread!!! You'll piss off the staff and you'll ruin the life of your bread. Unless you're going to eat the bread on your way home, slicing it creates more surface area and it will dry out faster. The best thing to do is to cut a slice when you need it and place the cut side down on a cutting board. The board will keep the side you cut from fresh.
3. Never, never, never put bread in the refridgerator. This makes starches retrograde faster than ever! I know we all kept a loaf of Wonder Bread in our dorm fridges and it's true that the fridge will fend off mold but it will also fend off flavor.
4. If you're not planning on eating your loaf right away or if your stocking up for Monday and Tuesday when the Patisserie is closed, freeze your bread. The freezer stops the staling process dead in it's tracks. For best results (do I sound like a shampoo bottle?) wrap it in saran wrap even though I said never do this, now is the time. Once it's wrapped in plastic, wrap it in aluminum foil. Label it so you know what it is after it mixes with all the other wrapped and foiled loaves in your freezer...I'm speaking from personal experience. When you're ready to use the bread, unwrap it and let it thaw. Then, wet your hands and rub water on the crust. Pop it in the oven at 375-400F for 10-15 minutes and it will be as fresh as it was the day you bought it. I used this trick with a loaf that had been sitting out unwrapped at room temperature for a few days and it still worked wonders.
I will now step down from my soap box and go eat some of that yummy rosemary bread for breakfast...that is, if I can stay away from the Stollen that is beckoning.
Coming Soon....."What to do when your bread stales"