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The Best Way to Store Fresh Bread

The Best Way to Store Fresh Bread

The Best Way to Store Fresh Bread at 1840 FarmWhen I mentioned on our Facebook page that the best way to store fresh crusty bread was in a cloth bag, I had no idea that so many of my readers would ask the logical question:  “why?”  When I started to type the short answer, I realized something.  There is no short answer.

Instead, there are several reasons why fabric provides the most hospitable environment for freshly baked loaves of crusty bread.  Those reasons are altogether simple and complex. 

I enjoy making bread, especially during the winter months.  During the long, cold winter here in New England I don’t need much encouragement to turn the oven on and commit to baking something for an hour or more.  Bread provides me with the perfect excuse to do just that.  Add in that it also provides fresh bread for my family to enjoy and you can see why I look forward to my cold weather bread baking.

I have been baking bread for my family for over a decade.  During that time, I’ve learned a few tricks, had a few failures, and developed several family favorite recipes.  I’ve also learned a thing or two about how to store fresh bread in order to preserve its texture and extend its shelf life.

There are several ways to store fresh bread.  There are also several decisions to make before doing so.  The first decision involves the use of refrigeration.  While it seems logical that fresh food will remain fresh longer if kept in the refrigerator, bread should always be kept at room temperature.

Obviously, the spoiling process occurs much more quickly in a loaf of fresh bread.  Whether it is of the homemade variety or Mocha Bread at 1840 Farmpurchased from a local bakery, these loaves typically do not contain preservatives.  Without preservatives to slow down the process, it doesn’t take long for the fresh bread to spoil.

In spite of this, bread should not be stored in the refrigerator.  The cold environment in the refrigerator will dry out the bread and ruin its texture inside and out.  In fact, a process called retrogradation takes place when bread is stored in the refrigerator.  Retrogradation is the term used to describe the crystallization of the starch molecules in bread or other baked goods.  This transformation is six times more likely to happen at refrigerated temperatures versus room temperature.

While the risk of molding is greater in a loaf of bread held at room temperature over a few days, refrigeration for a few hours can completely destroy the crust and crumb of a loaf.  When this information is taken into consideration, it seems obvious that fresh bread that will be eaten quickly should be stored at room temperature.

If you find yourself with fresh bread that will not be consumed in a day or two, fresh bread can also be frozen.  Frozen loaves should be allowed to thaw at room temperature and reheated briefly in a warm oven.  The warmth of the oven will help to liquefy the starch crystals within the bread and help to return its crust and interior to its original texture.

Brioche Loaves of Bread Cooling at 1840 FarmNow that we understand where we should keep our bread for both short term and long term storage, it’s time to decide what to store the fresh bread in.  Our best options include bags made from plastic, paper, or cloth.  Each material serves a different purpose and results in a different outcome for the loaf of bread inside.

First, let’s start with plastic.  I can’t help but think of sandwich bread when picturing a loaf stored inside a plastic bag.  There’s a perfectly good reason that sandwich bread is so closely associated with its plastic bag storage.  Soft sandwich bread and its plastic bag are a perfect match.  The plastic bag serves two purposes with regard to the spongy textured sandwich bread.

Because the plastic does not breathe or allow for the passage of air in or out of the bag, the loaf inside tends to resist drying out.  This helps to maintain the loaf’s soft texture.  During the natural process of trace amounts of moisture dissipating from the loaf, that moisture is actually trapped inside the plastic bag.  Therefore, at least some of that moisture is returned to the loaf, helping to keep it soft.

For sandwich bread, a soft crust and spongy interior are both admirable traits. When I have homemade loaves of bread that I want to use for sandwiches, I store them in airtight plastic containers or bags.  For longer storage, I freeze portions or slices and then thaw them as needed.  That way, we always have fresh bread at the ready.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella at 1840 Farm

For a fresh loaf of crusty bread like my Rustic Dutch Oven Bread, storing any leftovers in a plastic container is a disaster waiting to happen.  The same trapped moisture that keeps the sandwich bread moist destroys the crispy texture of the bread’s crust. Ironically, as the crust softens it takes on an odd, overly chewy texture.  Baguette or crusty loaves are better suited to storage in paper or cloth bags.  Both of these offer an environment that allows the dissipating moisture to exit.  While the bread will eventually become stale, the texture of both the exterior and interior will stand a much better chance of lasting a day or two. We rarely have any left to become stale.  When there are leftovers at our dinner table, I freeze them for later use in french toast bread pudding or a batch of our favorite cast iron skillet dressing.

In the end, great bread isn’t meant to be kept long term.  It’s meant to be enjoyed as soon as you bring it home or bake it in the oven.  The Europeans are far ahead of us on this tradition.  They view day old bread as a component for soups, bread puddings, croutons, and bread crumbs.  Day old bread is the very reason that Panzanella was born.  What better way to utilize slightly stale bread than by allowing it to absorb the delicious flavors of tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and vinegar?

Of course, I am speaking of Europeans who live in urban cities and can walk to any of a number of bakeries that produce delicious breads that can be purchased and enjoyed daily.  I don’t have that luxury, so I try to keep a loaf or two in the freezer and store today’s fresh bread in a cloth bag for dinner.  If I store it well, I have the option to warm it slightly in the oven and serve bread that is delicious, warm, and maintains that crunchy outer crust.  Of course, if it’s heirloom tomato season, I just might make Panzanella.

 

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Now that you know how to store your fresh bread,  I hope that you will try one of our favorite bread recipes.

Rustic Dutch Oven Bread

Rustic Dutch Oven Bread

There’s something so simple yet completely decadent about a delicious loaf of warm bread.  That crunch on the exterior paired with the airy soft interior is a delectable combination.  Add ...
How to Make a Delicious Loaf of Homemade Bread by Hand: No Stand Mixer Required

How to Make a Delicious Loaf of Homemade Bread by Hand: No Stand Mixer Required

Jump to Recipe Print RecipeThere’s something about the process of making a loaf of bread that is so satisfying.  Humble ingredients like flour and yeast are transformed by time and ...
Farmhouse English Muffins

Farmhouse English Muffins

Jump to Recipe Print Recipe I have fond memories of English muffins from my childhood.  I grew up in Kansas City and there was a Wolferman’s Bakery a short drive ...
The WonderMix Kitchen Mixer GIVEAWAY and My Multigrain Brioche Bread Recipe

The WonderMix Kitchen Mixer GIVEAWAY and My Multigrain Brioche Bread Recipe

When I was offered the opportunity to try out the new WonderMix Kitchen Mixer in our farmhouse kitchen, I was thrilled. I have been using the company’s WonderMill Electric Grain ...
1840 Farmhouse Brioche

1840 Farmhouse Brioche

Jump to Recipe Print Recipe I first made brioche bread about a dozen years ago. I made it out of necessity. I loved the taste and texture of brioche bread, ...
My Favorite Bread Baking Tools and Ingredients

My Favorite Bread Baking Tools and Ingredients

I love everything about making bread from reading about it in my favorite cookbooks to milling the fresh flour and making a beautiful loaf to share with my family. I ...
Cinnamon Babka

Cinnamon Babka

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the holiday season at your family breakfast table, look no further.  You simply can’t do better than homemade Cinnamon Babka.  While I ...
Oatmeal Bread

Oatmeal Bread

I first made a version of this recipe back in the 1990s. In March of 1995, a recipe for Oatmeal Bread from Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont appeared in ...
Farmhouse Country Loaf

Farmhouse Country Loaf

I have already admitted to you how much I love to make bread.  I enjoy making the simplest of quick breads to brioche loaves and babkas that require a full ...

 

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49 Comments

  1. Living in Florida, I grew up with my mother always storing bread in the refrigerator. As a result, I have always done the same. Looks like I need to make some changes. Thanks for the information!

  2. I’ve never thought about a cloth bag, but a great idea. We usually don’t store it as fresh bread is quickly gone.

  3. Love your post regarding storing bread to keep it fresh. I store mine in a bag with several celery stalks, which keeps it soft and crumble free for a longer period of time.

  4. I love this idea! I am always looking for ways to get plastic out of our lives and out of our house. This is another perfect way to accomplish that! Also, it just makes sense! Thank you!

  5. We keep it in a plastic sliding container! Ack! I can’t convince my husband to try something else lol.

  6. This would come in so handy at my house! I wrap my bread in deli paper usually, not ideal, but better than plastic!

  7. I convinced my husband several months ago that we should make our own sandwich bread from then on. He agreed, and while he takes 2 sandwiches to work each day, the loaf may still sit around for a week or so. I keep it on the counter in a plastic ziploc bag and it stays soft and fresh for days.

  8. would love to win a bread bag!

  9. hello – thank you for sharing this incredible information!

  10. I normally just keep it on the counter, I want to try a bag now though!

  11. I started making bread last winter — used the no-knead recipe from the NYTimes, cooked in a cast iron dutch oven. So good! I will store in fabric when i start baking again. Thanks for the info!

  12. I usually freeze in plastic and the fresh loaf stays out most of the day and put in a plastic bag afterwards. The tip about thawing the loaf and then putting in the oven is great, thank you!

  13. Love this post! I always put homemade bread in a towel after it’s cooled, but then transfer into something else. No more! Cloth from her on out! Thank you!

  14. I love fresh bread but sis not know about the bags…I use a towel as you do….but the bags are awesome!

  15. Who knew?! I usually skip the storage issue altogether and do my best to see that it gets eaten on day one. Otherwise I’ll turn it into croutons or bread pudding.

  16. I was storing it in a paper bag. The cloth looks like it wold be better though. 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway.

  17. Good info! I am looking into baking some bread shortly and now I will know how best to store it. Thanks!

  18. I currently wrap fresh bread in wax paper…I would love to try the linen, though!

  19. Nothing like fresh baked bread! Stuff of Life! Thanks for the tips!

  20. I wrap mine in a tea towel, but with 3 kids, a loaf of homemade bread doesn’t last long!

  21. Great information, I didn’t know this. Thank you for sharing!

  22. I have never made my own bread but I am looking forward to learning!

  23. I try to use paper bags, keep the humidity in the kitchen at a reasonable level. A cloth bag is a great idea!

  24. This is a new one on me, but I am going to give it a try! THANK YOU MUCH!

  25. I usually wrap my fresh bread in plastic wrap or put in a zip lock bag. I tried storing in a paper bag & it dried out very quickly. The thought of using a cloth bag gives me hope that it will be a better way to store my bread!

  26. I store mine in a vintage pillowcase! I love the idea of stitching together old linen towels to make a drawstring bag – clever and repurposed.

  27. Well, until reading your post, I always stored my fresh bread wrapped in saran wrap.

  28. I never thought of storing bread in a cloth bag. What a great idea 🙂

  29. Right now I use recycled plastic bags from my partners work, and sometimes I just wrap up new loaves in a kitchen towel. A cloth bread bag is such a good idea!

  30. I never thought about using cloth bags. But now that I think about it, my hubby Mom always wraps her homemade bread in a towel. For quick breads, I guessing a cloth bag will keep the crust from becoming sticky! I’ll have to try this.

  31. We are also looking forward to baking bread with our fresh ground wheat. New at it so it should be interesting. This would help keep the occasional (lol) good loaf better =)

  32. The couple loaves we have made so far we stored in plastic bread bags.

  33. My goal this winter is to bake the perfect loaf of bread! I need the perfect linen bag to put it in!!

  34. I usually use tinfoil. After letting it completely cool.

  35. Fresh Eggs sent me and I love your site!

  36. I have a bread bag that I made a few years ago. It has a nice “country” look to it. I tie it with a braided leather cord. One of the things that I am super curious about, and plan to try, is melting beeswax into the cloth when I make the next one. My thinking is that the cloth would still be breathable, but the beeswax should lend some anti-microbial properties to the cloth. It is my hope that it would help to “preserve” the bread a little longer. If anyone has tried this, I’d love to hear about it!

    1. Author

      What an interesting idea! I hope that you will share how you make it and how it works for you. I’d love to hear all about it!

      1. I plan to melt the beeswax over low heat and paint it onto the fabric with a brush. I will use that fabric as a liner for the bread bag. The first bread bag i made was for rectangular loaves. I sandwiched plastic between the liner and the outer covering. It works well for sandwich bread, but not for other types of bread.

  37. Great information. I am loving all of this good info for preparing and storing food at home.

  38. Thanks for the interesting information! Mom always had bread (in the plastic!) out on the counter, and later I was introduced to the “bread box”. I am looking to switch now!

  39. Have a couple plastic bread wrappers at home

  40. That was an amazing post !! I need to get myself a cloth bag for my loaf. U have a beautiful space, u sure are going to have me here more often


  41. I love the idea of the cloth bag i have tried different things but my bread only lasts about 5 days which i think is good . I would like to know how to make wheat bread that is not heavy is there a trick to it

    1. Author

      I agree that a five day shelf life for fresh bread is good. I have had great success lightening wheat bread by adding a bit of vital wheat gluten and/or dough enhancer. Also, mixing a little All-purpose flour or bread flour into the mix can help to lighten the loaf. Have you tried any of those methods with your loaves?

  42. Thank you for this very informative article on bread bags!! I also love using old, vintage kitchen towels–they seem to work just fine, but I also agree that those bread bags are super cute!! I love their vintage designs! It’s great to know that plastic bags help hold in moisture better.

    I’d like to add that in regards to day old bread not being so great, I do find this is true with traditional bread recipes but not if you’re using a sourdough starter in your recipe in place of yeast. I find my sourdough breads stay soft and fresh at least an extra 2-3 days, and they are much healthier for you as well. They are the only bread I make these days, and if you don’t like the sour flavor, adding just a pinch of baking soda (aluminum free kind) will nearly eliminate it.

    1. Author

      Thank you for sharing information about your homemade sourdough breads. I am hoping to give sourdough a try this winter, so stay tuned!

  43. i GREW UP IN Germany and remember before the War,the Baker delivered freshly baked Hard rolls every morning in a white cloth Bag
    You left the bag from day before on the Door nob and He left a fresh one filled with the Rolls at the Door,Mother paid monthly at the
    bakery

    1. Author

      What a wonderful memory! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I absolutely loved reading it. I could just picture the bag hanging on the door knob.

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