Fresh, out-of-the-oven bread doesn’t stay soft, warm and delicious for long; it inevitably turns mouldy or stale. So how can you store it to make it last? We turned to Modernist Bread’s Nathan Myhrvold for advice.
While creating his 2,500 page bread encyclopedia, Myhrvold and his co-author Francisco Migoya did 1,600 carb-heavy experiments — which naturally included investigating the best way to store the more than 36,000 loaves the Modernist team churned out.
“We tried everything you can imagine for keeping bread fresh,” says Myhrvold. “But nothing works as well as freezing the bread and reheating, or what we call refreshing, it.”
Bread can go bad by becoming stale (dehydration or a lack of moisture) or mouldy (the result of too much moisture). Freezing your bread stops both of these processes in their tracks.
Instead of freezing an entire loaf at time, it’s best to pre-slice it. That makes your loaves easier to work with when you need to make a single sandwich or piece of toast. This method works well with all kinds of bread, including bagels (but never freeze bagels without slicing them in half first). The prep might be time consuming, but you’ll be grateful you put in the work when it’s time for breakfast.
And, if you don’t want to go through the work of defrosting your bread, you can also stick it in the fridge.
Bread left in the fridge might appear stale. But, explains Myhrvold, that’s not due to a lack of moisture — refrigerated bread seems hard because of starch retrogradation, or the re-crystallization of the starch in the bread. “It [the bread] will seem stiffer and we associate stiffness, or lack of softness, with staleness,” says Myhrvold. But, the bread is less likely to actually go stale in the fridge (as opposed to leaving it in a bread box on your counter).
You can reverse the starch crystallization by warming up your bread. “Most people [including us!] would say, don’t put it in the fridge because it’ll make it go stale faster. If you’re going to toast it or warm it up anyway, it doesn’t matter.”