The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

long shelf life rye bread

Sattva Bakery's picture
Sattva Bakery

long shelf life rye bread



How to make an organic bread with a long shelf life (like a month or more)?  I would life to be able to pack my bread in a plastic bag and travel with it at room tempature?

I know i have bought dense rye breads that have a very long shelf life and stay quite moist.  Any suggestions (or better yet any recepies).

Thank you.

LindyD's picture


In his book, “Bread,” Jeffrey Hamelman shares a summer experience when, in the late 1970s, he had lots of time but was short of cash.  He decided to hike the Long Trail (it’s 275 miles long - probably why it’s called the “Long” Trail).

Because of the distance, hikers don’t carry all the food they need.  Instead, they put their provisions in a number of boxes and mail the boxes to themselves using various post offices along the trail.

Mr. Hamelman had baked loaves of naturally leavened 90 percent rye bread, using a three-stage build.  He packed a couple loaves in each of his provision boxes.

He writes: “By the time I picked up my last box of provisions, the bread was five weeks old.  It had been kept wrapped in aluminum foil at room temperature in the height of summer –by no means the best of storage conditions.  In spite of this, those last loaves had a crisp tang, a moist crumb, delicious flavor, and not a hint of mold.”

He notes that as the pH of a dough decreases, the acidity increases, and that one of the benefits provided by the higher acidity (aside from the flavor) is improved keeping quality.

While I haven’t made any of his three-stage (Detmolder method) ryes, I have baked other sourdough ryes from his book and they all have had great staying power, remaining fresh and tasty for close to two weeks.

It sounds as if Mr. Hamelman's 90 percent three-stage rye bread would keep you nourished during your travels - but maybe skip the plastic bag.

His recipe is three pages long (I don't have his permission to reproduce it) - it starts at page 201 of his book, Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.

sphealey's picture

One thing I have found in making Hamelman's recipes (and other ryes and sourdoughs):  if you boost the final dough with commerical yeast (*) the loaf does not keep anywhere near as long as when you don't.  My mixed grain sourdoughs will usually taste fine after 7 days, but when I boost they start to go off after 3 days.


* The usual reason for boosting with commercial yeast is to control final production time and ensure rise.  I do this for my weekly sandwich loaf for example because I need to have a good percentage of successes during Sunday baking - otherwise no lunch for me!

dghdctr's picture

I'm not certain what you meant by "go off" in the context of bread going bad, since there might be different criteria, so I'm not sure my observations will have bearing.   Did you mean bad flavor, or mold, or just staling?

Staleness seems to be put off by the overall acidity of sourdough, and the natural presence of propiatic acid (hope I got the spelling right) in sourdough cultures seems to ward off the mold as well, according to the AIB.  Another consideration might be that wild yeast don't leaven a pound of dough as much as manufactured yeast does.  Pure sourdough is almost always denser than a lean bread made with manufactured yeast only.  The denser a bread is, the less easily it loses moisture, and the longer it will keep.

Last time I checked, the staling of bread (which is characterized mostly by the firming of the starches) is still not completely understood.  We've found things that will put off staling, but I think the reasons for the firming are not limited to a loss of moisture.

SteveB's picture

Is it possible you mean propionic acid, the three carbon analogue to acetic acid?

I also think I read somewhere (The Taste of Bread?) that the staling of bread is partly due to the crystallization of the starches within the bread, one reason why reheating the bread can reverse staling to some extent.



xaipete's picture

James BeMiller, emeritus professor of food science at Purdue University, answers:

When we think of food going stale, we typically think of products such as bread. You might think that bread starts to stale days after it is made. But the process of staling actually begins as soon as the loaf leaves the oven and begins to cool. How quickly bread goes stale depends on what ingredients are in it, how it was baked, and the storage conditions. Breads are essentially networks of wheat flour protein (gluten) molecules and starch molecules. Suspended inside this scaffolding are pockets of carbon dioxide gas that are produced during fermentation by yeast. This creates a foamlike texture. The most important event in the process of staling is when starch molecules crystallize. The starch molecules need water molecules to form their crystal structure. They get the water molecules from the gluten. As a result, the network changes, becoming rigid at room temperature and below. This state, however, is reversed with the introduction of heat; stale bread can be freshened by warming it—as in toasting. Although scientists have made considerable progress in dissecting the staling process, it remains poorly understood. Yet progress has been made in slowing staling through the addition of certain ingredients so that bread from large commercial bakeries in the U.S. seldom goes stale. On the other hand, the process of staling has also been sped up by other methods in order to make croutons in a relatively short time.


photojess's picture

just out of curiosity, what makes it ok for others to share recipes out of books, as long as credit is given to the author?  I specifically read a post stating as long as the author was credited, that recipes could be posted.

Is there something specific with his, that he doesn't want his recipes posted?

Not trying to be a pain, but just sincerely asking.  Thanks

LindyD's picture

It's something I've thought about and done a bit of research into (reproducing a published author's recipes here) because it was a mistake I made a couple times in the past.  

An author devotes a lot of time and effort into creating a book, whether it be a bread book or cookbook, to educate and earn an income from his/her efforts.  In some cases, the author self-publishes. That costs money.

I respect that and prefer not to infringe upon the author's right to be paid for those efforts.  I work in the legal field and also respect copyright law.

Quoting from the U.S. Copyright Office:

A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

[Emphasis supplied]

When I had posted Jeffrey Hamelman's complete formula and technique for his unkneaded six-fold French bread, which was the missing page 249 from the first editions of "Bread," it was done with his permission.

In the case of his 90-percent three-build rye, that's a lengthy formula which includes precise instructions and temperatures, including a headnote.   Reproducing it here would violate copyright law, and while I don't think men in black suits would show up at my door or at Floyd's, for me personally, it's an issue of doing the right thing.

I figure if anyone is really that interested in it, they can purchase the book or get it from their library.  For the sake of accuracy, that would be a safer route to go.

photojess's picture

That would be the equivelent of one photog using another photogs pics without permission, but it's done all of the time here.

Otherwise, I don't think any recipes would ever be shared, unless the person created them themselves.

ehanner's picture

Last year I made something like 6 loaves of deli rye and shipped them to Afghanistan. The bread was part of a crazy idea I had to send some well deserving guys in a remote forward fire base a hot ham sandwich. The prior Month I had sent a microwave oven after learning they had power. Anyway, I couldn't decide on paper or plastic so I spit the bags and tried both. When the 60 Lb box arrived, the boys opened to find 20 Lbs of cry-o-vac'd ham, mustard, pickles, cheese and a bunch of rye bread. Everything was great with no mold.It took 5 weeks to make the trip.

I heard later that the left over bread packed in plastic was soft and got moldy the next day after being opened. Just scraps I'm guessing.

The recipe for that is on the front page here under Eric's Fav Rye.


photojess's picture

that you did that for the guys!  They must have really appriated it greatly.

xaipete's picture

Great story, Eric. Thanks for telling us about these lucky guys in Afghanistan.