The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cooling bread - how long to wait?

KD1001's picture

Cooling bread - how long to wait?

I've been doing a lot of reading online lately and have been looking for info on how long bread should be allowed to rest after baking before slicing. I've found two ideas frequently repeated:

1. Bread should be allowed to come to room temperature after baking, because the heat retained inside continues to cook the bread, so slicing it too early interupts this process prematurely. Rye breads in particular need more time to rest because they don't have the same dry, finished texture as wheat breads when removed from the oven.

2. Bread (particularly sourdoughs) should sit for at least a day because the flavor will continue to develop.

Now, idea #1 makes a good bit of sense to me, though I've not noticed any ill effects on the bread from tearing into a loaf minutes (or seconds) after it's done baking. But idea #2 doesn't make much sense to me at all, I've been baking almost exclusively with a wild starter, and letting breads sit for longer just makes them taste more sour. Is the 'flavor' being referred to here the same as the sour taste, or does this have some other effect on commercially yeasted breads?

So, how long do TFL members let their breads rest after baking?

meryl's picture

... fresh out of the oven bread is too moist but it can taste good in its own way. Give it a try!


Floydm's picture

My lean sourdough definitely tastes better a day or two after baking.  Other breads I'll eat quicker.  Like the French bread I'm making to go with a pot of soup tonight I'm trying to have come out of the oven about an hour before dinner.   The cinnamon rolls I'm just about to put in the oven, however, will likely only cool for about 15 minutes before we tear into them. 8^)

nbicomputers's picture

the answer is the same as the age old question

how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsy pop. ask the wise old owl 1...2...3...crunch!!!     3

it depends on your self control... my is crap

today i made bailys 5 minutes out of the oven i had one it the toster.

ejm's picture

We always allow bread to cool to room temperature before cutting it. It tastes WAY better and is worth waiting for.

However, we really like warm bread so generally reheat it after it has cooled. To do that, we heat the oven to 400F then turn the oven OFF and put the already baked and cooled bread into the hot oven for 10 minutes. This revives the crust as well.

I had not heard that sourdoughs were supposed to sit for a day. Nor did I know that they developed their flavour as they aged.

Question: is it the sourness that is developed with the sourdoughs or is there another aspect of the flavour that changes as well?


niagaragirl's picture

There is a wheat loaf that I make with a dark beer pre ferment that is definitely better the next day, as well as a dark rye loaf I do.

Peter Reinhart does address this briefly in his Baker's Apprentice book, and in fact says that some loaves are best after after 3 days. So there's one expert opinion for you. I tend to agree based on a few of my own loaves.

On the cool down, for a very simple rustic Italian with no preferments etc we cut into it 15 minutes out of the oven. It's the butter on the hot loaf that is really the desirable factor here. But on large things like round 3 pound ryes, your basic cool down may be as long as 4 to 5 hours depending on the density of the crumb. These big ones are really better left for the next day.

xaipete's picture

I've changed my mind about this subject after reading the post about how long to bake a sandwich loaf.

I used to just make sure I got practically everything to 205 degrees, cool for a couple of hours, eat and/or store. But I've noticed that my bread stales very fast. This surely has something to do with the given type of bread, but when I read that Floyd thinks his lean breads are better after a day or two, that really caused me think.

There is likely a connection (see Baltochef's remarks on this subject in the linked post) between final baking temperature, how long you cool before slicing, and storage method.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I'm compensating (probably more like compromising) my loaves by cooking a lot of them to higher temperatures than they require in order to eliminate any wetness in the final product--wetness cause in part by not letting the bread cool long enough. So after an hour or two the loaf is cool, not wet, but probably overcooked and therefore stales quickly.


Marni's picture

No scientfic proof of why, but I've noticed that my sourdoughs generally get more flavorful over a day or three.  The flavor is more nuanced, varied. It's hard to describe.  This happens even if the loaf has been cut.  I generally wait until the loaf is room temp. before cutting. 

Pamela - I find your observations very interesting.  It makes sense to me.  Maybe you're losing moisture to evaporation during cooling, causing the bread to stale quickly.  Or does the higher temp. cause it another way during cooking?



xaipete's picture

I'm always in a hurry to taste the bread and I like a really thick, crunchy crust. So my MO has been to bake on the stone with steam, check the temp to make sure the loaf has gotten to at least 205, cut the heat and leave the bread in the oven for 10 minutes--I probably end up with a 1 1/4 pound SD batard. Cool on a rack for as long as I have patience to wait--probably an hour is usual--, and then cut into it. Tastes great then, but deteriorates rapidly by the 2nd day.

I often find that my bread is wet when I cut into it (probably because I didn't wait long enough!). But to compensate for what I thought was not baking it long enough, I'm baking longer, leaving it in the oven, etc.

I'm going to try baking to a lower final temperature and not cutting into it until the next day. It will be difficult because in some respects--not all--I am an impatient baker.


cloakuncloak's picture

I believe the reason is very simple. water inhibits the flavor of all foods. the concentration of something in water determines how much of it you taste. this is why soft drinks are so bad for people, while sweet things containing little water need contain little sugar to produce equal flavor (candy).
as water evaporates, the food either cures, or dries asymmetrically. Curing is ideal, as the texture is maintained, and even improved in the process. This is typically accomplished by producing a crust on bread, which prevent rapid moisture loss (but still, some water is still leaving the bread. micropores or something). bread with an inadequate crust will dry out completely. bagging bread with a soft crust is the best solution people have come up with to date. the bread box is how it was done previously, and this works for cut bread too.

candy, as mentioned, is another area where this is very noticeable. when you purchase candy it has been curing in the bag for months at least

SulaBlue's picture

Which means... as long as I can stand the lure of it. Not just the taste, but needing to know what that crumb looks like inside!

My husband has -yet- to see an intact loaf, save for the photographic proof of its existence.

baltochef's picture

There is an entire culture in the USA, and in other bread baking countries / cultures too I'll bet, that encourages slicing / tearing into a hot loaf of bread, spreading butter on it to melt, and immediately eating it..In other countries there may be something other than butter being spread onto the bread, but the general idea is the same..

I believe that this behavior can trace its origins back hundreds of thousands of years to the reasons that humans first started eating cooked foods..There can be no denying the scientific evidence that humans started out as tropical tree-dwelling animals whose diets consisted primarily of tropical fruits..Our first forays into eating cooked foods undoubtedly came about as opportunistic experiments when a savannah fire, or forest fire in what we now call Africa swept through the land killing and cooking animals that could not get out of the path of the advancing fire..

Why did humans choose to take that first taste of meat when we are so obviously not equipped to be a predator??..When we have neither claws, nor fangs to kill prey??..When we are not equipped with poison glands, nor any means of delivering that poison to kill other animals, rendering them helpless so that we might eat them??..When our bodies are quite obviously not designed with the musculatures necessary to chase down prey, kill, and eat them??..When the only thing we have is our brains, and our ability to reason, that allows us to make tools, kill animals, and be opportunistic omnivores??..

It is my belief that the reason that those first humans millennia ago took that first bite of cooked animal flesh was because it SMELLED SO GOOOOOOD!!!..There is something that appeals to the hard wiring in our brains when we smell caramelized cooked sugars in foods that we simply cannot resist eating it..It does not matter whether the source of the smell comes from cooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, or meats..When raw foods are cooked at high heats, and when the sugars in the foods begin the process of caramelization, and when our noses pick up the first traces of those aromas; our brains flip on the Red Alert flashing highway sign that screams out, EAT ME!!!!!..

As Pamela has stated, I believe that for years I have been baking my breads to too high of temperatures, especially loaf breads, and even more especially my enriched loaf breads..My crumb dries out far too quickly after the loaf's crust has been cut into..The loaves that I freeze are even worse, although I wrap them quite carefully, and almost never freeze them for longer than 2-3 weeks..

When one is baking for a ravenous family where no loaf of bread lasts longer than 2 days, the problem of a dry crumb becomes less of an issue..When one is baking for oneself, or at most one other person, the question of dry loaves becomes much more important as in these types of situations the loaf needs to maintain its freshness over a 4-7 day period of time..

There seems to be a fine line between the internal temperature necessary to achieve a loaf that is fully cooked in its exact center, and one that is going to be gummy, or under cooked, when the loaf is fully cooled to room temperature..

Over cooking our breads so that we can eat them hot with butter spread onto them is probably the worst thing that a baker can do to their breads..In my opinion any bread so baked should be completely eaten within 24 hours after slicing into it because it is going to dry out terribly afterwards..




xaipete's picture

Last week I made two loaves of Walnut and blue cheese SD and didn't overbake them. They stayed fresh for 3 days and the flavor improved after the 1st day. It was a real conversion experience for me.


althetrainer's picture

I have one at home, my hudband.  He would eat the bread the minute it comes out of the oven if I let him.  He would ask every 15 minutes to see if the bread was ready to be sliced.  I never get to cool my bread completely unless I bake it late at night and the bread doesn't come out until after my husband's bedtime.  LOL  I make small loaves so my breads don't last more than 3 days in our household.  Dryness never seems to be a problem to us.

Srhlvll77's picture

My partner makes bread using a bread maker and I make sourdough the using a starter, which I bought, which is 60 yrs old - from a 5th generation family bakery called Hobbs House Bakery. The Sourdough Nation. This website will really assist us with our new hobby. :) 

valereee's picture

Two reasons to allow bread to come at minimum to room temperature: 1. While warm, it's still cooking and developing flavor/texture and 2. Cutting warm bread allows moisture to escape into the air, which means it will stale faster. If you know your crowd and they 1. aren't picky or 2. are going to eat the entire loaf in fifteen minutes slathered with butter, it probably doesn't matter. But the best artisan bakeries won't sell still-warm bread because they know a loaf cut warm won't have the flavor/texture they were going for

rmzander's picture

Thank you all for the stimulating discussion on this topic.  I will let my freshly baked loaf go until tomorrow before I cut into it.  I am trying a new sourdough starter from Linda Wilbourne .  I am willing to try new ideas that improve flavor and shelf life of a good sourdough bread.

As one who likes to experiment, I see my next baking session dividing the dough into 2 loaves and testing flavor and staleness rate from one cut first day and the other cut on the second day.

cherylynnbakeslotsabread's picture

I let mine come to room temp or near room temp  prior to slicing. I also find anything like sourdoughs and ryes do better flavor wise the next day. The flavors tend to marry up, but I have to admit we have tore into many a fresh loaf!

NeilM's picture

Fresh bread beats about everything, unfortunately its hard to wait especially if one is hungry, but I try and wait for the bread to achieve equilibrium. lol

cherylynnbakeslotsabread's picture

Most breads are finished baking at about 190 degrees. Some a bit higher, around 200. I use a thermometer and set it to about 5 degrees lower than needed and hover when it alarms. If I want a crustier crust I shut off the oven and let it sit with the door open, this works very well. To keep my breads fresh, for sourdough, I don’t store in fridge or plastic, just turn the cut edge onto the wood cutting board or store in paper bag or LOOSELY closed plastic bag but not sealed. Another great way is to use a bees wrap cloth available at King Arthur, but I made my own, I know a bee keeper, and once you get the technique down, and have the supplies, its easy and works great,!!

Fermentia's picture

Thus far it gets eaten it too fast to worry about going stale. Since I don't have a bread box -- or place to put a bread box if I had one -- I have been happy to discover that I can use the same Corning Ware casserole dish and lid that I baked the bread in as my bread keeper and just keep it on the kitchen table. Thus far we have never waited more than an hour or two before cutting into the bread after it leaves the oven, but today I will compromise and wait about 9-10 hours to see if I can tell any difference. If it turns out to be noticeably better, next time I'll give it a full 24 hours to rest.