The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why do my focaccia go stale within 24 hours?

Herbsman's picture

Why do my focaccia go stale within 24 hours?

I use a recipe similar to Dan Lepard's for focaccia.

  • 100% flour (obviously)
  • 35% sour starter (100% hydration)
  • 0.74% yeast
  • 2.5% salt
  • 65% water
  • 5% extra virgin olive oil 

When it cools, it's extremely light and fluffy, with HUGE holes in it. The closest you'll ever get to eating clouds. But for some reason, it goes tough and hard within 24h despite being kept in an airtight plastic box.

WTF?! Should I store it differently?

When I make 'dry' bread (i.e. without oil) it stays nice for days on end... sometimes up to a week.  But this is no doubt because it's already dry, so it doesn't matter so much that it's getting drier every day...

xaipete's picture

Why don't you try storing it in something that isn't air tight and see what happens? Maybe wrap it up in a piece of parchment paper--that's what I do.


dghdctr's picture

Here are just a few:

  • Baking too long at too low a temperature -- dries out the crumb, reduces shelf life.  Just 10 degrees and/or 5-10 minutes can make a big difference.
  • Focaccia is thicker than pizza, but still not "thick" when compared to most loaves.  Breads that are narrow, long, or flat maximize surface area in proportion to crumb, and they'll lose moisture faster.
  • The airtight box may still have too much room inside for moisture to exit the focaccia, yes?  Try wrapping the focaccia closely, leaving no room for air OR a vacuum.
  • The lighter the crumb structure, the less dense it is.  Low-density breads will lose moisture faster and stale more quickly than those that are a bit more dense.
  • The firming of the crumb in bread proceeds almost from the moment it has cooled after exiting the oven.  Except for using synthetic dough conditioners like you find in factory-made breads, I don't know if there's much you can do to stop that besides freezing the product.

These are just a few suggestions about places to look.  Without my actually seeing your baking process and trying the results, there's not much more specific I can say.

--Dan DiMuzio

farina22's picture

I generally wrap my cooled breads (not the ones for the freezer) in a tea towel. I find that it keeps them from drying out, but without losing as much of the crust integrity and without getting that plastic smell/sogginess. Just a thought.

Herbsman's picture

I generally bake at 230 for no longer than 30 minutes. May try a higher temperature/shorter bake in future, but will definitely try tight storage with a big ziploc bag.

Am I right in thinking that the more fat you use, the longer the bread stays soft? The original recipe had 5% pork lard in it, so 10% fat added to it in total. I only add 5%.

However, part of me says I should just accept it and enjoy it in those first 12 hours when it's at its best. Good things don't last long, that's life!

dghdctr's picture

And we should assume that you're talking Celsius degrees with your baking temp, right?  I just wanted to be certain about that.  230 degrees Celsius is around 446 degrees Fahrenheit, for the sake of those living in the U.S.

I'm not saying you should risk a raw, doughy center to the focaccia, but just bumping your bake temp to 233-235 C and baking until done -- probably 5 minutes less -- may help a bit.

--Dan DiMuzio

jj1109's picture

I would love to be able to have that sort of temperature control on my oven... I couldn't tell you if I was 230, 235, 240... it's an old oven ;)

dghdctr's picture

There are inexpensive oven thermometers that can hang from your oven racks to give an approximate reading of what the oven temperature is.  That temperature can actually vary from one part of the oven to another, but hanging it somewhere near the center should give you some useful information.

Some ovens -- especially older ones, I think -- have temperature knobs that can be removed to expose a calibrating adjustment on their backside.  If you preheat the oven to a temperature that you use most frequently (as measured by the hanging oven thermometer), you could then make adjustments on the rear of the dial to compensate for any discrepancies you detect.

Of course, you could also call in an appliance repair tech to do essentially the same thing.  Certainly, if you checked and there was no calibrating adjustment available on your oven's temperature dial, you might be better off calling a pro.

davidg618's picture

is caused by the gelatinized starch crystalizing; it begins the moment you take bread from the oven, and there is little you can do about it. How fast it stales is a function of its surface-to-volume ratio. Foccacia has a high ratio (that's bad) a boule has a relatively low ratio (thats good). If your making Fougasse, its very bad. Furthermore, once cut into, a very open crumb will stale faster than a closed crumb. Jeffery Hamelman has a good discussion of staling, and slowing it down, in Bread on pages 28 and 29.

There's only two of us to eat all the bread we make; discounting all we give away,a whole loaf still goes stale on us. Hamelman warns the danger zone for staling is 32°F to 50°F--bread stales most quickly in this temperature range; that's why bread shouldm't be kept in a refrigerator.

Here's what we do: We allow the bread to cool completely, ryes and larger boules we leave at room temperature overnight, in a plastic bag with as much of the air squeezed out as possible. Just before freezing we cut the cooled loaves in half (except for baguettes, and really small loaves) put them back together and freeze them in their plastic bags, again squeezing out all the air possible.

We only take a half from a bag, wrap it in aluminum foil, and put it in a 375°F oven to thaw, and "refresh" it. By cooling completely before freezing, and thawing in a heated oven the bread spends the least time passing through the staling "danger zone". I can't tell fresh bread from previously frozen, unless its been in the freezer more than a month, then I find I have to cut a slice on the open side, and throw the slice away (or use it for crumbs or croutons).

We also store our "in-use" halves in Debbie Meyer Bread Bags. I've not done a side-by-side test between these bags and ordinary plastic, but they keep bread fresh-like for three or four days. Again, we always squeeze the air out of the bag.

We frequently use foccacia, sliced horizontally, for sandwiches. We bake it in a half-sheet pan, and, when cooled, cut it into sandwich sizes squares, fast freeze them on a cookie sheet, and, once frozen, store them in a deflated plastic bag in the freezer. When we make sandwiches with them we only take out what we need.

David G


Herbsman's picture

BTW the whole surface area & density thing is SO obvious that I am actually going to punch myself in the face for thinking about that. I'm supposed to be scientific!

bacjac's picture

I use diastatic malt powder extensively in all my breads and pizza with fabulous results. Diastatic malt powder ( or barley malt syrup ) when added to dough helps produce a finer texture and longer keeping quality. Maybe it's worth a try!

Herbsman's picture

Ah yes, Dan Lepard's recipe did specify 2.5% malt

tananaBrian's picture

You can make your own diastatic malt (which is malt, but still has active enzymes in it):

Here in Fairbanks, you cannot find diastatic malt, so I'm going to try making my own sometime.  For now, I use regular light malt powder from the beer brewing supply place enzymes, but it has the right sugars and starches in it.



pjkobulnicky's picture

My focaccia is a similar recipe with maybe 11% fat (oil). My first 24 hours  are delicious and then it gets dry. So, maybe you are right ... enjoy it when it is fresh. This is, after all, a product that is made to be eaten quickly.



rainwater's picture

I live all my breads go in a plastic bag when totally cooled, then into the freezer.  When I'm ready for a loaf, it goes in the refrigerator.  Then I slice what I need for work, and toast it at work.  I don't know what stale bread is.  My bread may not taste as good as some of the loaves on this forum, but it tastes really good, and better than anything you can buy.  I'm also a toast freak.  Even if my bread is two hours out of the oven, I'd rather toast it a little to give it that warm crisp texture and flavor.  Toasting a little brings that fresh out of the oven crisp crust, no matter how long I've had the bread. 

dghdctr's picture

At the risk of telling you something you may already know, I'd recommend against refrigeration for your bread.  Staling still isn't completely understood, but it is known that refrigerator temperatures accelerate it.  Yes -- refrigeration will help delay the occurence of molding, but the firming of the starches will proceed more rapidly there.  If you eat a loaf in less than 4 or 5 days anyway (longer for long-fermented doughs or those with pre-ferments) the molding is unlikely to be an issue.

Freezing is fine, apparently.  But if you thaw an entire loaf, you will get less staling if you take the entire wrapped loaf out of the freezer -- don't unwrap it -- and just let it thaw on your counter.  The less time it spends in the 40-70 degree (an estimate) range, the slower will staling proceed.

Which isn't to say it won't proceed -- it certainly will -- but it will do so less rapidly at room temperature than at refrigerated temperatures above the freezing point.

I suppose that if you always toast your bread, then the staling isn't an issue and you might as well refrigerate the loaf to hold off mold growth.  But if you do like using non-toasted slices for anything (like dinner bread), you might wish to reconsider your options.

--Dan DiMuzio

pirus7's picture

Hi there, had same problem with  My focaccia going stale too fast. I've found that only way is to eat it while it's fresh :)

In My search for solutions to this problem, I came across an interesting chapter in one of My collection of cooking and baking  e-books.

Attached text comes from ''Professional Baking 4th edition'' by Wayne Gisslen''.

Hope You find it usefull.



Staling is the change in texture and aroma of baked goods due to change of

structure and a loss of moisture by the starch granules. Stale baked goods have

lost their fresh-baked aroma and are firmer, drier, and more crumbly than

fresh products. Prevention of staling is the major concern of the baker, because

most baked goods lose quality rapidly.

Staling begins almost as soon asbaked items are taken from the oven.

There are, apparently, two factors in staling. The first is loss of moisture, or

drying. This is apparent, for example, when a slice of fresh bread is left exposed

to air. It soon becomes dry to the touch.

The second factor is a chemical change in the structure of the starch. This

process, called starch retrogradation, occurs even little or no moisture

is lost. This means even a well-wraped loaf of bread will eventually stale.

Chemical staling is rapid at refrigerator temperatures, but it nearly stops at

freezer temperatures. Thus, bread should nod be stored in the refrigerator. It

should be left at room temperature for short-term storage or frozen for long-

term storage.

Chemical staling, if it is not too great, can be partially reversed by heating.

Breads, muffins and coffee cakes, for example, are frequently refreshed by

placing them briefly in an oven. Remember, however, that this also results in

more loss of moisture, so the items should be reheated only just before they are

to be served.

Loss of crispiness is caused by absorbtion of moisture, so, in a sense, is it the

opposite of staling. The crusts of hard-crusted breadsabsorb moisture from the

crumb and become soft and leathery. Reheating these products to refresh them

not only reverses chemical staling of the crumb but also recrisps the crust.

Loss of crispiness is also a problem with low-moisture product such as

cookies and pie crusts. The problem is usually solved by proper storage in

airtight wraps or containers to protect the products from moisture in the air.

Prebaked pie shells should be filled as close to sevice time as possible.

In addition to refreshing baked goods in the oven, three main  techniques

are used to slow staling:


Protecting the product from air: - wrapping bread in plastic and covering cakes

with icing, especially icing that is thick and rich in fat.

Hard-crusted breads, which stale very rapidly, should not be wrapped, or

the crust will quickly become soft and leathery.These bread products

should always be served very fresh.


Adding moisture retainers to the formula, fats and sugars are good

moisture retainers, so products high in ingredients keep best.

Some of the best french breads has no fat at all, so it must be served within

hours of baking or it will begin to stale. For longer keeping, bakers often

add a very small amount of fat and/or sugar to the formula.


Freezing baked goods, frozen before they become stale maintain quality

for longer periods. For best results, freeze soon after baking in a blast

freezer at -40*C, and maintain at or below - 18*C until ready to thaw.

Breads should be served very quickly after thawing. Frozen breads may

be reheated with exellent results if they are to be served immediatly.

refrigeration, on the other hand, speeds staling. Only baked goods that

could become health hazards, such as those with cream fillings, are



Hope it shed some more light on the source of this unwanted phenomenon.