The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How To Make My French Bread Last Longer?

abrogard's picture

How To Make My French Bread Last Longer?


 How can I change my french bread recipe so's the loaf will last longer?  Say, another day will do.


 I realise it won't be 'pure' french bread then, but no matter, I'm looking for information on what makes bread last and how to play with my recipes.


I do believe sugar helps bread keep - all chinese baked bread is sugar bread for that reason I think - but I don't want sugar in my bread, so that's out.




 ab :)

montanagrandma's picture

a Tablespoon of olive oil to my dough when mixing and that seems to help some.

I also bake two loaves, put one in the freezer and take out when I need it, sometimes the next day and it is as fresh as bake day.

sephiepoo's picture

Are you using any kind of preferment (poolish, pate fermentee, etc) in your recipe? If not, you might consider doing that, as a portion of preferment will prolong the life of your bread in addition to adding more complexity of flavour. If you have a sourdough starter, oftentimes adding a percentage of discard will also keep your bread longer.  The acidity keeps the mold and fuzzies away.

I was just telling my best friend a story about this.  We had a honey tasting party a few weeks ago, and I had made a mild sourdough and a baguette to go along with the other items we served.  Afterwards, I put the extra slices of both into the same bag, SD on one side and baguettes on the other.  Then, I promptly forgot about them.  Until the following week when I was cleaning out the bread that needed to be thrown out (this happens regularly, unfortunately!) and saw that the half that was baguette was completely green and fuzzy, and the SD sitting right next to it in the same bag, was totally mold free!

dghdctr's picture


Sephiepoo is correct, of course, about preferments extending the life of lean breads.  Sourdough, perhaps because of its higher acid levels, does this even more than  "commercially yeasted" pre-ferments.  Ironically, perhaps, according to the AIB, it is the calcium propionate (or something essentially like it) naturally present in sourdough cultures that especially extends resistance to mold growth.  The synthetic version of this is what's added to factory-made breads, which often don't mold for weeks.

If anyone has an uncontrollable urge to know lots and lots about bread mold, you might find it here:

Anyway, the other big factor in bread deterioration -- which happens almost right away -- is the gradual firming of the starches, better known as "staling".  I know there are a number of synthetic chemical solutions for delaying the staling process, and fats can help the bread retain moisture, but ultimately the firming continues, even when you wrap the bread.

Really long, thin loaves like baguettes, ficelles, and fougasse stale in a day or less in most cases.  Their crust-to-crumb ratio is so high that moisture evaporates rapidly.  Larger loaves stale much less quickly, apparently at least in part due to better moisture retention.  Denser loaves (like sourdough) seem to have the advantage over light, feathery loaves like Challah or pain de mie.

I know that 7 to 10 pound loaves were baked weekly in the past at communal ovens, and I'm guessing that the reason they were made so large was mostly to ward off the effects of staling as long as possible.

--Dan DiMuzio

wally's picture

That's really the only thing I've found that will extend the life of my baguettes.  I almost always use a poolish or a small amount of sourdough, but these preferments still aren't adequate to extend the life of the loaves beyond a day (and that's a stretch - after about 6-8 hrs the staling is noticeable).

It seems to me it's in the very nature of baguettes to stale rapidly, unless you make them with a very tight crumb.  But then they're not baguettes anymore, right?


longhorn's picture

I vote for freezing, too. As I indicated in another email I freeze all spare bread. While I treat different breads differently (for example I let 100% rye breads age for 2-3 days) I typically freeze sourdough boules within six hours and baguettes as soon as they are cool. And I will typically freeze boules and baguettes even if I want the bread the next day in order to avoid any staling or loss of fresh bread aromatics.


AtlantaTerry's picture

After all we now are supposed to call fried potato strips "Freedom Fries".



Jakelilydad's picture

Yes, as far as I am concerned, it is French Bread, French Toast, French Kissing, and French Fries. Freedom Fries is an abomination of a term developed by an attention-needy politician (is that redundant?)trying to play off of the worst of our emotions when the French said "no thanks" to participating in one of our middle east wars. Surely that is their perogative. I see no reason to encourage petty renaming of foods just because some country disagrees with our foreign policy - what is next? Will Danish pastries become Patriot pastries?

bassopotamus's picture

I find that sourdough lasts longer than non sourdough, but if you aren't looking for a sourdough flavor (and you will taste it as it is the acidic component that seems to be the natural preservative) this isn't a great choice.


What I would suggest, unless there is some obstacle, is to make your DOUGH last longer and bake as you need. I've been using a no knead (really low knead) baguette recipie quite a bit lately, and it stores quite nicely. The one I am using was adapted from another recipe, but you could probably adapt what you have now to work. Basically take your recipe and 


1. Make your recipie in its standard proportions, but maybe cut the yeast back a little.

2. Mix it until it forms a dough that isn't lumpy, but omit any machine kneading you might be doing after that point.

3. Let it sit out for an hour or so and give it 2-3 stretch and folds in that period.

4. Stick it in the fridge for at least 8 hous. It will keep fine for several days.

5. Take chunks as needed, shape them, and bake them. We do ours as like 16 inch baguettes baked in a perforated baguette pan. As such, they are quick to shape, and we really only proof them about 1/2 an hour so so and are getting good crust and decent crumb (Maybe a tad regular for some folks).

The beauty of it is that in baguette pans they bake in about 15 minutes, so with a little planning and a decent workflow, you could come home from work, shape the bread, let it proof while the oven preheats (and a little more) and bake them while you make dinner. Really, about an hour from fridge to done, maybe an hour and a half if you let them cool enough.

ehanner's picture

This subject is a pet peeve for me. I enjoy making larger batches and larger loaves. I think they taste better, look better and make better gifts. The trouble of course is that you have to eat/gift them soon after they come out of the oven for maximum effect. Keeping a loaf fresh enough to enjoy for more than a day is problematic for me. Sourdough is better but the crumb starts to firm up after the first 24 hours regardless of what I store or wrap the bread in. My current method is to drape a kitchen towel over the loaf, standing on end. Sometimes I will wrap the cut remains in a plastic shopping bag to prevent drying.

I'm afraid the undeniable conclusion is that you can't trick mother nature. The Europeans buy their bread fresh every day and feed the birds with the crumbs. For me, that's better than fretting why it is so.


abrogard's picture

Thank you all for your replies.


It seems generally the answer is either (1) You can't make it last, it is not in the nature of the bread or (2) Freeze it.

And a 'work around' seems to be the excellent idea of refrigerating the dough.


So I'm happy.

Just a question or two:  How about the freezing of loaves? When it has got properly cool I guess?  And wrapped in what? Plastic, I'd imagine? And I'll accept your word that it works and I will try it and find out for myself but I wonder about where I've read in other places that freezing bread makes it stale?

Questions about refrigerating the dough:  First I'll observe that I am very casual about my yeast. I just use a package of dried yeast (7g, equivalent to 15g of compressed yeast, it says) to every batch. And a batch is 5 cups (250ml cups) of flour. I've got no idea if this is right or wrong. Right? Or wrong?

Second, 'lumpy dough' ?  My finished dough always looks a bit lumpy and I wonder if this is what you mean.  To make it smooth in my limited experience means making it wetter. Is that what you mean?

I never do any machine kneading. I almost never do any kneading. I guess from spilling it out of the bowl after mixing to putting it back into the bowl to rise I've taken it in my hands folded it over and pushed it down (i.e. 'kneaded') about 15 times. 20, max. 

I have read recipes asking you to knead for ten minutes. I got my idea of bread making from a Youtube video I saw and that guy kneaded his bread 13 times and said, casually, as he was doing it, something to the effect that it turns out now ( i.e., I suppose he means, modern knowledge) that the gluten formation is decided by time rather than pummelling - hence much kneading not required.

And my bread rises to twice the volume and the crumb seems okay (maybe a little dense, I'd like to show a pic to you experts to solicit your opinion) so I've stayed with that method.

Three: What are the 'stretch and folds' for?

Four: So it never rises prior to refrigeration? After taking out of the fridge you form it into a loaf and let it rise? Or not? And bake it at whatever temperature it has reached - even if (if you don't let it rise) it is still decidedly cold from the fridge?


This refrigeration thing seems to be what I want. And I should get used to a little waste, be a bit more profligate.  I make two loaves a day and there's generally half a loaf left over the next day. I quite like it. It is a bit chewy, it is cold, of course, but it doesn't taste stale. The crust is soft. I eat it before the new bread. But my wife and kids avoid it and prefer the new day's bread.

Though the child eats his lunch time school sandwiches made of yesterday's bread, with no complaint.

So I was just really trying to find a way to make this left over half loaf more widely acceptable.

And really, I think, it is good enough as it is and if people are rich enough and well fed enough to turn their noses up at it and go for the newer bread then that's just how well off we are and i should continue to eat it myself or - as someone said somewhere the French do - feed it to the birds.

Here is a link to a pic of a slice of (yesterday's) bread so's you can see the consistency of the crumb.  If you double click on a pic it will  blow up quite large and you'll get a good view.


Seeing I've used so many words here I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and go on to say this little bit about making my own bread:

I've only been doing it for two weeks and I'm astounded by how the bread satisfies me.  It satisfies my hunger and my taste buds to such an extent that I virtually need nothing else to eat!  I will butter and eat a slice of this bread at virtually any time during the day (I'm at home all day) and I seem to  need nothing else.

Previously I would have eaten more bread - a whole loaf of sliced bread during a day perhaps, I think, which would be more than one of my loaves - and complete with sandwich filling each time.  AND be hungry enough all the time to be looking for more food - a proper meal, some meat, on and on...

This bread seems to put me in an entirely different world. I'm serious. And I am amazed. I wonder about it. Anyone else get such reactions to their own bread?




ab  :)




wally's picture


Yes, bread is magic!  To freeze, first let the bread cool (if we're talking baguettes, allow around one hour after pulling from the oven).  I cater wrap them - tightly bound in plastic wrap, using two layers - one in each direction.  The idea is to seal them as tightly as possible.

How long they will last frozen is something I haven't experimented with.  My loaves are generally thawed and eaten within a week.  I don't know if long term storage is feasible.

To re-use, I thaw them about one hour, pre-heat my oven to 400 and bake them for 8-10 minutes, to re-crisp the crust.  Then I give them another 10 minutes to cool so that I can actually taste the bread again.

It's a stop gap measure at best, but one that allows you to get a little more life out of something which is by nature short-lived.