The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Storage

kab's picture

Bread Storage

I surely hope this is a easy question to answer for all of you.

We (my husband and I) just started making our own bread. We have had some amazing results, but my problem is with storing the bread. It seems like the bread gets hard when stored for overnight. I know my chickens are loving it because they get the hard leftovers, but I really do not want to have to bake bread daily just so my bread seems "fresh".

What is the best way to store our loafs?



thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

As soon as the loaves cool, ask yourself how much you're going to eat in the next 24-hours. Whatever you won't eat, wrap it (plastic, paper, foil?) and put it in the freezer. Bread freezes really well (and defrosts quickly).

For what you plan to eat, just wrap it tightly in foil and leave it on the counter.

GeekyGuy's picture

Is it just the crust that gets hard, or does the crumb get that way too?

Granted, the staling process begins just after three hours after the bread has been removed from the oven, but having a loaf go completely stale just overnight seems unusual to me.

Chuck's picture

I agree. While very "lean" (just flour, water, yeast, and salt) loaves in thin shapes are arguably best if used within several hours, many yeasted loaves last a couple days, my current whole wheat nut bread experiments are lasting around four days, and some long-lasting sourdough loaves keep for weeks. It's fairly common to expect to bake only once a week, with freshly baked bread for the first half the week and frozen-and-thawed loaves covering the last half the week.

One simple-minded-sounding thing that makes a big difference: after cutting a slice, lay the loaf down not on its bottom but rather on the cut spot with the rest of the loaf "standing up". For bakers that's so much a habit it isn't always mentioned explicitly. Some other things that make a big difference: let the loaf cool thoroughly (a couple hours!) before cutting it at all (cutting still-warm loaves trades away keeping power for "instant gratification"), and slice only what you're going to eat and leave the rest on the loaf for later.

It may also be helpful to get a breadbox (or "veggie" bags that have lots and lots of "micro-holes" in them). A couple things to not do: do not try to store the bread in tightly sealed regular plastic bags, as you will almost certainly have "mold" problems; and do not store the bread in the refrigerator (some for slicing now, some in the freezer for later, but none in the refrigerator).

For the inevitable goofups, you need to know it's very easy to unstale bread. Slice what you want. If it seems too dry and stale, put it in your microwave oven for a few seconds ("nuke" it because it's dry? are you crazy? - well, do it even though it may not seem to make any sense). Do this only with the slices you're going to eat immediately though - do not unstale the whole loaf in hopes of keeping it one more day.

pjaj's picture

If you are baking loaves in a pan, or any other technique that produces a reasonably constant cross section, and don't always eat the end crust slice first, use this as a "keeper" on the cut face of the loaf. Use this in addition to the "standing up" idea.

Stale-ish bread makes better toast, allegedly.

Nuke stale bread in the microwave, but first dampen the crust slightly (you will have to experiment). The resultant steam will help soften the bread. I agree that nuked bread must be eaten straight away or it will get even harder. Except for defrosting frozen bread. If it wasn't stale when you froze it, nuking the loaf for a couple of minutes on full power will defrost enough to let you cut a sandwich or two, then you can let the rest defrost naturally.

Frozen sliced bread will defrost in the toaster.

The refrigerator will cause bread to go stale quicker than if unrefrigerated. To quote from a 2008 Scientific American article:-

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.

Ford's picture

As thomaschacon said above, bread freezes readily. 

1/ If the bread is made with only the essential four, ie flour. water, leaven, and salt, do as thomaschacon  suggests.  Do not put it in the refrigerator.

2/ If the bread is highly enriched, ie with milk, butter, and/or egg, you may put it in a plastic bag after cooling, or after freezing, and store it in the refrigerator. 


FoodFascist's picture

I agree with the above, but I think you may also want to look at your dough hydration. There's lots of information on dough hydration on this forum. If it's under, say, 55% your bread is going to stale very quickly indeed. That said, I only recently learnt to make dough with hydration of over 65%, and I usually keep my bread on the counter, wrapped in a baby muslin square (which is a sort of a thickish, somewhat loosely woven cotton cloth) and although it does stale after about 24-36 hours, it remains very chewy. I quite like it this way actually. And it remains this way for up to 5-6 days week before going completely dry.
However, I noticed this only works with breads which have some coarse flour in them - I do two types, a 50-60% wholemeal (a mix of wheat and spelt) and a 25% cornmeal. The few times I tried baking 100% white flour loaves, they indeed staled very quickly, even though the dough hydration was about the same. Coarse particles (e.g. bran, cornmeal, semolina, cracked grains) absorb water - and retain it - much better than the fine particles of white flours. So the type of flour you use will also affect how quickly your bread stales. Mind though, it takes time for those coarse bits to absorb water so you may want to soak the likes of polenta/cracked grains before adding them to the rest of the flour. They'll soften as they soak up water so as an added benefit, they won't interfere with gluten development (and you'll resist the temptation to add flour to make the dough easier to handle).
BTW when I discovered this staling issue with white breads, I started putting them, still wrapped in a muslin, in a plastic carrier bag which i left open so that some air remains. That kind of sorted the issue. BUT whether or not this would cause any mould problems depends on a variety of factors, most importainly air humidity and ambient temperatures.
Lastly, you could look at mashing (see and - a tecnique whereby you scald about 10-20% of the flour with boiling water, then keep it at 62-65 C for 2-3 hours, allow to cool and either mix that in with your dough, or combine it with the starter/yeast to make a sponge. I recently took to mashing all of my bread, and it's not as daunting as it may sound. What I do is, put the flour into a little lidded casserole that just fits inside a bigger saucepan, boil water in the kettle, pour it over the flour and stir quickly until well combined. By the time you've finished stirring, your mash will be just around the target temperature of 62-65 C. The minimum amount of water, as I've worked out, needs to be about 1.5 times the weight of flour to be scalded, the max amount I've come across in recipes is around 3 times the weight of flour - otherwise, I guess, the mix won't have cooled down to 65C quickly enough. Then what I do is, put the lid on the casserole, casserole into saucepan, and pour some hot water from the kettle into the saucepan for an improvised bain marie. Then the whole thing (with lid on saucepan of course) is wrapped into an old duvet. And forgotten about for 2-3 hours. I think my method is more energy efficient than keeping the mash in the oven! Someone else here on TFL (I think Juergen) keeps his mash in a cheapy cool box. Any insulation works really.
The mash is yet another way to retain water in the baked bread, and is also meant to improve flavour (might give your bread a hint of sweetness, although I find that also depends on how long your dough ferments afterwards).
And now's back to housework. Rant over ;-)

GermanFoodie's picture

... that's not a rant, it's right! Breads w/ sourdough, pate fermentee etc. won't have that problem. :)

kab's picture

 It is just the crumb that gets stale. Just the exterior 1/4 or so. I will make sure to start by setting it face down until I know, on average, hnow much we will be using within 24- 48 hours.


FoodFacist- I am totally knew at this. By wholemeal are you meaining like the basic whole wheat flour or is there something out there I am missing?


Thank you everyone who responded! I definitely did not expect so many.

FoodFascist's picture

any whole flour - whole wheat, whole rye, whole spelt (that's a close relation of wheat but is often deemed healthier), anything that has specks of bran in it is likely to be a wholemeal flour. Wholemeal flours are milled from the whole of the wheat/rye/spelt berry with only the husk being removed, hence the name.

There are also flour which have some, but not all, bran removed (e.g. light rye) but I have yet to come across a wheat flour which is neither white nor wholemeal. Maybe other folks have.

Also as I said you could substitute some of the flour in your bread for polenta (cornmeal) or semolina. Polenta and semolina are not whole grains as they don't contain any bran, but because they are coarser than white flour will do the same job in terms of retaining water as whole flours.

Best of luck with your baking endeavours! Bread baking is really tricky but so rewarding. Before I took up bread baking I was fairly experienced with cakes and had also made pizza dough and other types of yeast doughs with success. Bread however is another story - you might get some sort of mishap half the time when you're only learning! This is ok and is just part of the learning process, although of course we all get frustrated because of all the ingredients, time and effort wasted. This forum is great because there's lots of experienced folk who have gone through all the hoops (or, like me, are only in the process of it) and will help you troubleshoot anything you're not happy with. Cookbooks never tell you any of the little but all-important tricks but this forum will.
Best of luck!

AnnaInMD's picture

wet all bread surfaces by either spraying on the water or just pat in on.  Put the bread into a 300 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Delicious crisp crust once again.