But bread is much more than that! In fact, it’s an important part of many different meals. And if you want your bread to taste the best possible, you need to know how to store it properly. Here are some tips from experienced bakers on how to keep your bread fresh and delicious.
Factors Affecting Shelf Life.
Molds are the main reason why bread spoils. Indeed, each bread has dormant spores that are just waiting to show up if the conditions are met. The resulting fungus, or bread mold, can be toxic.
In fact, yeast – the main ingredient in many bread recipes – is a form of fungus. When hot water, sugar and flour come into contact with yeast, it feeds and reproduces. The yeast then produces a waste product: carbon dioxide. This is in turn to make the bread rise and give it a chewy texture and larger size.
The good news is that yeast is pretty harmless when it comes to spoilage. Throughout the day, spores float through the air in our kitchens and pantries; it only takes one spore to come into contact with a slice of bread for the mold to begin to grow. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to store bread in a plastic bag or at least wrapped in paper. If bread is carelessly placed in the bread drawer, bin, or pantry without being properly sealed, the spores have free access to it.
But even when properly sealed in an airtight bag, other factors affect the shelf life of bread:
- Ingredients such as eggs, milk, and sugar create a Petri dish-like environment for accelerated mold growth. Any bread made with these types of ingredients should be eaten as soon as possible or stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Storage space can also affect rapid mold growth. This is why bread boxes and bread drawers are usually tightly closed to limit exposure to spores in the surrounding air.
- The method of preparation can also affect the shelf life of bread. The more a bread dough is mixed and kneaded, the more oxygen is incorporated into the bread. Oxygen is another factor that promotes rapid mold growth. This does not mean that a loaf should not be mixed or kneaded, but only to the point necessary. Excessive mixing or kneading only adds oxygen.
- Humidity can trigger mold growth at a surprising rate. Areas with high humidity can be extremely affected by bread spoilage. The location of the bread can also increase its exposure to moisture. This is another reason why it should be sealed and kept in a proper storage space.
Techniques to extend shelf life.
These techniques for extending the shelf life of bread do not include the use of artificial preservatives often found in store-bought bread.
Temperature has a major influence on mold growth. Spores, molds and fungi prefer a warm temperature to thrive and grow. Room temperature is not ideal if you want to extend the shelf life of breads. However, refrigeration can prevent mold growth for up to two additional weeks.
Ingredients such as salt, water, and vinegar, as opposed to milk, sugar, and butter, can also prevent mold growth, but again, that’s a matter of days at room temperature.
Some people have reported that letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight after wrapping it carefully can inhibit mold growth. Again, this only adds a few days to the shelf life.
The Bread Shelf Life Dashboard.
Here we give you a quick overview of the shelf life of bread. These are estimates drawn from a variety of sources, and some factors affecting bread spoilage may vary, as noted above.
- Pantry – 3 days.
- Refrigerator – 1 week.
- Freezer – 1 month.
Homemade white or wheat bread.
- Pantry – 3 to 7 days.
- Refrigerator – 1 week.
- Freezer – up to 2 months.
Store-bought bread (with preservatives).
- Pantry – 5 to 7 days.
- Refrigerator – 1 to 2 weeks.
- Freezer – 3 months.
- Pantry – 7 to 10 days.
- Refrigerator – 2 to 3 weeks.
- Freezer – 3 to 4 months.
- In the pantry, if stored properly, up to 2.5 years.
- In a closed container, 5 to 10 years.