Undoubtedly, bread is most delicious when taken out of the oven. Its crispy crust and soft center melt in a person’s mouth and even the people who are always on a diet can’t resist the smell of it.
However, as it cools, bread begins to lose its taste and natural moisture, which means it dries and hardens. The aging process begins immediately after you take it out of the oven – at first imperceptibly, but over time, it becomes quite visible since mold and mildew appear.
These processes are natural and cannot be stopped but there are ways to slow them down with the help of a few tricks that we will reveal to you.
So how do you store homemade bread? A great way to store homemade bread is to keep the bread in a paper bag wrapped in a cotton cloth or by simply putting it in a bread box. You also have the option to freeze it if you want it to remain in perfect shape for up to 3 months.
Since bread is such a broad topic, we have selected the most common questions and practices for storing bread in order for you to get all the necessary information in one read.
We will discuss the most suitable storage methods next to practices that you shouldn’t try. We will also go through freezing homemade bread and other aspects of storing fresh bread.
How to Store Homemade Bread: Bread Boxes & Alternatives
Before we even get to the variety of methods, we need to start with the most crucial part of the storing process – cooling the bread to room temperature. As long as you do not plan to eat the whole thing on the spot, we strongly recommend letting it cool down to room temperature for an hour or two before you start consuming it.
How to Use a Bread Box
Back in the day, nearly every household had a bread box in the kitchen. While these appliances have generally fallen out of popularity recently, either because they take up some space or because they seem old-fashioned, a bread box is the best place to store homemade bread.
Nowadays, you can actually get a bread box that matches the interior and style of your kitchen since, like any other technology and appliance, bread boxes have also evolved.
In other words, if you have enough free space in your kitchen and you consume a lot of bread, we genuinely suggest to reconsider and purchase a bread box.
In the end, how will a bread box keep your homemade bread fresh? The main role of a bread box is to keep your bread in a suitable environment that protects it from drying out. It is an extremely simple concept that works like a miracle no matter the materials that it is made from.
In short, your bread will remain fresh because it will remain in a perfectly balanced environment that will keep just as much humidity to protect your bread from drying out while also allowing just enough air circulation to prevent it from becoming soggy.
There are a couple of things to consider before you put your loaves in a bread box:
- We suggest getting a larger bread box (like this metal farmhouse-style bread box) since it would allow for better air circulation. Of course, if you only plan to put one or two loaves at a time and not overfill it with bread, then smaller boxes will not be a problem at all.
- Don’t put too much bread in a bread box since it could easily work against you. Each loaf of bread that you put next to the others will increase the humidity in the bread box which will make it soggy and increase the risk of mold.
Recommended Bread Boxes for Storing Homemade Bread
Here’s a list of our favorite bread boxes. We picked these ones to give you a chance to pick one that will suit your style preferences and sizing needs.
- Farmhouse Bread Box – This is the same one featured above. It’s the largest one we recommend and will hold two large bread loaves with room to spare.
- Stainless Steel Bread Box – This bread box has a simple design and holds up to two loaves of bread.
- Bamboo Bread Box – This is the best bread box for decorated pastries and bread that you want to display in your kitchen. The front window lets people have a sneak peek of what’s inside.
- Metal Vintage Bread Box – This vintage bread box is perfect for holding pre-sliced sandwich bread or smaller loaves of bread. It’s not quite long enough to hold long baguettes or larger loaves.
Alternative Bread Storage: Plastic and Paper Bags
If you plan to keep your bread in a paper bag, do not store it in a bread box since the abundance of moisture will destroy your crust and leave you with a loaf of soggy bread.
Storing bread in a plastic bag may work out with most types of store-bought bread for certain short periods but it is generally not a good option if you want to keep the quality in the bread.
As for homemade bread, we strongly advise against the use of plastic bags because you will end up with a soggy bread with no crust due to all the moisture that gets trapped in the bag.
Instead, use a paper bag accompanied by a cotton towel. You will not find a more suitable method apart from bread boxes, of course.
Why shouldn’t you simply put it in a paper bag without a cotton towel and why should it be cotton? In general, you can but a cotton towel will add up to the protection from dry air as well as improve the air circulation which is what happens in a bread box, after all.
How to Keep Bread from Molding
Commercial bread in stores often contains added preservatives that prevent them from molding fast.
This is also why most store bread is fit to eat for a prolonged period than your regular homemade bread and also why homemade bread needs to be protected from mold.
The general rule for reducing the risk of molding is to keep products in a dry and cold place.
So, you need a place that is not warm and moist while at the same time, you shouldn’t keep your bread in a refrigerator (you will understand why in the following segments).
With this said, what are the options?
First and foremost, you can freeze your bread (see the following segment for an in-depth explanation) but this is not a fair option if you plan to eat your bread in less than 2-3 days.
There are a few ways to keep your bread away from the mold which includes using cloth and paper bags but, once again, we strongly recommend purchasing a bread box if you do not have one.
In the end, a bread box is not as pointless as you thought, right? Since a bread box has the perfect amount of air circulation and it also keeps humidity at a stable level, it does prevent the growth of mold.
Can You Freeze Homemade Bread?
Many people ask if it is possible to freeze bread and why it would be useful to do it. The answers to these questions are contradictory. It all depends on what purpose you are pursuing when you freeze bread.
Can you freeze homemade bread? You can freeze homemade bread for up to 3 months. Before placing the bread in the freezer, put it in a plastic bag suitable for freezing or wrap it with aluminum foil. This way, your bread will not adopt the taste of other foods that you have frozen around it.
If you solely want to keep it fresh and eat it at a later time, then the answer is unequivocal: you can and you should freeze homemade bread!
Freezing your homemade bread will ensure that the bread does not expire and is not covered with mold. Just keep in mind that it is necessary to provide your bread with the necessary space in the freezer so that it does not crumble and does not change its shape.
We recommend slicing the bread before freezing it. Not only will this save space in the freezer but it will also be much more practical when you defrost it to eat.
If you have stored the bread in small portions, you can withdraw only the required amount and not be forced to eat a whole bread or throw the leftovers.
It is also advisable to mark the date that you freeze the bread so that you can first consume those that have spent the longest time in the freezer. In normal conditions, you can keep bread frozen for up to three months.
Can you refreeze bread? Technically, yes. Here’s more information about refreezing bread if you’re interested.
How to Freeze Homemade Bread Dough
Following the common recipes for kneading homemade dough, we often get larger quantities than we need at the moment. In such cases, you do not need to bake a large batch of bread that will be consumed for a whole week.
Instead, you can freeze the kneaded dough and use it again when you need it. For this purpose, however, there are a few points that are important for proper storage in the freezer, and now we will pay attention to them.
Can you freeze homemade bread dough? Yes, you can freeze homemade bread dough for up to 3 months. The dough must be completely ready before it is frozen. Knead it according to the selected recipe, form it in balls or portions and place it on baking paper or parchment paper. While the use of paper is not mandatory, it will make it more convenient.
Here are the next steps for freezing bread dough:
- Put the dough in a freezer bag with a zipper and release all the air from the package. You can also use stretch foil which is usually even more convenient and easier to use.
- Place the dough in the freezer for up to 3 months. We recommend using it before the 3 months are up for the best quality.
How to thaw frozen bread dough:
When you decide to use your frozen dough, move the package from the freezer to the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, then take it out and leave it for half an hour at room temperature before moving on to the baking process.
Pro Tip: Any dough can be frozen except liquid dough. A small exception is steamed dough since it is almost liquid. If this is the case, it requires freezing in a tightly closed plastic container.
Can You Keep Bread in a Refrigerator?
We don’t suggest putting the bread in the refrigerator since it would significantly increase the speed of the drying process. The only reason why you would want to put it in a refrigerator is to extend its shelf life.
While it will dry faster and lose many of its properties, the low temperature in the refrigerator will protect the bread from the formation of mold and mildew. However, the most suitable alternative to keep it fresh and eatable is to freeze it.
Can You Leave Bread to Cool Overnight?
Leaving your homemade bread to cool overnight is generally not a good idea. During the cooling process, your bread will release most of its moisture out which means that you would normally want to protect it as soon as it reaches room temperature.
Always let the bread cool down at room temperature for an hour or two, but no longer than that since it would speed up the aging process and it would lose its taste and desired properties before you know it.
Can I leave my homemade bread in the bread maker?
This will be a bad decision no matter how you look at it. For example, if you decide to leave it on low heat in the bread maker for until you decide to consume it, consider that your bread will dry out terribly and taste completely off the way you want it.
If you turn off your bread maker and still leave the freshly made bread inside, it will get wet and soggy. This is because the moisture will not be able to get out of the machine which will destroy the beautiful bread inside. If you leave it long enough, it could actually begin to rot.
Whenever you make homemade bread, you should immediately take it out of the oven or bread maker and leave it to cool down to room temperature.
If, however, you do not have a suitable place to store it when it cools down, you can put it back to the bread maker although we suggest against it.
If you decide to do it, however, make sure that it is not sitting on the original bread pan since it would stimulate bacteria growth which is incredibly unhealthy for you.
Why shouldn’t I slice my homemade bread after baking?
We already mentioned that you should always leave your bread to cool down if you do not plan to eat it whole in one sitting. Now, why should you leave the loaf whole instead of slicing it into pieces before it cools down?
The reason behind this practice is called starch retrogradation which is the process during which water expels from the inside of the bread or in other words, the bread begins to stale.
This process begins at the very second you take the bread out of the oven but it has not reached a state in which the inside of the bread is stable and ready.
This is why we recommend giving it at least an hour or even more to cool down in one piece before you start slicing it. This way, your bread will not lose its moisture abruptly but consistently which will keep it in perfect shape.
By the way, these are our favorite knives for slicing through crusty bread.
Is it cheaper to make my own bread?
Generally, we believe that it depends on where you live.
In most cases, yes, homemade bread would normally cost you less than store-made bread.
Is homemade bread healthier than store-bought?
Homemade bread will always be healthier than the one you buy from the store or local bakery. Store-made bread usually contains ingredients and preservatives that have a purpose to increase its shelf life.
Likewise, you will always control the entire mix of ingredients when you make your own bread while this is never possible with store-bought.