The minute a loaf of sourdough bread comes out of the oven, it begins to stale. It’s a fact of life, isn’t it?
Freshly baked bread smells so great, tastes so beautiful, has such a glorious texture, but it’s on a downward spiral the minute it’s born. If you don’t eat it right away, it’s going to dry out, harden, and lose its vitality! You’ll miss the best of what it has to offer. Or worse yet, it will get mouldy.
It’s tragic, isn’t it? And the baker worked so hard to create it!
All sourdough, all the time!
Which is why one of the most common questions I get is: What’s the best way to store my bread to keep its deliciousness as long as possible?
The good news is that Happy Monk bread is “all sourdough, all the time.” And by that virtue, it will last longer than any commercially yeasted bread. By a longshot!
The sourdough starter we use in our bread protects against drying, hardening and moulding. It also gives the bread part of its glorious flavour. It’s the lactic acid-producing bacteria that does the magic, helping the bread rise and taste delicious. And it adds to the bread’s deliciousness lifespan.
Your Happy Monk sourdough bread should last a week or more without going stale. Longer with the dense rye loaves.
Long-lasting bread without preservatives
If a commercially made “plastic bag” loaf lasts that long, it’s likely due to the preservatives added in the manufacturing process. In my opinion, that’s not real bread!
But the question remains: What’s the best way to store your sourdough bread?
In my experience, bread devotees have their favourite ways to keep their bread tasting great and preserving their luscious texture.
Keep Bread Fresh for Longer
Here are some tips that can prolong the deliciousness of your bread:
- Store bread cut-side down — The bread crust is a protective cover for the moist crumb inside the loaf. If you store your sliced loaf with the crumb-side down on the cutting board, you’ll be keeping moisture in and dryness out.
The bread can last a day or so without losing too much moisture. At which point it would be wise to move it into a bread box.
Plan ahead! If you’re making sandwiches for a few people, cut your fresh loaf in half down the middle. Slice what you need from the first half and keep the end crust in reserve, so it continues to shield the remaining crumb from moisture loss.
- Use a bread box — Sure, a bread box adds more clutter to the countertop, but it does the job of prolonging the deliciousness of your loaves.
I use a simple bamboo “roll-top” bread box that will store at least two whole loaves at a time. It looks great and matches a great bamboo cutting board with a crumb catcher that my son and partner gave us as a gift. It’s not too large, and I almost always have at least two loaves on the go stored in the bread box.
It does a great job storing this all-important staple of Jennifer’s and my diet!
Hold on to those Happy Monk bread bags!
- Paper bags, kitchen towels and plastic bags — Keep the Happy Monk paper bags your bread comes in. They’re an excellent way to keep your bread fresh and attractive to look at. 1
Plain paper bags and kitchen towels work well against excessive drying in sourdough bread.
And although I often discourage using plastic bags to store bread, they might be helpful in dry conditions where humidity is very low. Keeping your loaf in a sealed plastic bag would be effective at retaining moisture and a soft texture.
- Don’t keep bread in the refrigerator — This may seem counter-intuitive since the fridge is a food-preserver. But placing a sourdough loaf in the refrigerator will accelerate bread staling faster than if kept at room temperature.
Freezing is best at keeping freshness
- Freeze bread for extended storage — There’s nothing like sourdough bread fresh from the oven, but if you need to store a loaf, freezing is just fine. The freezer effectively stops moisture loss from the bread starches and keeps the crust and crumb structure relatively intact.
A loaf can be frozen whole or sliced and kept in plastic freezer bags for maximum freshness. Many Happy Monk customers prefer individual frozen slices for convenience and almost fresh flavour and texture when thawed or toasted.
- Freezing slices — It takes a bit of work upfront, but it pays great dividends in the long run. Freezing sliced pieces of sourdough bread allows you to reheat and toast your bread at a moment’s notice AND keeps the bread fresh for very long periods. Slices come out like freshly baked bread and toast perfectly.
I’ve never met a toaster I truly loved until I sprung for this one. We’ve been through Cuisinarts, Black + Deckers, Hamilton Beaches and Osters. I’ve looked at consumer reports of the best toasters. They all have the same features; they all do the same mediocre job of toasting bread.
I’d been eyeing this deluxe Breville model for some time but told myself it was too expensive, too fancy for me. But it had features I loved, like the “Lift and Look” that brings up the toast for a quick progress check, then returns it into the toaster. It handles bagels well, too, toasting the cut side while just warming the outside.
Get yourself a great toaster!
For our purposes here, it has a “Frozen” function that works perfectly to reheat a frozen slice of bread to just the right amount. It simply adds additional time to the toast and seems to work perfectly!
We finally sprung for the Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Smart Toaster during the COVID months, an indulgence that I felt sheepish about at first, but now no regrets. “You’re a bread baker,” I told myself. “You oughta treat your toast as well as you treat your bread!” And I was right! Ain’t never going back!
- Vacuum-sealed plastic bags — One Happy Monk customer swears by the vacuum sealer as a means of bread storage. I’ve not tested the method, but it deserves some consideration.
Home vacuum sealers are relatively widespread, and the Internet is full of reviews of different makes and models. The New York Times-based Wirecutter site is the most comprehensive consumer-based coverage I can find.
My question is that removing the air from plastic-packaged bread affects the moisture content of the bread slices? My friend says no, and attests to its superior freshness when unfrozen and toasted.
A concern raised by another customer is that in vacuum sealing an entire loaf of bread, so much air is removed from the packaging that it compresses the loaf and distorts its shape. But this would be mitigated by a manually controlled vacuum feature that allowed the user control over the amount of air removed.
Does anybody have a vacuum sealer? Have you used it for bread storage? What’s your impression of its storage efficacy?
A plastic-heavy solution
- Freezing whole loaves — This last solution works if you’ll want an entire loaf for some use in the future. If, for example, you have guests coming in a week or more, it would be handy to have an entire loaf in the freezer, adequately frozen.
Freezing a whole loaf may be a plastic-heavy solution. First, wrap the entire loaf tightly with plastic wrap. Next, place the wrapped loaf in a large freezer Ziplock bag. Press as much air out as possible.
I like to do the Ziplock up tightly around a plastic or metal straw, then suck as much air out of the bag as possible. Pull out the straw and instantly seal the rest of the Ziplock. Place the bag in the freezer
To thaw, defrost the loaf on the counter overnight or a few hours. Once completely thawed, store cut-side down on a cutting board or in a bread box, as above.
Any more bread storage tips not covered here? Any corrections or disagreements?
Which method do you prefer?
Let me know, and we’ll post your comments here!
To the staff of life!