How to keep bread fresh
Bread is a welcome addition to every meal; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But even if you think you just can’t get enough, sometimes there are a few slices left over. Fresh bread can go stale within 2-3 days, while store bought bread lasts a maximum of one week, making it difficult to use up in time.
Wondering how to keep bread fresh? When bread is stored correctly, it’ll last much longer. You can save spare slices for a club sandwich later by popping them in the freezer. It’s cost-effective and simple, and best of all, keeps your bread crusty on the outside yet soft on the inside. Here are our simple tips and tricks on how to freeze and defrost bread.
How to freeze bread
All bread (sliced or whole) can be frozen, but some kinds require a little more prep than others. If you’ve come home from one of our stores – or just had a grocery shop delivered – and have a loaf or two of sliced bread you’d like to save for a rainy day, put them straight in the freezer in the packaging they came in. The plastic wrap will prevent it from drying out, and from absorbing other odours and flavours.
If your loaf of bread is from our in-store bakery, or you’ve made a wholemeal or white loaf with your own fair hands, it requires a bit more TLC. When the bread is completely cool – and you’re sure you don’t want to eat any more of it for a while – wrap it tightly in plastic wrap (or an airtight freezer bag).
You can freeze it like this if you’re short on time, but it’ll store far longer if you then add a layer of foil on top of the plastic. This locks all the freshness in, prevents the unpleasant taste of freezer burn, and stops ice crystals from forming.
Once you’ve sourced freezer space for your bread, you can keep it there for up to 1 month if it’s wrapped in a single layer. If you’ve done the double wrap, the bread will keep for as long as 6 months.
How to defrost bread
Defrosting bread couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is take it out of the freezer, remove any plastic wrap (as this traps condensation), and leave it to thaw on your kitchen counter. Your bread will return to its soft self in no time. There’s just one golden rule: do not freeze bread again once it’s been defrosted, as this will spoil the texture.
Hungry? Heat your bread up to enjoy toasties in a flash. If you only need a couple of slices, frozen slices can be dropped straight into the toaster, and heated just as you would normally; however, you might need to set your toaster to a slightly higher setting, to fully defrost the dough.
Whole loaves can be defrosted in the oven. Slide the bread onto a middle shelf, sprinkle it with a little water, and heat at about 160°C for 20-30 minutes. This re-gelatinizes the bread’s starches, keeping the inside chewy, while the water will create an extra-crusty crust.
How to freeze homemade bread
Seeded soda or packed with juicy olives, fruit-filled or a trusty farmhouse loaf, baking your own bread means there are endless options for doughy deliciousness. However, homemade bread only stays fresh for a day or two, so if you can’t finish – or share – what you’ve made, you can freeze homemade bread using the same method as above.
Breads with a higher fat content, such as egg-enriched brioche buns or olive-oil infused focaccia, are slower to go stale than basic breads such as French bread.
Bread storage also requires the right temperature: it’s critical that homemade bread is always stored with the cut side down, as exposing it to the air will cause it to dry out. The fridge has a similar drying effect on home-baked bread, as does heat: storing it near an oven or dishwasher is a recipe for bread-based disaster.
How to store homemade bread
If you’re not freezing bread, where and how should you store your homemade bread? Firstly, paper wrapping is always best, as it allows just enough air to circulate, without trapping in moisture and allowing mould to propagate.
Cut into your bread, and the paper bread bag won’t cover the end? No problem – simply cover the exposed side with another paper bag, and you won’t have to throw away any stale ends the next time you’re in the mood for bread.
Don’t underestimate the power of your humble bread bin (or bread box). A large bread bin helps to balance humidity with just the right amount of air circulation, preventing your bread from drying out without making it damp. As tempting as it is to store everything in your bread bin, it’s best to avoid over-stuffing it, as that prevents proper air circulation.
What to do with stale bread
We know that, despite all efforts to eat or store your leftover bread, you might sometimes still be left with something too stale to make into sarnies. Never fear: bread has a huge variety of uses, even if it’s past its best.
Croutons are a staple for wintery soups. Or, you can blitz stale bread in a blender and make breadcrumbs, which you can use for making your own nuggets or cobbled into stuffing. Or, own the fact the bread’s dry, and make a feature of it with a hearty Italian panzanella.
If dessert is your favourite meal of the day, whipping up a quick bread and butter pudding will disguise stale bread with lashings of butter, fruit, and plenty of cream. With our recipes at your fingertips, there’ll be no such thing as stale bread in your household.
Our best bread recipes
Tomato and basil bruschetta
Mexican bread bake
Cinnamon and orange bread and butter pudding
Slow cooker bread pudding with caramel
Easy brown bread ice cream