If you always finish your sourdough bread on the same day that it’s baked, you’re one of the lucky few as most people have to store their bread! The environment in which you keep your sourdough dictates how long it stays fresh, whether it’s store-bought or homemade. There are lots of misconceptions and wrong practices people follow to store bread, so let’s see how to store sourdough bread and keep it fresh for longer!
The best way to keep sourdough bread fresh is to wrap it in a cotton bag or large tea towel. This lets it breathe which keeps the crust nice and crusty, whilst reducing airflow so it doesn’t dry out. Always store bread in a cool, dry place. To keep sourdough for long periods use the freezer!
There are several different factors that impact the shelf life of sourdough bread.
We can combat dryness by toasting or frying sourdough bread. But most home bakers prefer to extend the life of their bread as long as possible. This way it can be used for sandwiches or slathered with butter!
The difference between drying and staling bread is a little confusing. When bread dries, it doesn’t change from its original state. Internal moisture is lost through evaporation, yet the crumb structure still remains intact. This makes the bread hard and taste dry, but prevents mould growth!
On the other hand, bread staling is caused by the starch coagulating back into its original, pre-baked state. As this occurs a water molecule is lost in each starch chain. The crumb becomes less gelatinized and moisture migrates from swollen starch granules into airy pockets within the bread.
The result of starch reforming is that the texture is diminished. What may have been a light and fluffy loaf can be hard and dense as it turns stale. These migration processes continue to take place until there are no more water molecules left for this type of reaction to happen. Bread that has gone stale will be hard and dry on the surface.
To see the effects of staling, wrap a slice of bread and place it in the fridge. See how its texture changes in just a few hours!
Mould spores grow best in damp, warm conditions in a non-acidic environment. There are a few ways we can slow down mould growth in bread:
After a loaf is baked, it changes from being slightly acidic, to more pH neutral. Increasing the fermentation time of sourdough bread produces more organic acids. Using a starter when it’s at its peak will also provide more acid. Sourdough sold in some places contains vinegar (acetic acid) as they reduce bulk fermentation time by including an acid to the recipe. These methods will improve the keeping quality of sourdough bread.
There are a couple of tricks for how to make bread fresh for longer. If you follow the tips below, you won’t have to worry about your sourdough lasting as long as it could!
The cooling process is important for sourdough bread. You should not slice it right away after taking it from the oven. This will result in moisture escaping through the cut area which ruins the crust and makes the bread dense like a brick. Bread will stay much fresher if you keep it whole and slice when you use it.
To make your bread fresh longer, you should reduce the airflow. Airing out your bread will help remove the moisture from it. Covering with foil or plastic wrap will also reduce airflow which means the bread retains moisture for longer. This can work well for a couple of days but also creates the perfect environment for mould to develop.
Wrap sourdough bread in a cotton bag or tea towel to provide just enough airflow for the bread to “breathe”.
Keep your bread at room temperature in a bread box or cupboard. Bread boxes are designed to keep bread fresh and crisp for longer periods of time. It allows the bread to have air circulation. But, like wrapping it in a tea towel, they prevent external factors from affecting the bread’s moisture level too much.
Putting your bread in a cupboard is another way to store it without letting it go stale fast. This reduces the moisture from escaping and the bread will concentrate on the staling process.
Unlike the common belief, putting your bread in the refrigerator will actually decrease its shelf life. The coldness inside your fridge causes moisture from bread to condense on its surface. This results in mould formation, whilst starch reforms at a much faster rate in this environment!
If you're going to just eat small portions, take out your bread knife and cutting board, and have it sliced before you freeze it. This will save you up time and resources by just having to thaw the portions you need.
Sealing sourdough bread in plastic bags or wrap will keep it soft, but will make it go mouldy quickly. For soft bread or rolls, the best way to keep them soft is to store them in a sealed bag. Homemade soft sourdough bread can be stored in a sealed bag for 2-3 days before the mould sets. You can put a piece of celery in the bag to increase acidity which prevents mould from setting in too early.
Pros and cons of sealing bread in a plastic bag: