how do you store homemade bread?
hubby and i have been baking our own bread pretty steadily this summer.
but we're running into a 'storage' problem. we don't have a bread box ... and don't really have space to go get one, either!
we used to wrap the bread (cooled) up in plastic wrap but this isn't very effective - wrap loses its stickiness and the bread gets hard quickly. plus, it's not very environmentally friendly. now, we're saving and reusing plastic bags that we happen to have from the bulk store or grocery store (although, we don't have much of those either as we're trying to use mesh bags for produce).
so, how do you store your homemade bread? any plastic-free tips?
Since we use 90% of our bread for sandwiches, I slice almost immediately (better to let it cool first, but I don't always have time) and freeze it in two layers of gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags. I find the second helps a lot with preventing freezerburn. We then just pry off slices when making lunch. I keep reusing the same bags, loaf after loaf, and this seems to work equally well for crusty or soft/crumb breads, although the latter really do need to be cool to slice. Having a toaster that lets you warm the sandwich prior to eating helps, too, but is optional.
anybody who makes bread enters a tacit contract with the starch empire. starch agrees to give us bread that is tastier and more healthful than most purchased breads. we agree to give starch the unrestricted right to start going stale without any ingredients to impede him. the fate of home loaves is defined by this contract.
as far as i can tell, there are only a few meaningful steps the baker can take in response to the inherent right to stale. first, promptly freeze any bread that won't be eaten within a couple of days. for some this might mean cutting a loaf in half and freezing the second piece. for others, like me, it means freezing the second loaf.
second, it seems smart to schedule baking for days when dinner will feature bread--might as well eat it when it is best. i'm thinking of meals such as blt's, fresh soup, steamed mussels, or eggs.
now in our house, there's an additional factor--dogs. the boys will grab any bread not put in the box, regardless of whether it is wrapped in plastic, waxed paper, or kryptonite.
Well, crusty loaves are a halfway decent substitute for a bone, aren't they.
Two weeks ago, I brought a long Pugliese-style loaf to a friend's party. As I was opening the door to go in, I neglected to pay attention to their Goldendoodle - I assumed he was coming to greet me, so when I bent down to scratch his underchin, he of course tried to seize the loaf. The loaf would have been too big for my late heavyweight Boston to have attempted to seize, even with his huge mouth, so I had not translated risk for size of dog! - here's an image of my dog and his mouth (he was the dog who posed for this image):
Now, with that personal reminiscence out of the way (moist eye), I would also say that people should consider making croutons with their staled bread, rather than throwing it away. If you are going to use them quickly, you can anoint them with a combination of EVOO (plus butter if you want) flavored with crushed garlic or shallots and other seasoning to taste.
For crustier breads, storing cut side down on the cutting board with a paper bag over it is best. For more tender crusts, waxed paper bags seem best - if you get large boxes of cereal, consider re-purposing the bag if its of waxed paper, as is common. Those cereal bags can be useful.
And do not refrigerate bread; bread stales faster at typical refrigerator temperatures than it does at room temperature.
This was my biggest issue with homemade bread... until recently. I don't have a bread box, but I do have a set of stainless-steel nesting bowls with lids that sit down inside the lip of the bowl (not a super-tight sealing lid). I use the biggest one. It seems to keep the moisture level just right, and even though the lid is plastic, it never touches the bread.
I have an L-shaped counter and the back corner is totally unusable anyway, so that's where it goes. I suppose you could keep it anywhere -- in a cupboard or on top of the fridge or whatever.
The only trick is that the bread has to be totally cool before it goes in there, like with most bread storage, I guess! :)
When I do bag it I use clean plastic grocery store bags but like you, I'm taking my own bags to the store now. So lately I've been doing what great-grandmas use to and placing it cut side down on a cheap small clean plastic cutting board reserved for that use. Seems to be working so far, the cut end stays soft, the crust stays nice. That said, a loaf in this house is gone in a day and a half.
A nice problem.
If your bread has a hard crust, you can leave it out, cut side down on the curring board. You dont want to put this type of bread in plastic since the crust will get soft and the inside stale. For standard american style bread, with soft crust, you can put it in a plastic bag if you want or handle it as above. If you have too much bread, you can freeze the extra - refrig is no good for bread. Stale bread is great for bread pudding or you can make bread crumbs, panzanella (bread salad, etc.)
You wlll need plastic bags for the freezer. You can reuse sturdy supermarket plastic bags or buy good quality bags for this purpose. My parents have been washing and reusing their bread bags an indefinte number of times for many years.