Thursday, January 12, 2012

Keeping Bread

Bread does not keep particularly well. In fact, it's best to eat the bread the day you bake it, but only after it's cooled. Allowing the bread to cool before slicing it, is important. It's not that we want to do a Sylvester Graham number and postpone gratification, but rather we want the bread to finish baking. Yes, it's still baking while it's cooling on the rack. I know this is an oxymoron, but it's a real phenomenon.
If you can't eat the bread on day number one, then it's okay to place it face down (the side you've cut) on your cutting board. It should still be edible on day number two. Remember, toasting does have a wonderful rehabilitative effect, but don't even think about nuking it in the microwave. 
Unless you have high humidity in your kitchen, after the second day the bread may become dry and hard. 
I have gone back and forth on plastic bags, but they certainly will keep the bread soft. But soft bread doesn't mean "fresh bread." Freshness may only be a illusion because bread will soon begin to compost if it's left in plastic for too long. You may choose to be a purist and not use plastic, but I have seen people break a tooth from chomping down on crusty bread. There are plastic bread bags with tiny perforations that do allow a breath of fresh air, and you could try these.
Or, you might want to try a breadbox for keeping bread. See the above photo. 
But no matter what you contrive, the day of reckoning will soon be upon you. Either eat the bread, make Tuscan bread soup, bread crumbs, bread pudding or give it to the birds.

By baking frequently, you should always have fresh bread at home, and bake extra if you can for your friends and homeless shelters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bread Interrupted

If your dough is happily rising in a couche and suddenly you discover that you don't have time to bake the loaf, then don't worry because there is something that you can do.
Simply take the dough from the couche, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate. You might even be able to leave the dough in the couche when you refrigerate the dough. Seal the dough carefully or it can easily dry in the fridge.
With yeasted dough, I have left the dough in the refrigerator for several days with no loss in quality. In fact the quality may have been improved by the longer fermentation.
When you do have the time to bake, take the dough from the refrigerator, allow it to warm up, rise and then bake. This should work as well for sourdough, but it might not keep as long refrigerated.
Refrigeration does not stop the fermentation and leavening process, but it does slow it down. To stop the fermentation process completely, freeze the dough. This may not work for sourdough (I'll let you know after I try it), but it does work well for yeasted dough.