It’s always disheartening to discover hard stale bread at the bottom of your refrigerator. It’s even more heartbreaking if the bread in question was personally freshly baked or a nice baguette from the local French bakery.
Some people usually throw them away as the bread is inedible. Some people have failed attempts at trying to revive the bread. Some people think that throwing the bread in the toaster will solve all their problems, but reviving stale bread requires a lot more attention.
Though there are several ways to revive hard bread, you need to understand what really happens to bread when they become stale in order to treat it properly.
What Happens To Old Bread?
From the start keeping bread fresh is a difficult task. After the bread is baked, the bread will begin to lose moisture because of a process called starch retrogradation. In the baking process, starch begins to gelatinize above 150˚ Fahrenheit and it begins to absorb moisture.
When the moisture is absorbed, the starch begins to increase in size and create the soft spongy, yet solid texture that people often attribute to bread. Over time, the starches in the bread begin to recrystallize. This is when the moisture of the bread that was locked in during the baking process decreases.
When reheating bread, the starches will gelatinize again and regain the spongy texture that people consider to be fresh.
How To Enjoy Hard Bread Again:
Use Your Microwave
The first way to revive stale bread is to use a microwave. It is also considered the fastest way to soften stale bread and it also has the longest-lasting results. This method involves the use of a piece of paper towel and some cold water.
You need to soak the paper towel in cold water and then wring out as much water as possible. When the paper towel is wrung out, it should be wrapped around the bread. The covered bread is then placed in the microwave and heated for 10 seconds.
The last thing you need to do is to remove the paper towel covering and enjoy the revived piece of bread.
Use Celery Sticks
A slightly unconventional way of reviving stale bread is by the use of a couple of celery stalks. This method is mostly ideal for bags of sliced bread. This method takes a little longer as the bread requires reabsorbing moisture overnight. You have to simply put a celery stock inside the bag of the bread and seal off said bag.
The bag of bread containing the celery stock should be placed back in the refrigerator and left to sit for several hours. For best results, the bag should be left to sit in the refrigerator overnight. After a certain amount of time, the celery stock should be removed from the bag.
The celery stock should be dry and slightly hard after it’s time with the bread. This is because all the moisture of the celery stock has been absorbed by the bread. At this point you can enjoy the bread on its own or toast it and smear some butter or jam over it.
Use an oven
Another way is by using the oven. This would also involve the use of aluminum foil. First, you must preheat their oven to 300˚ Fahrenheit or 148.8˚ Celsius.
While preheating, the bread loaf or slice in question should be wrapped in aluminum foil. You must make sure that the bread is completely covered in aluminum foil. The aluminum foil-wrapped bread should be placed in the oven anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the bread.
It would take less than five minutes for a single slice of bread, and it would take around 20 minutes for a whole loaf of bread. After the elapsed time, the bread should be allowed to cool down within the foil so it does not release any moisture in the form of steam.
The results of this method can measure up to the results of the microwave method but as soon as the bread is cool enough to touch it should be served and eaten immediately.
Heat up your oven… again!
There is another oven method that has a slight modification. This method is ideal for bread loaves, either whole or partial. It involves giving the bread a good soak before putting it in the oven.
The bread must be placed cut-side down under running water. It is ideal that the loafs interior does not get wet by the water.
After making sure that the crust of the bread is wet, the bread should be placed directly on the rack of one’s oven. You can use the warm setting on the oven or preheat the oven to 300˚ to 325˚ Fahrenheit.
The bread should be placed in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes depending on the size of the loaf. You could even opt for 10 to 12 minutes in the oven for a super wet loaf in the event that the interior of the bread has been soaked as well. The bread will come out as good as new, crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.
Making the old new
Unfortunately, there is still the possibility that one’s bread has dried out and is beyond any salvaging. If this is the case, the bread can be reused in other ways. You can make breadcrumbs or croutons. It can be used to make a soup thicker or one could also opt to feed the birds with it.
Prevention is better than cure.
We have all heard the saying that “prevention is better than cure”. This saying could also be applied to food. How so? You need to learn how to properly store bread in order to prevent it from becoming stale and hard.
A truth everyone must face is that all bread will eventually become stale. While it’s true that this is a cruel fate for any piece of bread, staling can be slowed down or even halted. The trick to this is wrapping it up snuggly and putting it in the freezer.
You would have to wrap the loaf of bread in plastic wrap. Having two layers of plastic wrap would yield the best results. Once the bread is tightly wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap, it is ready to be sealed in a freezer bag and stored in the freezer for upwards of three months.
Freezing bread might be a foreign concept to some, but it is actually better than just leaving the bread on the counter to become stale.
Some may wonder if all bread can be frozen, and when should bread be frozen. Freezing is the best way to preserve freshly baked bread as it has a short shelf life.
This applies especially to making your own bread. When you bake your own bread, you would want to preserve it for as long as possible. If the bread is stored on the counter, one could risk ruining the bread in a day or two. All the time spent baking will be wasted if the bread is not stored properly.
So, How To Prolong Your Bread’s Soft Life
A good rule to always follow is that if one loaf cannot be consumed immediately, the other half or what cannot be estimated to be consumed should be immediately stored in the freezer. For the best results possible, freshly baked bread should be immediately frozen once it is at room temperature.
Before immediately freezing, there are steps needed to be taken to ensure the bread’s freshness.
One of the things to watch out for when freezing bread is freezer air which could lead to freezer burn or freezer odors. In order to prevent this, the loaf of bread must be tightly wrapped into layers of plastic wrap.
When wrapped in the plastic wrap, it should then be placed in a resealable freezer bag. When placed inside the bag, you must press out all the extra air in the bag and immediately store the bag in the freezer.
When dealing with sandwich bread or any bread that needs to be sliced when eating, it should be sliced prior to sealing and freezing. It will be more difficult to slice frozen bread.
It will become crumbly for lack of moisture. It’s always better to slice bread beforehand.
When you want to eat the said frozen bread, you must thaw it on the counter while it remains in its resealable bag. When the loaf reaches room temperature, it will absorb any water that is in the plastic bag and it will restore the bread’s original texture.
If the crust of the bread is a little mushy, you can always restore it’s crust by heating it in the oven at 350˚ Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
Additionally, for toast, you can just place the frozen slices of bread directly in the toaster. You would just have to add an extra minute or two to the usual toaster setting to get through the cold temperature of the bread.
This method can also be used for bagels. The bagels should be sliced is half before wrapping, sealing, and freezing. When one wants to eat the bagel, one can heat up like the frozen toast as mentioned earlier.