Homemade bread is absolutely delicious and you get to add in any extra ingredients that you do not typically get in store-bought bread. Plus, it is cheaper and has loads of other advantages.
The problem? How long can homemade bread last without going stale if you bake more than one loaf of bread to save on costs? And can you freeze homemade bread?
I attempt to analyze these questions and answer them with well-reasoned arguments taking into account all the variables both in favor and against being able to keep your homemade bread fresh.
Generally all types of bread have shelve lives of around three to seven days if kept at room temperature. But then again this depends on certain factors like humidity and types of ingredients used to bake the bread.
Most store-bought bread are pumped full of preservatives to keep them looking perky and fresh on the shelves.
Most mass produced foods have this factor to contend with, so presumably homemade bread is quite the opposite and has little to no preservative as we want to keep the bread as healthy as possible.
So homemade bread with little or no preservative typically has a shelf life of two to four days, sometimes even more depending on storage. But I am getting ahead of myself, I will come to that very important factor later.
Type of Bread
Different types of bread also have different expiration dates.
An example is gluten free bread which has a considerably higher moisture content and as such is more susceptible to growth of mold.
Dough stored in freezers also eventually spoils due to the oils it contains.
Dry crust bread will take much longer to spoil and go stale because the dryness isn’t an optimum environment for mold to grow thus giving it a longer shelf life.
Means of Storage
This is a very important factor to consider for most foods, none more so than bread. You can either drastically cut short or elongate the shelf life of bread simply by how and where you store it.
Bread should typically be kept at room temperature or frozen conditions because environments that are full of moisture and warmth will make them go bad much faster. These conditions favor the growth of mold and as such should be avoided at all costs.
Of course due to the preservatives store bought bread has, it can last for around 5-6 days at room temperature while homemade bread can last for 3-4 days in the same environment.
The most common storage method for people who want to extend shelf life is popping them into the fridge or freezer. There are a few factors to consider if that is the option you opt for including;
- Make sure the bag in which the bread is stored in is sealed tight to prevent moisture from accumulating inside and causing mold growth.
- The sealing is also important to prevent it from drying totally due to loss of original composition moisture.
Keeping bread in the fridge, store bought or homemade can extend its shelf life by up to six days with the same overall quality when eaten.
Food handling has never been so important in all sectors of the food industries than in the modern day world.
Experts have found a direct correlation between food handling, hygiene and handling related illnesses caused by improper handling. As such, you are also subject to the same rules even if you make the bread in your own home.
One common mistake people make is not removing the bread from the pan and putting it on a cooling rack immediately after baking.
If left on the pan, the bottom becomes soggy and moist which will drastically reduce the shelf life of that loaf of bread because the surface becomes perfect environment for the growth of mold.
Let the bread cool after baking before storing it, otherwise the moisture released during cooling will gather and again cause early spoilage.
To retain freshness, keep sliced bread in a tightly sealed bag to prevent entry of moisture. A lot of the freshness comes down to keeping your bread away from moisture.
It is quite easy to tell whether bread has gone bad; mostly observation is sufficient but sometimes there are no outward signs until you get a stomach upset or until you taste the said bread.
Outward signs include; mold growing on the sides of the slices of bread, dry and hard texture may indicate that it is stale but can still be eaten.
At times bad bread smells bad which is the surest way to know that it has gone bad and it might also taste bad in which case it is recommended that you throw it all away.
Fortunately in this area, store-bought bread and homemade bread behave the same and as such the signs are the same.
Can you Freeze Homemade Bread?
The answer to this is a resounding yes, it is even advised to increase the shelf life of your bread. But there are factors that have to be adhered to strictly while doing it.
Slicing the bread and storing in smaller bags is actually advised so you can take out the portions you need rather than thawing the whole loaf. Thawing introduces moisture and refreezing it again will reduce its shelf life because the one ting you don’t want has already gotten in.
Before freezing the bread, make sure it is cooled at room temperature to allow the escape of moisture then wrap in a tightly sealed bag to keep out moisture. So once you freeze it, you know it is dry and free of moisture in there.
the bread should be wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in freezer foil to keep it at maximum freshness and also prevent its natural moisture from escaping and making it a tasteless and flavorless treat.
Frozen bread can actually last up to six months according to experts and still be edible. Most people will not resort to this stretch of time but it is a useful tidbit to keep in mind and stop you panicking when you over-bake and you don’t know what to do with all those extra loaves of bread.
After analyzing all of these factors including; handling, type of bread, means of storage and shelf life it is safe to say that homemade bread can last for up to four days at room temperature with little exposure to moisture.
Homemade bread has a much shorter shelf life than store-bought because of the lack of preservatives in most cases.
To increase the natural shelf life of homemade bread without resorting to preservatives, you can store well-wrapped, cooled homemade bread in the fridge if it is short term or freezer if it is long term storage.
This will typically give you up to eight days more but can last for as long as six months from the day of freezing though it is recommended to break it down into smaller, more manageable portions to avoid moisture re-entry and thus spoilage.