Crystals. Absorption. Freezing. And how to keep bread fresh.
We all like our breads fresh. They do go stale, however, and nobody likes that because they taste dry and hard. Many of us think that is because the breads have lost their moisture.
In reality, the opposite has happened. And it has to do with the behavior of starch molecules in the bread.
Because bread contains less water than the air around it, it absorbs moisture from the air. When starch molecules absorb water, they crystallize, hardening the fluffy insides of the bread.
This process is called retrogradation. It happens even when we put the bread in the fridge because crystallization speeds up at lower temperatures. In other words, putting bread in the fridge actually makes it go stale faster!
It is only when you put it in the freezer that the crystallization stops. At temperatures below -5°C/23°F, the bread stays almost as fresh as when you first put it in. When you wish to eat it, heat it in an oven and it would be fresher than if it had not been frozen. Hence, if we know we won’t be able to finish a loaf of bread quickly, it might be better to put it immediately into the freezer.
We can do this for both freshly baked and store-bought breads. If the bread is still warm, let it cool to room temperature first. Martha Stewart has some excellent tips on how to freeze, thaw, reheat, and serve breads so that they are as yummy as breads fresh out of the oven.
How else can we keep breads fresh? Share your tips and tricks with me!
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photos: in order:istockphoto/fmajor; depositphotos/Nomadsoul1; prill; anetkata