Sharing the best ways to store sourdough bread to keep it fresh so that you can enjoy those fresh loaves longer.
The learning curve can seem quite steep when first learning how to properly bake sourdough bread. Then there is the moment you finally get it, you pull your first loaf of golden sourdough bread from the oven. You place it on the counter and if you are proud enough you snap several photos of your masterpiece to share this moment with others. If there are enough of you, that loaf might not last long. Who can resist fresh baked sourdough bread? But what happens after?
When you continue to bake loaves that don’t get eaten in one sitting? How can we preserve those loaves so that all our efforts are not wasted.
What causes bread to go stale?
Stale bread is the result of a loaf losing its moisture. The bread hardens and seems inedible.
It is a sad sight to toss away uneaten loaves of bread. So please don’t! Yes, stale bread even has something to offer. Instead, you might make things like a sourdough French toast bake or homemade sourdough croutons to get every last bit out of those loaves. But keeping the bread fresher longer is what we all prefer as we bake the fresh bread to be enjoyed as, well, bread.
Choosing a Method
It’s important to understand that homemade bread even sourdough, does not contain any preservatives or additives found in store-bought bread that would keep it fresher longer. For this, you will need to take extra care in storing your homemade bread. However, one nice thing to know is that there are existing enzymes and bacteria in sourdough that help keep it fresher longer than standard yeast bread. A definite plus for sourdough bakers.
Still it is a good idea to avoid leaving bread out on the countertop for too long. Yes, I know, they look so darn homey sitting out on the countertop but once cooled it is important to wrap the loaves tightly to keep air from penetrating the bread which will cause it to become dry and hard.
The shelf life of your sourdough bread will depend largely on the storage option you choose. Here are some great options to consider that work well particularly for a fresh loaf of sourdough.
Sourdough Bread Storage Options
- Paper Bag: Plain brown paper bags have been found to be very good at storing bread that will be eaten in a day or two of baking. Many home bakers swear by placing their homemade bread in a paper bag and placing it in a bread box as this allows the bread to keep longer and protect against too much airflow. All while preserving the crusty outside of sourdough loaves.
- Bread Boxes: Naturally, this brings me to bread boxes. Bread boxes are great for storing bread because they help bread retain its original qualities, crisp outside, and a soft moist crumb. Bread boxes are able to trap moisture and at the same time allow the bread to breathe, allowing some of the moisture to escape. Unlike when using a plastic bag.
- Tea Towel: or even a large kitchen towel, is another method that is affordable and practical. Many claim that this is the ideal way to store sourdough bread as the tea towel, much like the linen or cotton bags, it allows the bread to breathe and helps keep moisture from building up.
- Linen Bread Bag: Linen bread bags are a nice touch and honestly I don’t have one. But it is on my radar as they are a great option for storing fresh sourdough bread. The crusty exterior of sourdough is tricky to keep crisp while preserving the soft interior when storing. A linen bag might be the answer as the material helps absorb some of the moisture that naturally releases from the bread. To use properly, wrap the whole loaf in the bag and store it in a cool dry place.
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Cost Effective Storage
- Airtight Containers: Airtight containers offer a good option that is quite practical. You can use a Pyrex container or good old-fashioned Tupperware container to store whole loaves in. Keep them at room temperature and it is a good idea to press the lid down a little to help push out any excess air after closing the lid. This will keep homemade bread fresh for up to 4 days at room temperature. Please note: the crust does soften with this method so if you developed a nice crusty outside to your loaf and want to preserve that, the paper bag method below might be more helpful for you.
- Plastic Bag: In the same arena we have a heavy-duty plastic bag option that is a cost-effective and convenient solution as most of us keep these on hand in our kitchens. This is usually my go-to way for storing whole loaves and even slices when needed. One that is important when storing in any sort of plastic, is to make sure you don’t place it near heat sources like under a vent or near the stove. The humidity builds up and mold can easily form.
- Plastic Wrap: Wrapping sourdough bread tightly in plastic wrap works well to keep it from drying out. I find doing this for freezer storage to be a must but I don’t like having to rewrap it after every use. It does however work well to keep the bread fresh. A word of caution, if your kitchen is particularly humid or hot most of the day, be cautious about storing it this way on the kitchen counter as the moisture build-up could result in mold. Try to find a cool, dry place to keep the loaf.
Best Way to Store Homemade Sourdough Bread
The clear winner and my favorite method to store any type of bread I bake is to store in a bread box. Doubling up on methods, I do this after placing the loaf in a linen bag. I have doubled up on methods here, but not only will this retain the original characteristics of a sourdough loaf by keeping humidity levels just right for bread storage. But out of all the storage methods available to us, these two together seem to yield the best results overall. The good news is this goes for all types of bread not just sourdough.
In all of these suggestions, I have found that 4 days is really the most I can get out of storing my homemade bread at room temperature. For longer storage, the freezer is the best place for storing.
To Freeze: Allow the loaf to completely cool. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap in a few layers. To avoid freezer burn, I like to also place it in zip-top bag or an airtight container. Place it in the freezer and label to keep track of your frozen loaves. Frozen bread will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.
To Defrost: Defrost whole loaves or slices in the fridge overnight or at room temperature. If you notice any icy bits left on the bread. Remove the wrapping to avoid it melting and making a soggy mess out of your bread.
No matter what storing method you choose for your homemade bread, these tips will help maximize your storage results:
- It’s best to slice as you need rather than pre-slicing an an entire loaf.
- Always allow the bread to come to completely cool before storing or slicing. Slicing a warm loaf too soon can result in a gummy loaf.
- Don’t allow the loaf to sit out too long after cooling as it will begin the process of drying out faster.
- Do not store the bread near heat sources like vents or in direct sunlight.