There's a reason a French baguette or French bread in general is made fresh every day. It goes hard the next day. One way to preserve your loaf of French bread is to slice off what you need for your meal and freeze the rest. But that leaves you with another conundrum: how to reheat the leftover bread once it's been frozen? Reheating a baguette won't make it as tender, yeasty, aromatic and as "French" as it was the day before, but it'll come close. And when you pull it out of the oven, it'll be perfect for dunking!
French Bread and French Law
It's hard to believe, or maybe it isn't, but the French have laws regarding the ingredients in a loaf of French bread. A baguette must be kneaded and baked on the premises if the bakery can call itself a boulangerie, and it can be made only with flour, water, yeast and salt. Nothing else. And it's that "nothing else" that turns a crusty, soft-on-the-inside loaf into a brick overnight. There's no oil in the dough to keep it moist.
During baking, the water in the dough morphs into steam, making the insides soft. But once the loaf is out of the oven, that steam starts drying up, leaving the baguette hard on the inside. Breads made with oil or butter remain moist. No fat equals no moisture.
Reheating Fresh Baguettes
You were able to nab a loaf of fresh French bread at your local bakery, but it'll be sitting around all day before you serve it with your homemade pea soup or shrimp swimming in garlicky, buttery scampi sauce this evening. Reheating your baguette is an option.
Reheating French bread in the oven is the best way to put life back into your baguette. Sprinkle the loaf with water, wrap it tightly in foil and place it in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. Tap the top of the foil, and if the bread springs back, it's ready.
Freezing/Defrosting Frozen Baguettes
That piece of baguette you stashed in the freezer can be revitalized if you've stored it properly in an airtight wrap. Run the entire frozen piece under water, wetting both sides; then wrap it snugly in heavy-duty foil. Put it into a cool oven and turn it to 300F.
Let the bread slowly come up to temperature and poke the foil after 10 minutes. If it springs back, it's ready. If not, heat and check after another 5 minutes. When the baguette seems done, unwrap it, and send it back to the oven, naked, for another 4 to 5 minutes. This crisps the crust but also starts drying out the bread again, so eat it right away!
French Bread Hacks
Breads made with a starter not only taste better, but they're longer lasting than those made without. They ferment for a day or more, releasing enzymes and a natural preservative that prolongs the life of the baguette. Whole wheat flour and a starter also work together to lengthen the table life of your bread as the flour doesn't dry out as quickly as processed flour.
Recycling a Hard Baguette
If, after all the tricks you've tried to breathe life into your baguette, you're still left with pieces of dry bread, don't despair. Grind the bits up into homemade breadcrumbs. Season them with your favorite flavors and forget store-bought crumbs. French toast is best made with day-old bread, as is bread pudding. Brush the chunks with seasoned olive oil and serve as homemade croutons or plop them into a hearty soup. The French never waste good food!