Italian bread is notoriously difficult to keep fresh. The crusty, airy loaf is so delicate, it begins to go stale just hours after it comes out of the oven. As bread cools, the microscopic starch granules lose their moisture, causing it to become dry, tough and crumbly. Proper wrapping techniques can extend the life of the bread, but even that is unlikely to work after more than a day. You can "refresh" stale Italian, French or any other crusty bread by quickly heating it up. Wrap your loaf as soon as you get home to slow the staling process as much as possible.
Place the loaf of bread into a paper bag. Seal the bag by twisting the open end or folding it over several times.
Cover the bagged bread tightly with plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.
Wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and toss it into a preheated 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. As the bread heats, it will reabsorb some of the moisture it lost, partially reversing the staling process.
Remove the bread from the oven and allow it cool while still wrapped in tin foil. Serve the bread immediately, since it will begin to go stale again fairly quickly.
If you plan to store your bread for more than 36 hours or so, your best bet is to freeze it. Wrap the loaf as you would normally, then throw it in the freezer as soon as you get home. Freezing stops the staling process in its tracks. Allow the bread to thaw, wrapped, at room temperature. Heat it up in the oven before serving.
Irena Eaves began writing professionally in 2005. She has been published on several websites including RedPlum, CollegeDegreeReport.com and AutoInsuranceTips.com. Eaves holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Boston University.