If you're looking to make your diet a bit healthier, but haven't given up entirely on carbs, switching from white breads to something healthier is a good starting point. Breads made with whole grains are a small change, but they bring a lot more to the table than spongy white loaves. High-nutrition products like Ezekiel bread have no preservatives, though, so they'll need slightly more care.
So What Is This Ezekiel Bread Stuff?
It's not exactly a secret that breads made with whole grains are healthier than breads made from white flour. White flour is made by milling out exactly those parts of a whole grain – the bran and the germ – that contain much of the grain's nutrition and fiber. Most white flour is "enriched," which means some essential nutrients are added back in to compensate for what's been lost, but it's still low in fiber.
Ezekiel bread goes the opposite direction. It's made not just with whole grains, but with legumes as well. The idea and the name came from the Bible verse Ezekiel 4:9, which spoke of making bread from wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt. Ezekiel bread uses all of those ingredients. The combination of grains and legumes is especially powerful because it provides all the amino acids necessary to form complete proteins. The legumes also add fiber and nutrients to the bread.
Ezekiel bread goes one step further, sprouting the grains before they're dried and milled into flour. Sprouted grains are thought to be more digestible, and may make some of their nutrients more available for use by your body. The end result is a loaf that's denser than most store-bought bread, but significantly more nutritious.
Ezekiel Bread Shelf Life
The manufacturer of Ezekiel bread, Food for Life, suggests keeping the bread for no more than 5 days at room temperature, up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or a year in the freezer. This is probably shorter than the shelf life of the breads you're used to, and it's because the bread combines high nutritive value with an absence of preservatives.
Your approach to Ezekiel bread storage will really come down to how long it takes you to eat a loaf. If you'll use one up within the first few days, you don't need to take any special precautions. If you don't eat that much bread, or if you stock up on Ezekiel bread whenever you're near a store that carries it, you may need to be more creative.
Refrigerating Your Bread
Ordinarily, it's not considered a good idea to refrigerate bread because your loaf will lose its fresh taste and texture. Properly speaking, it hasn't gone stale, as such, but its starches have changed texture. When the bread is baked, the starches become gel-like in the heat of the oven, which is why bread hot from the oven is always a bit gummy, but then firms up again as the bread cools.
At refrigerator temperatures, another change happens. The starches "retrograde," which means they form a stiffer structure and reabsorb some of the moisture from the bread. The end result is drier, chewier bread. There is a "fix," though, which is simply to heat the bread again to reverse that process.
If you ordinarily eat your bread toasted, you don't have to do anything else. Toasting will make it taste and feel fresh again. Otherwise, you can microwave your bread gently for a few seconds until just warmed, or wrap it in foil and reheat it for a few minutes in an oven or toaster oven.
Bread in the Freezer
Ezekiel bread is usually sold frozen, and is good for up to a year if it's kept frozen the whole time. It stays food safe indefinitely, but a year is as long as you can expect the quality to hold up.
If you eat the bread consistently, you can thaw a loaf or a half-loaf at a time by transferring it to your fridge and waiting a few hours. Thawing in the fridge maintains its quality better than thawing at room temperature. If you only eat a couple of slices now and again, it's better to only take out as much as you're going to eat. The bread can go directly into the toaster, or you can take out the morning's bread before you go to bed and leave it in the fridge.
Opening and closing the bag will shorten the life of the rest of the loaf, so you might prefer to package the slices in portions. Bag a slice or two at a time in individual freezer bags, or – because it's already frozen, and won't get squashed – vacuum seal the portions for airtight, long-term storage.
- Food For Life: FAQ
- Food For Life: What's the Best Way to Keep Bread Fresh?
- Cook's Illustrated: Word Of the Day - Retrogradation
- Epicurious: How to Defrost Bread the Right Way
- Whole Grains Council: What Is a Whole Grain? A Refined Grain?
- Whole Grains Council: Sprouted Whole Grains
- Medline Plus: Amino Acids
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.