You can work easily with conventional bread from the supermarket. It's at room temperature when you buy it, and it includes enough crumb-softening ingredients and preservatives to remain pleasantly soft for several days.
Specialty breads aren't always as accommodating. Sprouted-grain "Ezekiel" bread, for example is denser than a typical sandwich loaf and made from different ingredients. Whether you buy yours frozen at the supermarket or make it at home and freeze it for later, it takes longer to thaw than you might expect.
Commercial Ezekiel bread is typically already sliced when you buy it, so it's easy to pull out and thaw just a slice or two as needed. If you start your day with toast each morning, or pack a sandwich for lunch, simply transfer a few slices to your refrigerator before you go to bed. The bread will thaw overnight, and be ready to use in the morning.
- If you haven't thought that far ahead, you can simply leave the slices out on the counter for a few minutes. They'll usually soften enough within 10 minutes or so to be usable in a sandwich for later, or within 20 to 30 minutes for immediate consumption.
- If you're making toast, you don't need to wait at all. Just drop the frozen Ezekiel bread into the toaster and turn it to a slightly darker setting than you'd normally use. The bread will thaw as it toasts, taking just slightly longer than usual. Your toaster may also have a "Frozen" setting you can press, leaving the darkness settings as is.
Ezekiel bread has a high level of natural moisture, thanks to its sprouted grains, so you might find the slices have some surface frost. Bread lovers who live in humid climates will see more of this, because the moist atmospheric air enters the bread bag every time you remove a few slices. This can result in unpleasantly soggy bread, if you're not careful.
For best results, wrap the entire loaf first in a paper towel, to draw away excess moisture like a candle wick. Then enclose it in an airtight bag or plastic wrap, so contact with the air doesn't dry the surface of your bread.
If you need to thaw a whole loaf, the process is a bit different. Place it in the refrigerator for best results, if time permits. After you take the loaf out of the freezer, wrap it in a paper towel and return it to the bag. Within 24 hours, the loaf should be fully thawed. You can use it just as it is, or heat it gently in the oven or microwave to restore some "just-baked" tenderness to the bread.
If you're in a hurry, wrap the frozen loaf in aluminum foil to keep it from drying and place it in a heated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. After 20 to 30 minutes, it should be thawed and warmed through.
If you're unfamiliar with Ezekiel bread, or it has been recommended to you as a healthy food without adequate explanation, it's relatively simple to explain. It's a flavorful loaf made from a combination of legumes and sprouted grains, inspired by a verse in the Biblical story of the prophet Ezekiel. Sprouting grains changes their character, releasing a variety of enzymes and turning some of the grains' starches into natural sugars. This makes the grain more digestible and increases its content of some vitamins.
Enthusiasts tout a range of other health benefits as well, though these aren't as well attested in scientific testing. From the culinary perspective, it's a dense, deeply colored loaf with a rich flavor and moist, almost cake-like texture.