Bread loaves and baguettes in a wicker basket.
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When Fresh and Store-Bought Bread Becomes Stale

Whether you buy bread from the store or enjoy making your own, all types of bread have the same tendency to go stale. White, wheat and rye bread are the most popular types of bread. Breads can be made with different ingredients or a combination of several to create tastes that are best suited for each individual. If the bread is left out or has an expired date past seven days of the day it was made, the odds increase that it could eventually become stale very quickly. When bread is considered stale it is dry, often crunchy, tasteless and hard to bite into, it isn't soft and fresh tasting at it would be if it came fresh out of the oven. It is difficult to reverse the effects of stale bread but there are alternatives if the bread is too hard to eat; the bread can be recycled into croutons, bread puddings, stuffing for poultry and toast. Recycling allows the bread to be salvaged so that it can be consumed and preserved. Bread typically forms a slightly thick crust on the outside that keeps the inside moist and fresh. If the outside crust is exposed too much to the air, it will begin to go stale and harden so that the inside of the bread cannot be cut into or would be unsatisfying to consume. Fresh bread that is sliced and then exposed to air only has a matter of around 30 to 60 minutes before the bread begins to show slight signs of being stale, such as being hard to the touch and crumbling.

How Bread Goes Stale

When bread goes stale it is caused by a chemical reaction in which the food is slowly beginning to rot or go bad. Because bread has a high amount of starch in it, it can quickly crystallize in cooler temperatures such as in a refrigerator, cool porch or basement during a process called retrogradation. The reason why retrogradation increases rapidly in locations that are constantly kept cool is because of the added amount of crystals that form when the bread is exposed to cool, moist air. The formation of crystals cause the bread to dry out faster leaving the edges hard, crunchy and difficult to bite into. Bread can go stale if left out at room temperature. Once the bread and the starch make contact with bacteria in the air, the process of the ingredients beginning to slowly decay have already begun to take place. Bread must be kept away from heat and moisture when it is out of the refrigerator. The variations in temperature will quickly cause bread to begin to go stale, and mold will soon start to form on the bread.

Storing Bread to Preserve Freshness

Proper storage is essential in making sure that bread does not go stale and is kept fresh tasting, easy to cook with and eat at all times. Keep bread in airtight containers such as a breadbox, unused stove or microwave oven. Whether store-bought or homemade, bread should always be wrapped securely in plastic or aluminum foil so that air is kept away. Finding a dark location is also beneficial to keeping your bread fresh and reduces the risk of a temperature variation due to sunlight or warm halogen lights.