Bread is one of the most versatile and satisfying foods. A fresh roll stuffed with hazelnut spread or raw ham is a great example of this versatile food. Stale bread is also a key ingredient in many soups, such as Tuscan and other delicious recipes. This doesn’t change the fact that stale Bread is a “leftover” that hardens and loses its fragrance after a few days. Sometimes, people buy more bread than they actually need and let it go stale to make delicious recipes. If you try to make a sandwich, and then take a bite, the unavoidable comment will be “This bread is stale!”
Dehydration is often thought to cause bread’s loss of freshness. Dryness and loss of taste are two symptoms that can be attributed to ” dehydration.” The exact opposite is true. Bread goes stale when it absorbs too many moisture. It’s hard to believe, but it is true. This phenomenon can be explained by looking at what bread is made from: water and flour. This is starch. Starch is a lot. Starch is a carbohydrate that is mostly composed of amylopectin, and to a lesser degree, amylose. Starch retrogradation occurs when starch is in contact with water. Bread absorbs moisture. This reaction is caused by the amylopectin, which causes starch to return back to its original crystal structure.
If it is true that baking bread reduces moisture, then adding water and increasing the moisture will cause the opposite effect. It is not enough to restore the original starch content of the flour. However, an intermediate phase occurs: amylose chains get closer together and amylopectin crystalline grow larger. The retrogradation process will continue, and water will pass from the bread to its outer crust. This is why bread becomes stale. Initial it will become hard in the middle, while the crust becomes less crisp. If the bread is very old, it will lose all its moisture and become dry. But that’s another story. Let’s now address the practical side. What is the best way to store bread? How can we make bread go stale faster when we want it to be added to soups?
Retrogradation of starch occurs most efficiently at temperatures between 0 to 10degC with a peak temperature at 4degC. The fridge is not a good place to store bread. Temperature is the greatest obstacle to bread storage, even if it’s in special containers. Retrogradation can be slowed and even stopped at temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius. The best way to freeze bread is to wrap it in a paper bag. It can be thawed from frozen in an oven at low temperatures or in a microwave. Although it might not taste the same as freshly baked bread, it will still taste almost the same. If you have to eat stale bread quickly, make sure it is kept out of the sun and humidity. If you prefer to make your own bread, that is a great idea! If you want your bread to last as long as possible, then use protein-rich flours like Manitoba. The more protein you add, the slower the ageing process will occur. It’s amazing to see how much science is in an old loaf of bread.
The Cambridge Blue