Never know the best way to store bread? If stored properly, traditional sourdough bread (the proper stuff that is, that’s been fermented slowly and is full of natural acidity) can last four to five days.
Founder of BreadBread bakery in Brixton, Bridget Hugo has been working with slow 24-hour fermentation since she created the sourdough pizza base at Franco Manca. Here she reveals her expert tips for storing your sourdough bread loaf and keep it fresher for longer.
Sourdough loaves straight out of the wood fired over at BreadBread bakery in Brixton
Did you know, the natural acidity of sourdough bread discourages bacteria, so it takes longer than yeasted bread to develop mould? Each loaf baked at BreadBread is a ‘slow’ product. It’s been treated with respect and given ample time to develop into the tastiest, most digestible bread. Our slow-made sourdough is particularly stable, which means it keeps especially well.
The best way to store bread is…
Ideally, you should store your loaf in a cotton bread bag or wrapped in a large tea towel, so that the bread can ‘breathe’. Leave your bread in a relatively cool place so it can maintain normal ambient moisture levels.
It is not recommended to store bread in the fridge. A fridge is an extremely dry environment and will harden the bread quickly.
Storing bread in a plastic bag is also not ideal particularly in a warm place as the bag may cause ‘sweating’. Moisture and warmth encourages bacteria.
If you have several loaves to store, wrap them in clingfilm and put in a cool place. For longer term storage place cling-wrapped bread in the freezer.
A cotton bag is essential for storing sourdough bread properly.
Try re-baking your bread
No bread is ever ‘fresh’ for long. The loveliest bread is eaten just-cooled, about 2 to 6 hours after it has been removed from the oven. After that, the crust will become either soft and flakey, or dry and brittle or simply tough and dull – depending on the bread type and age of the bread.
Not everyone is lucky enough to live near a bakery offering fresh loaves. However, you can replicate that fresh-out-the-oven experience simply by re-baking your loaf in your oven at home, a much-overlooked trick! Though easy to execute, it takes a bit of planning.
Surprisingly, it takes about the same length of time to re-bake bread as it takes to bake bread from the raw dough, albeit at a much lower temperature. You also need to time for the loaf to cool down again. Hot bread, like crazy paving, is not all it is cracked up to be. The starches, when heated, revert to their original state and are less digestible, so you should leave it at least one hour to cool. This means you will need to get your bread in the oven a couple of hours before you need it.
Re-baking your loaf both refreshes your bread and your options on how you use or present it.
There are also many ways you can use stale bread slices or chunks in recipes, some of which are recommended below.
Which sourdough loaf tickles your fancy?
How to re-bake your sourdough loaf
For loaves that are a few days old, preheat your oven to 200°C. Spray the crust all round with water, then re-bake on the middle rack for 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf:
1kg (or less) loaves / pieces 30-40 minutes
1kg (or more) loaves / pieces 40-50 minutes
For whole or sliced bread loaves that are frozen, allow the loaf to defrost first. There is no need to spray them.
If your bread has already been sliced, wrap it firmly in tin foil before baking it. You can open the top up about 10 minutes before you remove it to improve crustiness.
Ideas for using stale bread
You can smear all sides of sliced breads with flavoured butters before wrapping them in foil to bake. The obvious choice for this is a freshly-made garlic butter, but you can also use a herb butter made with parsley or oregano and even creamed nut butters.
Stale bread recipes: turn it into breadcrumbs, croutons and crispbreads with this easy guide.
You can slather your slices with pesto instead of butter. Many good pestos are available ready-made or you can make your own, with olive oil and herbs of your choice plus optional hard cheeses and nuts or seeds. Almost any filling, as long as it is more oily than wet, will work.
If you want to make toast with hot toppings, try baking your slices instead of toasting them, with the topping already on top, bruschetta style.
How to make the most of your loaf – serving suggestions, toppings and meals
Organic White Sourdough
Light and versatile, this is an all-round daily bread made with organic flour. Great at breakfast time, or for cheesy toasties and sandwich snacks. Flavour pairs well with cured meats, cooked ham or curd cheeses.
Suggestion: Top slices of this bread with a home-made rarebit and re-bake at 240°C for 10 minutes
Organic Pagnotta Sourdough
This is a country loaf is made with rich natural organic wheat, stone-milled in Dorset. It has a soft spongy texture but is strong enough to make thin-cut sandwiches, bursting with nutty flavour.
Suggestion: Serve toasted with unsalted butter.
Bukowski Rustic Wood Fired Sourdough
This bread is made with flour with enough wheat germ and bran in it to give it a wholemeal flavour, without compromising the chewy crumb structure, obtained by extra long fermentation. It re-bakes well and complements eggs and strong cheese. Also a delicious base for sweet treats.
Suggestion: Use this bread when it has gone very stale to make a savoury bread pudding with ricotta, Parmesan, spring onions. (Make the custard without sugar.)
Made with our rustic wood fired sourdough, these sticks are best for eating in one sitting whilst fresh or after re-baking.
Suggestion: Slice thinly and bake with olive oil in a 220°C oven for 15 minutes. Offer as a snack or use as croutons for a Caesar salad.
An unashamed copy from our neighbours over the pond who, let’s face it, make the best levain sticks. The only difference is that we use organic flours sourced in England’s home counties.
Suggestion: Reheat for 15-20 minutes at 220°C and serve warm with salted butter, French style.
Open structured sourdough pita breads, perfect for re-baking and serving as a ‘rip and dip’ accompaniment to mezze meals.
Suggestion: Stuff with roasted vegetables and mozzarella and rebake in a hot 220C oven for 15 mins
Packed with goodness, crunch and natural sweetness this loaf pairs well with mild flavours that are creamy, sweet or nutty e.g vegetable soup, all egg dishes, soft cheeses or jams.
Suggestion: Bake cauliflower with toasted rye chunks, or use with apple in a pie. Fruit desserts served with cream can be topped with toasted rye crumbs that have been combined with spices and vanilla sugar… don’t be afraid to be experimental!
A classic mix of sunflower seeds, linseeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds mixed into a base sourdough makes this a nutrient-rich loaf. The flavour pairs well with nut butters and home-made jam, cooked meats or cheeses.
Suggestion: Toast thin slices of seed bread, crumble it and combine it with currants, to top off baked fennel. Or fry squares of seed bread in a pan in olive oil then combine with slow-cooked white onions and tuna, for a warm salad you can serve with fresh pasta.