Storing home-made bread isn’t hard, but it does require a little more work. Since home-made bread doesn’t have any chemical preservatives it generally will only keep for a day or two.
First thing you need to know is never ever store hot or warm bread. Allow it to cool completely on a wire cooling rack until room temperature. Hot or warm bread when stored will sweat which can make the bread soggy and it will cause it to mold very quickly.
Second, you may be tempted to slice the entire loaf before you put it away. This is a bad idea as doing so allows air to come in to contact with more of the bread which causes the bread the dry out and stale faster.
This is the best way I have come across for storing home-made bread. These storage boxes are made up of two often clear plastic halves with each half having two holes in the end. One end slides in to the other allowing it to collapse down as you use the bread.
These bread boxes cost around $10 and will last a life-time. I have seen some that have a built-in tray which doubles as a slicing guide. Whichever one you choose these are a great way to go.
If you don’t want to go the bread box route then store your bread in two gallon sized zipper lock bags. Put your bread in one bag and then in the other sealing both.
While plastic bags work, I don’t think they are quite as good as the bread box. But, in a pinch they will do fine.
Storing lean breads, what is lean bread? Lean breads are those that have flour, water, salt and yeast. These are usually French type breads and some sourdough breads. While these breads will stale faster than other breads they usually are made for their crusts as well as the centers and so most people want to keep that crispy chewy crust. Putting this type of bread in a bag or bread box will keep it fresh but it will also cause the crust to soften.
So, if you want to keep the crust crispy, simply store the bread on your counter cut side down and covered with a towel. Use the bread within a day and all will be fine. If you need to keep it longer, bag it or put it in the bread box. You will loose the crust, but it will keep longer.
Freezing bread is another way to keep it longer. While some will tell you that you can keep your bread frozen for a few months. I think it is best used with in a month. Simply let your bread cool completely, then wrap it in plastic wrap, then two layers of foil and then place it in 2 gallon sized zipper lock bags.
To use your frozen bread, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. If you need it ASAP, then you can unwrap it and then rewrap it in several layers of foil and place in a warm 250 degree oven for an hour. Slow thawing in the refrigerator is the best way however.
Slicing Your Bread
You have several options for slicing bread. You can use a bread knife. You can use an electric carving knife. Many of these now a days come with a second set of knives for slicing bread. Or, you can use a good quality electric meat slicer like they use to slice lunch meat.
If you go with the bread knife or the electric caring knife I recommend you invest a good slicing guide. Slicing guides are usually made of plastic or wood and allow you to cut slices that are the same thickness and evenness. While these work good they don’t allow you to slice thin or thicker slices, for those you are back to slicing freehand which can lead to uneven slices.
Myself I like the electric meat slicer. Not only are these great for slicing lunch meat, cheese and vegetables they are great for slicing bread. Like the slicing guide they allow you to slice bread that is even and of the same thickness, but they also allow you to slice bread to almost any thickness or thinness. They are also handy to have for slicing meat roasts, etc. for barbecued beef sandwiches, etc.
Refreshing Stale Bread
If you have stale bread and still want to use it for sandwiches you can toast it, this works well and often makes for nice sandwiches. You can also wrap it in foil and place it in a paper bag that has been wetted down. You then place it in a warm 300 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes larger loaves may need to go longer. The steam heat from this treatment freshens it quite nicely. You can also microwave the bread for a few seconds, but this tends to make it rubbery and not something I like.