Bread Handling Tips

Terry Ramsey, Bakery Chef and Dough Puncher, is a true artisan when it comes to baking breads, working each batch of dough carefully to achieve the consistency he desires.

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Because he cares about your enjoyment of his artisan breads, his webmaster (and brother) Don Ramsey, created this "Bread Handling Tips" webpage to point out some common misconceptions that his customers may have when it comes to baking and storing bread.

 
 
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As it turns out, some may have been doing a few things wrong. Just scroll down for the very best tips on how to store, freeze, and reheat our breads for the very best taste experience.

 

Our Number One Tip!

 

ORDER OUR LOAVES UNSLICED

To slice or not to slice, that is the question! If you are buying commercial bread, in a grocery market, chances are it will have preservatives which extend it's shelf life even when sliced. Our artisanal breads have no preservatives, so that is the reason we offer this number one tip!

Since the shelf life of our artisanal bread dramatically decreases as soon as you slice it and put in a plastic bag, Chef Terry recommends slicing off just the portion of bread you plan to eat from the loaf, and then invert the exposed end on a table or cutting board.

This method allows the crust to breathe and evolve as it sits. 

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When covered with a tea towel, this will preserve the crust and prevent your bread from becoming stale (generally for a couple of days). Just keep it away from direct sunlight, and place it in a cool and dry place, such as in your pantry or bread box.

If you like sliced bread, for toasting or for sandwiches, then go ahead and order it sliced, but freeze it immediately. Then just pop the individual slices into the toaster to defrost and toast them.

Actually, even if you don't want slices, it's a good idea to portion the loaf into a few larger pieces if you don't plan on eating the entire loaf in one sitting. Defrosting and re-freezing will change the flavor and texture of a loaf of bread.

 
 
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Tip number two:

STORE YOUR BREAD IN A BREADBOX

It's no freezer, but a good breadbox will create an environment that balances humidity (which you want for a soft interior) and the air circulation (which you need to maintain a crusty crust). A large box is better because it will allow for maximum air circulation. Some recommend ceramic, but there are also bamboo, enamelware, and stainless steel varieties to try. The more bread you put in the bread box, the higher the humidity level, so don't overfill the box. And avoid storing the bread in a paper bag in the bread box—this will trap moisture and just destroy the crust.

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The exception to this tip is the baguette and bâtard, which are essentially daily breads. Because of their narrow shape and lack of fat — these breads may go stale more rapidly than others. They should really be eaten the day they are baked!

If you need to store these breads longer than a day, Chef Terry recommends freezing them!

If you run out of our french breads and need more, that is OK, as we have unlimited supplies! Just place your order here or by clicking or taping on the button below.

 

Tip Number Three!

FREEZE YOUR BREAD!

Freezing bread is by far the best way to preserve it in the exact state you bought it in: crusty crust, soft interior. 

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Freezing greatly slows down the staling process, and — bonus! — reheating the bread in an oven or toaster actually re-gelatinizes the starches and makes the bread springy and chewy again. Wrap your bread tightly in plastic cling wrap, place your bread in a sealed zip-top bag, pushing out as much air as possible, and pop it in the freezer.

When you're ready to eat, take it out and put it in the oven to revive it. Bread can be frozen for two to three months, but starts to deteriorate after about a month. Therefore, Chef Terry recommends that you

Oh, and here's a tip if you like toast: Slice the bread before you freeze it, then pop the individual slices into the toaster to defrost and toast them.

Actually, even if you don't want slices, it's a good idea to portion the loaf into a few larger pieces if you don't plan on eating the entire loaf in one sitting. Defrosting and re-freezing will only hurt a loaf of bread.

 
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Tip Number Four:

DON'T REFRIGERATE!

 IMAGE CREDIT: ADOBE STOCK PHOTO

IMAGE CREDIT: ADOBE STOCK PHOTO

The refrigerator, that miraculous 20th century food preserver that keeps our celery crisp and our milk chilled, is actually the last place your bread belongs.

According to Harold McGee, author of On Food & Cooking, refrigerated bread can stale up to six times as fast as bread on the counter.

That is, unless you're looking to store a commercial loaf of bread, which will have preservatives that keep it "fresh."

In this case, keeping the bread in the refrigerator is a good choice because it will prevent mold and dryness.

 

Special Note:

NOT ALL BREADS GO STALE AT THE SAME RATE!

Breads with added fat, like challah and brioche, will take longer to go stale, whereas a baguette — because of its narrow shape and lack of fat — is an extreme case and will go stale very rapidly. It should really be eaten the day it's baked.

And, you know what?

Despite your best efforts, bread will occasionally go stale. The great news is that there are actually plenty of delicious things to do with bread that's past its prime. You can crumble it, or tear it up for use in meatballs and meatloaf. Stale bread makes a great thickener for soups, whether you crumble it or use it in big, thick chunks, like in Ribollita. Cubes of stale bread are the perfect sponge for all that great dressing in the Italian bread salad called Panzanella.

Tip: How to Make Stale Bread Soft Enough to Use

Wash your stale loaf in some water, then put it in a 350°F oven for a few minutes. Yes, it will still taste stale—but it won't be rock-hard anymore, so you can slice or tear it.

Here are some a couple more ideas on what to do with stale bread:

Pain Perdu: Real French Toast

Pain Perdu (pronounced pan pare-due) literally means "lost bread", referring to this dishes' magical ability to rescue stale bread that would otherwise be lost. It's the original French Toast, and with a crisp buttery exterior and a soft custardy interior Pain Perdu makes for a sinful Sunday morning brunch. CLICK OR TAP ON THE PHOTO FOR THE RECIPE!

Thanksgiving Style Bread Dressing

This bread stuffing, based on a James Beard recipe, may very well become your Thanksgiving staple for decades. First you make fresh bread crumbs: just whiz a few cups of slightly stale cubes of any of our artisan breads (crust and all, unless it’s super-hard) in a food processor. Keep the crumbs very, very coarse. CLICK OR TAP ON THE PHOTO FOR THE RECIPE!

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Tip Number Five:

HOW TO REHEAT BREAD

 

Warm bread is a definite crowd-pleaser. Certain types of bread call for a crispy crust while others are meant to have a soft texture, and this is important to remember when heating a loaf or slices.

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Reheat breads in accordance with the hardness of their crust:

For soft breads like our Challah breads, and Italian breads, wrapping them in foil keeps moisture in and helps maintain soft crusts. Wrap the bread tightly and put it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 to 10 minutes.

When heating whole bread loaves, different types of bread are best warmed at different temperatures, but it's ideal to cover the loaf with aluminum foil to protect the crust from getting burnt or hardening the bread. Then place the loaf directly on the rack in the center of a preheated oven.

The heavier the bread, the longer the baking time.
— Terry Ramsey, Bakery Chef/Owner, Rêver Artisan Bakery

So, for dense breads like pumpernickel or rye, preheat the oven to 350 F and warm a full loaf for approximately 15 minutes. For lighter breads such as dinner rolls or French breads, preheat the oven to 300 F and warm the bread for about 7 to 10 minutes.

If you're out of foil or don't use it, you can also moisten the loaf with a bit of water before placing it in the oven. Or, use the following wet bag method:

Warm these in a paper bag. Wet the bag to keep the interior of the bread from getting hard; when the bag dries out, the crust turns crispy. This method is great for our Artisan French Breads that have crisp crusts. Here's how to do it:

  1. Place the loaf in a brown paper bag and twist the ends tightly. Do not use a bag with any plastic attached to it.
  2. Wet the bag by spraying it with water from a spray bottle or by running it briefly under running water from the faucet.
  3. Put the bread in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bag begins to smell like popcorn.

Keeping bread warm:

There are a few options to keep bread warm at the table. Lay a large, heavy cloth napkin or dishtowel over a basket or bowl and place the warm whole loaf or slices inside. Fold the edges of the napkin up over the bread.

You can also use a commercial bread bag made from heavy fabric. A ceramic or terra cotta bread warmer can be placed in the bottom of a warming bag or beneath a bread basket.