Ever stash a loaf of soft bread or some leftover cake in the fridge to keep it fresh, only to find that it has dried out and turned rock-hard when you return?
You’re not alone. At some point, we’ve all learned the hard way that refrigeration does not keep baked goods at their best. In fact, it might be the fastest way to ruin items such as breads, cakes, cookies, and muffins.
The surprising thing is that if you store breads and other baked goods in the freezer, they’ll keep really well—and for far longer than they would on the counter or in the fridge.
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Refrigerated Baked Goods Stale Rapidly; Frozen Ones Don’t
All baked goods inevitably stale, or retrograde, over time. It’s what happens when their starch molecules crystallize and lock away the crumb’s water into their crystalline structure, leaving the crumb hard and dry.
Storage temperature dramatically affects how quickly this process happens. At fridge-cold temperatures, a loaf of rustic bread stales within a day—about twice as fast as it does at room temperature.
But the freezer slows staling significantly. The water molecules in the crumb freeze, which immobilizes the starch molecules and prevents them from forming the crystalline structures that translate to stale texture.
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Freeze Bread to Keep It Fresh
To prevent bread from staling:
- Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and then in a large zipper-lock bag.
- Freeze the wrapped bread for up to a month.
To revive a frozen loaf of bread:
- Remove bread from plastic bag and place it on the center rack of a 450-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the foil (watch for steam) and recrisp the crust in the oven for a few minutes more.