Bread in the Fridge
Bread is a staple food for most Australians. Whether it be with sausages, nutella, vegemite or any other jams. However, most breads are sold in large packs and have limited shelf lives. This deter us from buying bread. What many people might think is putting it in the fridge so it lasts longer just like any other food. However, this cannot be further from the truth. Storing bread in the fridge actually makes it go stale about six times faster than when kept out in room temperature. It is interesting to see how counter-intuitive this fact is making it very likely that a lot of people actually spoil their breads by keeping it in the fridge.
Straight from the oven. Photo from Flickr
What is bread?
Bread is made up of wheat flour (gluten) and starch molecules. In this mixture of molecules, carbon dioxide is present from the fermentation of yeast in the dough. Starch is made up of two carbohydrates, amylose and amylopectin. Amylose are built from sugar units in straight parallel lines which stack up on each other while amylose have a more branching pattern of sugar units. When bread is baked at high temperatures, water is allowed in into these structures and breaks it up, giving bread its fluffy texture.
Then what’s wrong with the fridge?
Once the bread is cooling, the deformed structure of amylose, amylopectin and water will reconstruct itself to its proper structure. Water will leave the starch molecules and the bread will eventually harden after some time. While the hard outer crust of the bread limits this process, eventually the bread goes stale regardless.
This process actually goes faster in the refrigerator. The leading theory for this faster pace is that the cool temperature of the refrigerator makes the dehydration process faster in the bread. While the dehydration process allows fruits and vegetables to stay fresh for longer, bread goes hard and stale instead.
Avoid the fridge for keeping bread. Either keep it covered in room temperature or in the freezer for longer term storage instead. Note that only fresh bread should be kept in the freezer, it doesn’t revert the staling process of the bread. Reheating or toasting the bread also allows you to enjoy bread even after some time. Reheating or toasting also lets you enjoy the bread after it going stale as long as it has not grow mold.