5 Ways to Keep Your Bread Fresh

The truth is that baked goods, bread in particular, are at their prime the moment they come out of the oven. And, as soon as your loaf of bread begins to cool, the quality begins to diminish. If you plan on baking homemade bread, be sure to time it so it can be enjoyed as soon as it comes out of the oven. Whether your bread is homemade, from the grocery store or your local bakery, there are several ways to preserve the life of your bread.

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Why does bread go stale?

There are two main culprits. The first is a chemical change with a particularly fancy name: starch retrogradation. As soon as bread is removed from the oven, the structure of the starch molecules change, and begin to crystallize. This crystallization forces water out of the bread and the result is staling. The second contributor is the loss of moisture due to exposure to air.

Storing bread in the fridge

Starch retrogradation occurs most rapidly at refrigerator temperatures. Therefore the fridge is your enemy when it comes to bread as it goes stale fastest in that environment. For those who swear by fridge storage, it does have one benefit – it delays the development of molds.

Storing bread in the freezer

Storing your bread in the freezer is a great solution. it prevents staling as freezer temperatures arrest starch retrogradation, holding the bread in a stable state. To get the most out of your frozen bread, freeze it as soon as possible after baking and cooling, and consume it equally as fast after thawing. Bread needs to be properly wrapped in plastic and it’s also a good idea to slice your bread into portions prior to freezing.

Storing bread at room temperature

Room temperature is the ideal environment for bread storage to maintain the proper crumb and crust texture. However, in addition to proper temperature, you also need to mange your bread’s exposure to air and this is done by properly wrapping your bread. The plastic bag is often criticized for trapping in moisture, which can speed up mold development, but it truly depends on the type of bread you are storing. For common store-bought loaves, or any other bread with a similarly tender crust, using a plastic bag stored at room temperature seems to work best. Hard-crusted breads however should be kept in a paper bag – hence how it is sold yo you at the bakery. As a loaf of crusty bread dries, the moisture that is pushed out of the bread is absorbed by the hard crusts, turning then tough and rubbery.

Refreshing your loaf

The best way to refresh partially stale bread is to heat it in the oven. If you insist in storing your bread in the fridge, toast it prior to assembling your sandwich to reverse some of the damage. Similarly, if you have a loaf of crusty bread that has began to go slightly rubbery, heating it in the oven for few minutes will help to draw the moisture out of the crust and enhance the quality of the bread. (Breads that are heated this way should be consumed immediately.)

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Fixes for Kitchen Spills and Slip-ups

Splatters in the Microwave

Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice and one and one cup water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave to a boil; let it boil for three minutes and stand for few minutes to allow the steam to loosen the debris. Wipe down the walls with a damp microfiber cloth and the mess should disappear. To remove any lingering smells, heat a small bowl filled with 1/2 cup water and one teaspoon vanilla extract just until it comes to a boil. Leave the door closed, with the bowl inside, overnight.

Spill that Seeped Under the Oven or Refrigerator

For wooden floors, mix 1/3 cup white vinegar and 1/2 gallon warm water. Note: If your wooden floors are waxed, avoid vinegar and use a waxed-floor cleaner. If your floor is tile or stone, use only plain hot water or a special cleaner. Dip a microfiber cloth in the mixture, wrap it around a ruler, and slide it under the appliance. Rinse and repeat until the cloth emerges clean.

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Burned Food in the Oven

Allow the oven to cool. Dislodge large chunks with a plastic spatula, then sprinkle baking soda over whatever bits remain. Spritz with water and let it sit overnight, then scrub with a damp microfiber cloth.

Unidentified Frozen mess (UFM)

unplug the refrigerator. next, combine one tablespoon baking soda and one quart hot water in a bucket. Wet a microfiber cloth in the mixture and use it to melt and wipe up the spill in the freezer. You can also scrape stubborn spots with a plastic or wooden spatula or spoon.  (Avoid metal utensils, which can scratch the freezer liner.) Dry the area with a cloth once it’s clean.

Shards of Glass in the Dishwasher

Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight into the dishwasher. Any shards will sparkle. Have a raw potato and put on heavy-duty gloves. Dub the cut face of the potato over any specks. The shards will become embedded in the potato, which you can then discard. Run an empty cycle to flush out any minute pieces.

Dried Spill on the Counter

it’s often the breakfast gang that wreaks the worst havoc: pancake mix, muffin batter, and spilled milk. If you can wipe them up right away, you’re set. But if life happens to get in the way – going to be late for work, the bus is here, where are my keys? – an easy spill soon dries into a stubborn blob. your instinct may be to grab a paper towels and a cleaning spray. Don’t! There’s a quicker, tidier way: scrub the surface first with a dry microfiber cloth. then rinse with a warm, damp cloth. That mucky mess will be gone in less than a minute.

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Chocolate 101

Chocolate is the most popular dessert flavoring around. It is so delicate to work with, many cooks often find they have a problem melting it properly. keep in mind that chocolate naturally melts just below body temperature, so applying direct heat, say atop a stove, is apt to scotch it. Instead, utilize a double boiler and melt it slowly in a heatproof bowl or pot set above a pan of simmering water, being careful both to stir frequently and make sure none of the water below or the condensation from the steam created leaches into the chocolate.

You can also use a microwave oven to melt chocolate with good results, just be sure you stop it frequently to stir it. Generally, when the chocolate appears melted about two-thirds of the way through, remove it from the microwave oven and continue to stir it until smooth. The residual heat contained in the melted chocolate will work to help melt the rest.

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The Difference in Chocolate Varieties

Unsweetened Chocolate is pure chocolate liquor, also known as bitter or baking chocolate. Its unadulterated chocolate, ground roasted chocolate beans with no other added ingredients, imparts a strong, deep chocolate flavor in all the sweets you add to it. With the addition of sugar, however, it’s used as the base for style layer cakes, brownies, frosting, and cookies.

Couverture or Coating Chocolate is a term used for cocoa butter rich chocolates of the highest quality. This chocolate contains a high percentage of chocolate liquor (sometimes more than 70%) as well as cocoa butter, at least 32 – 39%, is very fluid when melted and have an excellent flavor. In fact, chocolate of this quality is often compared to tasting fine wine because subtleties in taste are often apparent, especially when you taste a variety of semisweet and bittersweet couvertures with different percentages of sugar and chocolate liquor.

Bittersweet Chocolate is chocolate liquor (or unsweetened chocolate) to which sugar, more cocoa butter. lecithin, and vanilla has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor then semisweet chocolate but the two are interchangeable in baking. The best quality bittersweet and semisweet chocolate is produced as couverture and many brands now print the percentage of chocolate liquor it contains on the package. The rule is the higher the percentage of liquor, the more bittersweet the chocolate will be. Generally, Europeans favor bittersweet chocolate and Americans opt for semisweet chocolate which has more sugar than bittersweet chocolate.

Sweet Chocolate is not as common today as it once was years ago. Developed by the American chocolate manufacturer, Baker’s Chocolate, it called for in a new recipes and can be found in most supermarkets.

White Chocolate isn’t really considered chocolate at all due to the absence of chocolate liquor. Quality white chocolate, however, always contains cocoa butter. Be wary if you find white chocolate made with vegetable shortening and/or labeled “confectioners’ coating” which pales in comparison – taste wise – to real white chocolate. And be especially careful when melting white chocolate, which is particularly fragile.

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