Freeze, Don’t Refrigerate Your Bread

This little tip gets filed under the ‘things I thought everybody knew but maybe they don’t’ category. I’m not being obnoxious (at least, not on purpose), but there are lots of things that I take for granted that people know, and then I am always surprised when they don’t. I’m not really surprised in a snarky way about their not knowing something I did, but I’m surprised (continuously) because I am always taking it for granted that if I know something it’s probably fairly common knowledge.

Cook’s Illustrated magazine is probably my favorite cooking magazine, yes, even more than Taste of Home or Quick Cooking. Those last two have fun recipes, but Cook’s Illustrated gives great tips and has the why behind recipes. Plus, I can pick up back issues of the other two at thrift shops. I never find back issues of Cooks Illustrated. I don’t actually have a subscription to Cooks anymore, but it’s still my favorite cooking magazine.

I’m including this Amazon link for the pretty picture (and when I tried their picture only link it was broken), but a subscription directly through Cooks Illustrated (linked above) is two dollars cheaper. I don’t get any affiliate credit at Cooks, but I think you probably want to keep your two dollars. But see- isn’t it a pretty magazine? All the covers look framable to me.

If you ignore the Amazon link (except for admiring the pretty picture) and go over to Cooks Illustrated website, you can get a free sample copy of the magazine in the mail and/or a 14 day free trial subscription to their web version, which also has handy tips, cool recipes, product comparisons, and nifty ‘how to’ ideas.

Their March & April 2007 issue had a short section on “Why Refrigerated Baked Goods Go Stale” (page 30 if you’re so blessed as to have a subscription):

“Staling is inevitable over time. In a process known as retrogradation, starch molecules reorganize to form crystalline structures in the presence of the moisture within the baked goods themselves. This eventually leads to a hard, dry texture at room temperature — no matter how well wrapped the item was during storage. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator speeds up this process, but the freezer actually halts it. The water molecules in the cake or bread freeze, which immobilizes the starch molecules and prevents them from forming the crystalline structures that translate to stale texture.”

And that, my friends, is why storing bread in the refrigerator will make it go stale faster than leaving it out on the counter. The Tightwad Gazette lady mentioned this, too. But did she tell you about retrogradation?

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