Updated: Dec 8, 2022
We have broadcast some bread crumbs in this post which link to products we know will improve your bread storage and consuming experience at home. Some links to local artisans and some to other online product providers.
Sourdough Bread making in a wood fired oven is a process. Every batch is dissimilar from the others due to climate variability. Humidity and temperature are big factors that impact the process whether you want them to or not. Add in the complexity of evenly heating a wood fired oven over the course of 8-10 hours and you have yourself a few major variables to consider. If one or all of them are unaccounted for it usually ends up in a failed bread bake. To find alignment among these factors is to have success. As a customer of Hudson Oven, you know what our baking success looks, smells, and tastes like. Although there are even varying degrees of success in our bakes, which I am sure you have noticed, we feel the product is still acceptable. It is this variability in our product that is the result of the aforementioned factors in the baking process.
Now the fun part. Consumption! The act of eating bread (and keeping it fresh) can be just as variable with many different factors that increase the rate of staling and or increase the longevity of a loaf in storage. A stale slice of bread can be rehabbed with a couple minutes in a toaster or toaster oven. Entire loaves can be freshened up in the oven if wrapped in tin foil (300 F for 10-15 minutes).
The anatomy of a loaf is similar to our planet! First and foremost, understanding the role the crust plays in preserving the interior of your bread. A bread’s crust acts like its first layer of defense against becoming stale. This layer of caramelized starches and sugars in the dough seals in moisture as well as any wrapping or storage container might. Once cut open, preferably using a double serrated knife on a live edge cutting board the interior of your bread will more quickly release its moisture. But there is no situation where you will refrain from cutting into a warm loaf for a fresh bread experience unless you are saving a loaf as a gift or for an occasion and have unmatched patience and self control. Be sure to cover the open end of any bread you are in the process of enjoying.
Breached or not, bread will store better with an additional layer of protection from the ambient world. Waterproof wrapping such saran wrap will work but will also result in softening the crust. Although we don't condone the single use nature of this material, this is a good wrapping if you intend to freeze your loaf which is an excellent long term method of storage if you have the freezer space and think you won’t be able to acquire fresh bread when needed in the future. Semi permeable containers are our preferred method of storage where enough moisture is trapped around the loaf to preserve it’s moisture but enough is left to slowly escape to avoid over-softening of the crust and molding. A waxed cloth is a great multi use semi permeable storage option for your breads which can also be used to wrap up opened cheeses, pastry or crackers.
If you are serious about bread consumption and therefore storage, you might consider trading some high value countertop space for a classic but timeless bread box. Although housing one of these is like parking a Cadillac on your counter, they earn their rent by keeping any baked goods fresher for longer. If you would like to go the extra mile, keeping your breads in a linen bread bag and then inside a bread box will achieve bread storage limits far greater than your willpower to eat said bread.
All in all, the goal is to keep moisture in the loaf and from evaporating away from the surface of your bread. Your wrapping or container should act like an atmosphere which holds enough moisture close by to maintain a nice crusty climate but not so much that you create a science experiment. Think Mars, not Earth.
If you think you may be interested in learning how to make sourdough we will be writing a blog about it soon. Here are the tools we recommend you use to get started! This bread making kit by KooK. Pair that kit with a nice glass jar or handmade ceramic container for your sourdough starter, a professional scale (with buttons, this is important trust me). Combine all of the above with a traditional Dutch Oven, pizza stone, or bread dome and you are armed and ready to embark on your sourdough journey. Also here is a link to flour provided by Bob's Red Mill for you to get started. Please consider looking into acquiring flour by local farmers and millers. If you are a Hudson Oven member we sell Sourdough starter and bags of our thoughtfully sourced flour by Farmer Ground Flour in Up State NY. This trip is not for the faint of heart but it will undoubtedly teach you many lessons in patience and adaptability while staying humble.