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Every recipe I have tried the bread turns very hard within an hour of baking, and I'd like something I could eat over the course of a couple days (breakfast toast and such). The 100% whole wheat bread from the store lasts two weeks - how do they do it?

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Can you define "hard"? Do you mean all the way through the loaf - even if you cut into it? Just the crust? My bread machine loaves go stale quickly, but I make up for that by eating it. :-) –  sdg Jul 19 '10 at 16:40
    
1. What recipe are you currently using? 2. Have you tried putting fruit or something else moist in there? –  Nathan Jan 21 '11 at 2:29
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There is a BBC show called "E Numbers: an Edible Adventure" which has a section addressing this question (I think in the second episode). –  user2215 Jan 21 '11 at 5:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Industrial breads use 'dough conditioners' that soften the dough and make working with it easier. You can buy such mixes online, here for instance, and I've seen them for sale in natural food stores and the like. Other things that might work are adding a starch or a fat, or heat treating some of your flour in the microwave (a minute for a cup, don't do this to all the flour, it destroys some of the gluten). Guar gum or xanthan gum will help to keep things moist as well.

I've never used these techniques, so some experimentation might be necessary. Store bread in plastic bags as soon as it cools, and don't slice right away.

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They do it via liberal use of sugar, mainly, as well as a host of industrial techniques that are simply not replicable in the home kitchen. Bear in mind that such breads are made for longevity and not flavour.

If your bread is going that hard an hour after baking, you may well be overcooking it.

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Most bread is made from wheat and / or barley flour. A "hard" flour contains more wheat.

The higher the proportion of wheat flour, the better it tastes (especially the crust) but the poorer its keeping qualities.

Commercial bread that keeps for a long time has more barley flour. In addition, some bakeries add a little vinegar to the dough after proving, which also makes the bread keep longer.

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They use ground up bird feathers to make bread stay fresh for longer

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Even if they are using some substance derived from bird feathers, the way you state it is terribly misleading. If you mean cysteine, eating it compares to eating feathers about the same way as eating sugar compares to eating beets. And before you say that everything in bird feathers is icky, let me remind you that your own body, and steaks, and tofu, are all full of cysteine too. It is a very common compound, and as essential to our body as vitamin C. –  rumtscho Mar 4 at 22:56
    
Also, cysteine is a reducing agent. It allows gluten-forming compounds to denature and link together faster, it has no effect on the shelf life of the product. –  sourd'oh Mar 6 at 15:26

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