It seems that some of the whole grain loafs seem to dry out very quickly, even stored in a plastic bag - if it hasn't started to turn green, is there a way to restore some of the life back into them?

  • I live in a very humid climate. The idea of a loaf that is capable of going dry without growing mold makes me really jealous! – Dinah Aug 20 '10 at 2:51
  • That's one of downsides of NYC - It can happen in 1 day :>) – AttilaNYC Aug 20 '10 at 2:54

It depends. If you need it to soften up for just a little while you can throw it in the mircowave for about 10-15 seconds. And by a little while, I mean the time it takes to make and eat a sandwich. Other than that, you can use the bread for breadcrumbs or croutons. Also, dry bread makes the best french toast you will ever have. Basically, you can't turn back time on a loaf but you can make it last longer by freezing it and thawing a slice at a time.

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    Microwave is not ideal because it heats the water faster than the starch, tending to cause the bread to steam and actually lose moisture. It will make it seem less stale for a minute, but as soon as it cools down it may actually be worse. – Michael Natkin Aug 20 '10 at 0:41
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    thus the little while caveat :) – sarge_smith Aug 20 '10 at 1:32

Yes. Throw it in the oven on about 200 F for 20 minutes or so. The staling process is called retrogradation, and reheating can reverse it to some degree.

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  • How much of a degree? And does it work if you reheat for shorter amounts of time? – sarge_smith Aug 20 '10 at 0:36
  • You basically want to warm it through, so the time will depend on the thickness. You can also cut slices and very lightly toast them for faster action. – Michael Natkin Aug 20 '10 at 0:41
  • nice... i'll be using that next time – sarge_smith Aug 20 '10 at 1:33
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    I do this on a higher heat, say 300-350, and also wet the outside of the bread with water until lightly damp but not soggy. On that heat it only takes 5-10 minutes and gets pretty good results. – Ocaasi Aug 20 '10 at 2:55
  • Adding a stick of celery inside the plastic container with the bread - has anyone tried that? – AttilaNYC Aug 21 '10 at 12:38

I have to disagree with the simple reheating method. Bread goes stale through a loss of moisture. Applying dry heat simply doesn't do much beneficial besides toast your stale bread.

Put the bread in a brown paper bag, dampen the top of the bag with water, and then microwave for a few seconds.

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    That's not accurate. Yes, some moisture is lost to the outside world, but most of the staling is the starch degelatinization, and reheating above the gelatinization temperature allows it to soften. You can read a ton about it in McGee, or here is a summary on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staling – Michael Natkin Aug 20 '10 at 4:03
  • @Michael, @hobodave - I find that this technique works extremely well. I haven't checked up on how bread goes stale lately (but thanks for the link), but it does seem to help to add moisture. – justkt Aug 20 '10 at 12:53

Cut it up and toast to make croûtons, or crumble into bread crumbs. Your bread will enjoy new life in a salad or other dish.

If your bread is coming pre-sliced and drying out quickly, try buying unsliced loaves and slicing it as you need it. It's a bit more work, but your bread will taste fresher longer (and as a bonus, you get to decide on the thickness you want).

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