I love making our own bread - we rarely buy shop bought, but it tends to go off very quickly. Part of the appeal is that it doesn't have any "junk" in it - artificial preservatives - which I'm sure contributes to the lovely flavor. Is there anything natural I can add to it to stop it going moldy so fast?
My whole wheat bread takes 4x to go off than my white bread. Even a mixture of 50% whole wheat flour will make it last longer. But that will only help if the problem is the bread getting hard too soon. That can also be prevented by keeping it in a plastic bag. You'll get the mold before the bread goes stale.
If you're keeping the bread in a plastic bag, try paper bags.
To solve the mold problem, the traditional way is to add some acidity. For example, you can add a sourdough starter. If you don't like the taste of sourdough, a poolish starter should also help. The bacteria it grows will prevent the mold growing.
I know it's not what you're asking, but freezing will also help. When you bake more bread than you eat, freeze it wrapped in a plastic bag and thaw it overnight and you will get a good, fresh bread.
Rather than adding a preservative, slice whatever bread you can't eat within one or two days (or whatever period it is before your bread goes 'off') and freeze it wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Whenever you'd like some of that bread, either thaw it in advance or warm in a toaster or toaster oven before eating.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a natural preservative. A little also helps the yeast grow (you will find it in many commercial dough enhancers). When I make bread I use Fruit Fresh, a powdered vitamin C with some sugar used to preserve fruit in canning and freezing. I use about 1/4 teaspoon per loaf. I don't know if that is enough to provide additional preservative power, but it is worth a try as it has no downside. Of course you can just get some vitamin c tablets and crush them but it will take some experimentation to figure out how much to add.
The big problem is touching the bread with your fingers after it is baked. Your finger will put mold spores on your bread.
I have made bread that will last 3 weeks in my tropical climate by the following procedure:
- Add 1 gram of calcium propionate to one kilo of flour. Your bread might rise a little slower but you can not taste it.
- When the bread is cooled down to room temperature after baking, heat the oven to 100-120 degrees C. Place the bread back in the oven for 5-6 min.
- When removing from the oven, don't touch the bread with your hands. Use plastic gloves or an unused plastic bag.
- Wrap the bread in cling foil so it is fully covered and untouched.
- When you use the bread, cut it through the wrap and use additional foil to cover the cut.
Although they will materially change the profile of the bread you are baking, dried fruits will do a lot to keep bread from molding, especially raisins. Cinnamon will also do this, but will reduce the activity of the yeast in the rising bread as well.
A dear friend of mine is from Greece, and he once told me a story that before WWII, no one in Greece really ate cinnamon raisin bread. But after the war, huge amounts of it was flown in from the USA to feed the hungry population, chosen because it was known to keep for long periods of time. Apparently, now it is a common thing to eat there.
I bake sourdough bread and if I put in clean sealed plastic bags it molds in 3-4 days. I finally gave up storing it in the bread box. I freeze the extra loaves when I bake. To keep the sourdough from going bad I now keep it in the fridge. I keep it in sealed plastic bags and add a couple of saltine crackers as a moisture absorbent. Keeps for days.
One commercial bread company has switched preservatives... They use vinegar (I suspect ordinary white vinegar).
Maybe you could give a little bit of vinegar a go and see how that works? You can still smell it if you sniff and sandwiches do have a faint vinegar flavour, but it seems to work well enough for the company and it apparently hasn't sabotaged the product line...
Then again, it /is/ commercial bread...
You can also use citric acid, I use about a 1/2 tsp of citric acid. It does not do anything for the taste it just perserves. Also, push your dough down and let it rise more than once, I push mine down after the first rise then after the second then on the third I put it in my bread pan and let it rise again but this time in the oven, then after it rises I turn on the oven. It also makes for a lighter bread, more wholes helps it breath better when stored.
Hope it helps.
First use 50% white Flour and 50% dark flour. This will help allready to make it last at least a couple of days longer then plain white flour. Also make sure you use Type 00 flour. This also is better to use and last longer. Now it can stay at least a week in very good eatable condition. Using olive oil in stead of butter, and changing sugar into honey, will make sure you can dry store this bread at for 1,5 week before it goed bad.
The best way I've found to keep my homemade bread fresh is to refrigerate it. After it's cooled to room temp I put it in a plastic bread bag and refrigerate. I make 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white flour bread and this is the only thing that keeps it from going moldy on me before I can finish it. My recipe makes a 2 lb. loaf. I put honey in it instead of sugar, but without the refrigeration still turns moldy within 3-4 days. I've tried adding ascorbic acid powder and a couple other things mentioned and they don't work for me. Just refrigerate.
Try a little fresh lemon juice, along with the suggested honey from this answer.