When I bake artisan bread, the crust does not retain its hard consistency and by morning of the next day is already soft. I use a Dutch oven and spray water, the taste is great but the crust loses hardness.
The reason the crust is going soft is a combination of factors:
- Moisture from inside the bread transfers to the outside during cooling: This is most prevalent in breads with thinner developed crusts. Leave your bread to cool completely either in the cooling down oven (best) or on the side on a rack.
- Humidity of bread storage: never put warm bread in a container (not even a bread box) and never ever put it in the fridge (unless saving for croutons or breadcrumbs)
- Ambient room humidity: If your kitchen is really humid this will definitely have an effect. I typically store bread in the oven if it's currently really humid (which it typically is in Ireland).
There are a few steps you can take to ensure you get a crispy crust for longer:
- Take extra time to develop the crust after the initial bake
- Remove the bread from the dutch oven at the end of your bake and place directly on the oven rack with the oven door open as it cools down.
- Don't place your bread into a container (even a bread box) until hours after finished.
- Store bread properly
- Keep open in dry conditions. If cut, place cut side face down on board or countertop. Can cover with a tea towel (after complete dryness) and then just leave alone.
- Rejuvenate the crust (best tip I ever received)
- This seems counterintuitive, but if you've got some soft crust bread you want crisped up, crank your oven up, then wet the bread where you want it crispy (running a wet hand over it is about enough water), and chuck it in the oven directly on the rack and bake for a few minutes until you're satisfied.
- This method works wonders for stale bread as well, and you can keep the soft (cut) side softer by wrapping that bit in some foil. It won't make it like day one fresh bread but it'll certainly make it edible again and good enough for some nice oil & vinegar or a nice slab of soft butter.
Update +1 for oven cooling! http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/09/15/keep-baking-crispy/
Depends on time really:
36 hours or less?
Bread box or drawer is probably king; but less common in most households now. Wax paper bags that most supermarkets use; these hold well for at least 24 hours Brown paper bag; second use for rejuvenating as mentioned in other post.
Longer? (3 months max)
Tight sealed plastic and throw into freezer. Then just let it sit out for couple hours in room temperature in paper bag and re-bake at 350 for 5-15 mins (pending size). Like having fresh from oven bread all over again.
I usaully have bread marathon weekend and purposely slightly under bake the ones headed directly to freezer.