You know how sometimes you get a spark of inspiration to do something without even thinking all that much about it at the time, only to later discover it’s possibly pretty awesome? Well, recently I had just this very experience.
My friend Christine (she’s got a blog over at Culinary Musings — check it out!) and I were talking recently about our mututal love of homemade bread. Now, I gotta tell ya, aside from fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, I don’t know of too many things that will get my mouth watering the way homemade bread will do. And the cookies only get the nod because they’ve got chocolate in them, which is an automatic win; otherwise, the bread would come out on top every time.
Beyond the taste (which is awesome), I appreciate how, when you make your own, you know all the ingredients (which is also awesome). I mean, have you really read the ingredient list on a lot of the baked goods in your grocery store lately? I’ve seen some things in there I’m just not sure about. Heck, I’ve seen some things in there I can’t even pronounce.
Of course, you can get the same kind of peace of mind buying artesan bread from a bakery, or simply by being careful about reviewing the ingredient lists of commercial bread, but there’s also something incredibly satisfying about plunging your hands into a big ball of bread dough to start the kneading process.
(OK, OK, I admit it — I usually use a bread machine, so I miss all the “hands on” fun. Convenience wins out in the end, I guess.)
So, anyway, my husband’s family had always kept bread in the refrigerator. My family never did, but when I got married, I adopted his habit of refrigerating the loaf because I couldn’t think of a good reason to argue over it. And to be honest, it did seem to slow the process of going moldy even for commercial loaves. “Going moldy” is, if anything, an even bigger problem for homemade bread, as it has no preservatives. The problem was, though, even in a zipper-sealed bag in the fridge, the bread would still dry out and get stale and crusty (not in a good way) before we could finish it all. So we still ended up throwing away a bunch of excellent homemade bread. Bummer. Beyond bummer.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I could try making smaller loaves so we could finish them up faster. But there’s a limit to how small you can go, and with a son who isn’t a big bread eater (Oh, the humanity!) and a diabetic husband who’s on a perpetual carb-avoidance kick, bread consumption is largely up to me. Now that I’m on a weight loss challenge at work, I’m not eating as much bread as before, myself. Unless I wanted to limit myself to making dinner-roll sized loaves of bread, something had to be done.
And in stepped Fate. Recently, our old refrigerator died. (A moment of silence, please, for our formerly-chilly old friend.) The new model we got came with some snazzy new features the old one hadn’t offered. One of those features was a humidity-controlled drawer. It was apparently intended to store different types of fruits and veggies — you just select what degree of humidity you want depending on whether you’re storing apples or lettuce, for instance.
And here’s where my spark of inspiration hit. If the cool of the refrigerator was already keeping the mold at bay, so the only problem was the bread drying out… why not put the bread in the humidity-controlled drawer (on the “high” humidity setting) and see what happens?
I’m pleased to report it worked like a champ. I was able to keep a loaf of homemade bread (in a zipper-sealed freezer bag) edibly-soft and fresh for almost two weeks in there! Woot!
Now, I wouldn’t necessarily advise anybody to count on being able to keep preservative-free bread fresh and edible for that long. I would guess it would have something to do with the ingredients of the bread itself, how it’s wrapped, the temperature of the fridge, what else is stored in the drawer, how humid the “high humidity” setting is, and so forth.
So far, the only downside for me has been that there’s not much room in the humidity-controlled fruit and veggie drawer for, well, fruits and veggies, now that half the drawer is occupied by bread products. But it’s a small sacrifice to make for fresh bread, I think.
All I can say is, it worked great for me, so now I’m passing the suggestion along to you. Let me know if you try it, and how it works for you!