To know how long bread lasts, you must first understand the characteristics of this important food. Bread, as perishable food, requires very specific storage conditions to prevent moisture migration or hardening.
Bread is the result of cooking a dough made with a mixture of flour, salt, yeast, and water, in the right proportions, correctly kneaded, and fermented. In fermentation aromas are generated, carbon dioxide that allows the bread dough to increase in volume, and other characteristic compounds of bread. All this makes it a food with a short shelf life: it “ages” quickly and hardens quickly during storage. The article explains how to prevent the bread from becoming hard and what are the main spoilage factors for foods like bread.
Bread, one of the most consumed foods and that has the greatest presence in Spanish kitchens, is a perishable product and one of the most thrown away since, in a short period of time, it loses its qualities. Just after baking, a redistribution of moisture and crystallization of starches begins to take place, with the consequent loss of aromas and taste. On the same day it is made, therefore, fresh bread can start to become stale. This is due to the migration of moisture to the crust of the bread. On the contrary, it can also become damp and lose a good part of its qualities. Aspects such as storage temperature or moisture migration are related to the hardness of the bread.
As soon as it comes out of the oven, the processes that turn fresh bread into stale bread begin. While the crumb hardens, the crust softens. This is associated with the dryness of the crumb. One of the main threats to bread is fungi, such as aspergillus and penicillium (industrial bread contains antifungal substances that prevent their degradation and allow them to be preserved for a longer time).
It should be borne in mind that, if it is not consumed in one or two days, it is advisable to store it in a bread basket or paper bag, never in plastic, to avoid moisture formation. If the consumption time is longer than two days, it can be stored in a plastic bag and frozen. The bread should not be put in the fridge because the opposite is achieved in maintaining its freshness; cold temperatures cause it to set faster than room temperature.
It is advisable to cut only the amount of bread that you intend to consume since if you cut more slices than necessary, they will harden sooner when they come into contact with air (the oxygen in the air spoils the food) and light. This would also explain why the larger the piece of bread, the longer it remains in good condition. And is that large-format bread is better preserved because the crust is usually thicker, which allows the moisture to be better kept inside the crumb. It is also important to avoid direct contact with the sun and keep it in a dry place. If left in a damp place, there is a risk of unwanted fungi developing.
Stale bread of a few days (about five, no more) can be granted without a problem. It does rot, over time, once it has become hard. One way to know if it can be used safely is to observe that it does not have mold. The breadcrumbs from stale bread without mold can be used without any problem and kept in a dry place for a few months.