It may come as a surprise that sourdough is a process, not a specific product. We make everything from a feather-light croissant to 100 percent wholemeal rye bread using sourdough. Essentially, it’s about nurturing a wild culture to produce products of exceptional flavour, digestibility and keeping quality.
Sourdough keeps for longer
A well-made sourdough loaf will keep for 3-7 days in your kitchen if you keep it from drying out; a yeasted loaf only 2-3. The difference is just as pronounced with pastries. The chemistry involved is complex but is mainly to do with the acids produced during sourdough fermentation helping to retain water in the loaf and slow down the staling process.
How to store bread
- Cover and keep at room temperature
Bread kept in a paper bag, cloth bag, or wrapped in a tea towel will last 3-7 days in a reasonably cool place. Wrapping the loaf in plastic will retain even more moisture but you risk stale odours and, eventually, mould, so we prefer not to. If you do, we suggest using paper or cloth first so the bread is not in direct contact with the plastic.
- Wrap and refrigerate
This time you’ll definitely want to use plastic, or a reusable food wrap, to protect and retain water in the loaf. Yes, refrigeration stales bread fast, but it dramatically slows spoiling, and re-heating reverses the staling process (read on for more about this). If you mainly eat toast, this is a great solution and the bread will keep for 2-3 weeks.
Fresh bread doesn’t toast as well as day old bread, so enjoy your bread fresh on day 1 and then slice and freeze any time from day 2. Slices can be thawed or toasted from frozen and you’d never know the difference. Or freeze whole or half loaves – they thaw very close to the condition they were when frozen.
Staling of sourdough is largely reversible
Contrary to popular belief, staling is not primarily about drying out, but rather the way the water interacts with the flour particles, a phenomenon scientists call ‘starch retrogradation’. Even when sourdough bread goes hard, most of the moisture is still hiding in there; it just needs to be unlocked.
How to revive ‘stale’ bread – reheat it!
The magic number is 60°C – when the interior hits that temperature, freshness is restored. Prepare to be amazed!
- Toast it
Pop a slice in the toaster so the inside becomes soft and moist and the outside deliciously crunchy. Even a week old, a slice of our rye bread becomes soft and delicious when warmed briefly in the toaster.
- “Refresh” (re-bake) it
Take a ‘stale’ loaf of sourdough bread, splash the top with water, and re-bake at 180/200C (fan/conventional) to restore to its just-baked condition. Indicative times are: 5-8 minutes for small loaves like baguette or ciabatta, 12-15 minutes for a 600-900g loaf. Squeeze it and you will hear the crust crackle and feel that the inside has been restored to the soft and yielding crumb it had when it first came out of the oven. Once you have refreshed bread or pastries, they are best eaten the same day as they will then stale quickly.
Storing and refreshing pastries
Sourdough pastries will keep well in your kitchen for at least two days in the paper bags or cake boxes they came in, some much longer if your kitchen is cool. To maintain maximum freshness, they can be refrigerated or frozen. In that case they will be best if restored in the oven. Thaw frozen pastries first. When refreshing, treat them more gently than bread – 4 minutes at 160°/180°C (fan/ conventional) will do the trick. Ideally leave them for 15 minutes before eating for the crust to crisp up and the interior to cool a bit.