Friday, March 5, 2010

Bread Storage Without Plastic!

Laryssa asked a great question on Tuesday's post regarding the use of plastics in food storage because of the concern of BPA: 

"We switched to glass a few years ago and never looked back. The only thing that's still plastic are the zip top bags. I use them to keep my freshly baked bread in. Do you have any suggestions for something I could use instead?"

Photo Credit: Emiline220

If you're using Ziploc brand bags, according to their website, none of their products contain BPA. Here's the quote from their website:

"SC Johnson does not use BPA in its plastic products, Ziploc® Brand Bags and Containers. SC Johnson is a leader in providing high-quality products. All of its products are extensively evaluated for toxicity and safety and comply with—and often even exceed—applicable quality and safety regulations. "

This is really good news because most of the plastic that the majority of us use is probably from SC Johnson. If you are using another brand, you will want to go to their website and verify that they are BPA-free as well.

That said, I'm still on a mission in our home to reduce the use of plastics because I like knowing that I'm not constantly adding more to our landfills than necessary. And believe me, I could go through a lot of plastic bags if I wanted! I try to wash and reuse as many as I can, but to throw them away after a few uses is not being a good steward in my own mind. This is personal, friends. I can't tell you that everyone must do this. It has to be your own conviction or you won't stick with it, so it wouldn't matter anyway.  And honesty, this didn't bother me so much a year ago. I don't really know why, but now it does. 

So, if anyone out there is interested in some alternatives for your bread, I have found a couple of ideas for short term storage, but none that I've actually tested. However, I plan on trying something, immediately! Hopefully I'll be posting followups to this with some real results.

Sandwich Bread 

• While the sandwich may have been around since the late 1700's, commercially sliced bread was not in vogue until the late 1920's when a machine to slice bread was patented. It was sold in a wax paper wrapper that was not easily resealed. In the mid 50's, bread was sold for the first time in plastic bags. So sliced bread has mainly been a novelty supported by plastic in terms of commercial production.

• Prior to plastic, this kind of bread must have been consumed at one sitting by an entire family.

• If you have some fat in your bread (butter, oil, or other source), then it will help keep the bread a bit more soft and moist. Still, without preservatives, it will go rancid after a couple of days.

• Any remains could be used for breadcrumbs in other recipes, toasted or for french toast the next day, or in recipes such as bread puddings.

• Air is the enemy! It will quickly go stale when left where air can dry it out.

• Don't slice it all at once; only slice what you need at the moment. 

Artisan Bread

• Artisan breads should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

• Unlike sandwich bread, artisan breads need a little air circulation.

• Always store in paper or in a cloth bag.

Storage Options

• If you wish to try and save the loaf for a second or third meal, try wrapping it well in a linen tea towel or cloth bag and storing it in a stainless steel box (a tighter seal would be good for sandwich bread, but perhaps not for artisan breads). Here are a couple of examples by Polder :

• Some stainless steel bread boxes offer a bit of protection but also have some ventilation in the bottom as well (good for artisan breads, not so much for sandwich breads). Brabantia is an example of just such a box:

Some think that stainless steel doesn't allow it to get enough air circulation, but ceramic should allow the bread to breathe without drying it out (might work for both sandwich and artisan breads?). And I love this ceramic version from Andrea by Sadek at Madison Avenue Gifts! However I think it will only hold one loaf at a time.

• Nigella Lawson has a ceramic bread box with a wood lid that doubles as a cutting board. Ingenious! But pricy and hard to find. It seems that the British have embraced this and it is more widely available across the ocean, but a few stores may still carry it stateside.

• Be sure to check out Soule Mama's blog post on how she stores her bread in a tea towel converted to a bread bag. Darling! Can I say that again? Really darling! I'm definitely making some of these soon - hopefully this weekend!

If you are milling your own flour and it is truly the whole grain, your bread needs to be consumed within two or three days unless you freeze it. So these options are only temporary measures to keep your bread reasonably fresh during that short duration. I'd love to hear how some of you are storing your breads without plastic. Please chime in!


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