An autumn fruit pudding using leftover bread
Why does a bought loaf of bread stay fresh longer (4-5 days) than our breadmaker loaf (2-3 days) before it is hard and stale?
Thanks, Adi and Murdoch McLean
To be honest, the simple answer is that many commercial breads will contain additives that keep the bread moist, which make it appear fresh (it’s actually just less dried out), prevent it going mouldy and keep it looking good. While that is good for people not likely to eat a whole loaf of bread within a few days of buying it but still wanting to have fresh sandwiches for the week, you might want to consider whether or not you’re happy with eating the additives in the first place. Are they, in fact, necessary?
“Additives” is a fairly broad term in my book, with some used to preserve the food by adding miniscule amounts of a (hopefully) food-safe chemical to preserve the food. Apples may be waxed to stop them rotting when they’re past their natural “use by’’ date (you’ll likely eat the wax when you eat the apple), pears may be “gas flushed’’ to extend their life. Colouring agents make food look more appealing (personally I’ve never understood that argument as Mother Nature does pretty well on the appearance stakes), flavour enhancers are often used to boost low-quality foods and on and on it goes. However, in order to provide enough food for a growing population, and in times of drought and flooding when stocks are in danger of running out, preservation of food is something that has to be considered.
In the long distant past, all foods were seasonal and localised — and preservation was along the lines of dry storage (the kumara pits of Maori 700 years ago is a local method), dehydrating (well before the sun-dried tomato came on to our supermarket shelves, cod was being dried for the Spanish bacalao and ikan bilis were facing the same fate in Malaysia), the use of high levels of sugar (jam is really a way of preserving fruit for the winter) and fermenting (anyone tried rotten shark from Sweden?). Eventually massive industrial advances came about, so people would be able to eat food where and when they wanted. Canned meats (corned beef and spam) could be shipped around the world. Frozen lamb was shipped to Britain from New Zealand. And eventually, and inevitably, chemicals came into our food chain and they’ve been contentious ever since.
Budget and ability to source are key for many people when it comes to deciding which loaf (or other product) they’ll buy. My advice is for you to read the (often overly long) ingredient list on the loaf and make the call yourself. While I find nothing better than buying a loaf of fresh bread from an artisan baker, that isn’t always possible if I miss the market stall or get to the baker after they’ve closed. But this is where your freezer comes in handy. I tend to buy a loaf, cut it into 3 pieces, wrap them individually and freeze 2 of them, ready to come out when needed. It means I always have “fresh’’ bread at hand, made just from flour, water, salt and wild yeast starter, and I can cut back on the additives.
But inevitably you’ll be stuck with some stale bread and there are only so many breadcrumbs you can make and use.
For a lovely autumn pudding, line a buttered dish with lightly buttered sliced stale bread and scatter with sliced dried apricots, raisins, poached rhubarb or chunks of poached feijoas or tamarillos, finely grated ginger and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Make up a mixture of 50/50 coconut cream and milk (to which you’ve added 1 whole egg per 120ml liquid) and pour over to cover the bread, pushing it down to soak up the liquid. Bake at 150C until golden and crisp. Serve with custard or whipped cream and youmight be quite happy to have an excess of bread hanging around. And don’t give up on your breadmaker!
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