When I moved to New York, I stopped buying bread.
As a single person with a job that required eating out, I could never finish a loaf fast enough before the mold swooped in. I'd eat a few slices over several days, during my few meals at home, and then I'd forget about the bread entirely. If only I could buy quarter loaves of bread, I've often prayed, or even slices at a time, like one can at Paris's famed Poilâne, a bakery I cherished as a temporary expat, when my meals always seemed to be some variation of butter and bread.
In fact, it was at a recent breakfast celebrating Poilâne's first cookbook that I learned there was a better way to store bread. Lifelong Poilâne fan Ina Garten was there, and she told me that bread is one of the three items she always keeps in her freezer (vodka and ice cream are the others), but she doesn't just throw it in there recklessly. She has a strategy for maximizing the bread's flavor and structural integrity while minimizing its exposure to the freezer: storing it in big chunks.
Garten cuts her loaves into giant wedges before wrapping them tightly and storing them in the freezer. Rather than freezing individual slices (which would get too icy) or the whole loaf (which is too big to finish in one sitting, and you'd have to re-freeze), freezing the bread in wedges leaves you with the perfect portion to warm up in the oven later. It also preserves the integrity of the rest of the loaf for some meal in the future.
Not one to receive advice from Garten and not immediately implement it, I rushed to buy a loaf of bread that night from my favorite neighborhood shop (Napoli Bakery on Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn), and I cut it in wedges, unsliced, and put them in the freezer. The next morning, I heated up a wedge in the oven—I did 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes—and the result was fabulous: the chunk was perfectly crusty, and when I sliced into it, the bread flesh was chewy and fresh, as the interior had been well protected from the freezer.
Garten recommends defrosting bread (or any other frozen thing) in the refrigerator over night, if you can plan that far in advance.
Anyway, my life is different now. No longer will I rush to finish entire loaves, or feel like a monster when I inevitably fail and they mold. I've filled my freezer with finishable chunks of good bread that I can warm up all season long.
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