It's difficult to keep an Italian loaf from getting stale after more than a day. Italian bread's crispy crust is still typically softer and chewier than French bread, with a soft and moist interior. Keep it from hardening too quickly by properly baking the loaf and wrapping it well with paper and cloth or plastic wrap. Although no method is perfect, wrapping your bread keeps it fresh and soft a little longer.
Baking and Cooling Tips
If you are baking your own Italian bread, one way to prevent it from getting hard too quickly is to avoid overbaking it. An overbaked loaf is drier on the inside, thus hardening faster than bread with more moisture. To determine the proper doneness of your loaf, check that it has a golden brown crust and, using an instant-read thermometer, that the internal temperature has reached between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, let the Italian loaf cool completely before you wrap and store it in any type of container to avoid condensation from forming and ruining the loaf.
Paper and Cloth Storage
Keep store-bought Italian bread in the paper bag it came in, and then wrap the bag in a large kitchen towel and leave it at room temperature. The paper bag allows the bread to breath and let some moisture escape so that the crust stays somewhat crispy. The towel adds protection so that enough moisture stays in the bread to slow the process of it becoming stale and hard. Cloth bread bags are an alternative available at specialty stores and online.
Plastic Wrap Option
If you are less concerned about a crispy crust, you can simply wrap your Italian loaf tightly in plastic wrap, making sure there are no spaces for air to get in. Leave the wrapped loaf at room temperature. The moisture trapped in the bread keeps the loaf soft, but the crust also softens. Still, you can always slice off what you need and pop the loaf briefly in a medium-high oven to recrisp the crust. Any bread you reheat needs to be consumed within an hour or so, because it will stale quickly afterward.
Freezing prevents Italian bread from going stale if you are not going to eat it right away. Wrap the bread first tightly in plastic wrap and then in a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer for three to six months. Well wrapped, the moisture stays in the bread, despite being frozen. When you're ready to eat it, let the Italian loaf sit at room temperature, still wrapped. Reheat the thawed loaf in the oven at a medium-high heat to recrisp the crust. Never place a bread loaf in the refrigerator -- the temperature of the refrigerator only makes it stale faster.
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