Enamelled metal bread bin
© Denzil Green
A Bread Bin is a box to store fresh bread in.
There is no perfect way of storing fresh bread (as opposed to freezing it.)
- If you leave it out unwrapped, it will turn into a giant crispy crouton, or the mice will nibble it;
- If you put it in the fridge, it dries out and gets that “fridge” taste;
- If you put it in a plastic bag, it gets that “plastic” taste, goes soggy and then goes mouldy;
- If you put it in a paper bag, it dries out;
Bread has a short life span — that’s its nature. It either gets eaten up, dries up or goes mouldy, and nothing can stop one of those three things from happening (aside from volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius turning it into a fossil.)
Nor will a Bread Bin stop bread from going mouldy. What it will do is maintain bread at an optimum balance of humidity, neither too dry nor too soft, for a reasonable number of days, so that its taste and texture remain appealing. But there is still a time limit, usually much shorter in the summer when weather is hot and / or humid.
Bread Bins keep bread crustier, fresher and tasting better for longer than will storing your bread in plastic or paper bags, or in the fridge. You can store other baked goods in a Bread Bin as well — they do a dandy job of keeping croissants interesting. Bread Bins are still widely used in the UK. They have largely gone out of fashion in North America, where people prefer to buy and store pre-sliced bread in plastic bags.
Bread Bins can be made of wood, metal (tin or stainless steel), enamelware, plastic, or stoneware. They can be shaped like a box, or shaped like a large crock with lids. Some of the box shaped ones have lids you just lift off; some have roll-top lids.
Metal Bread Bins may be shiny, or coloured metal. Lightweight metal ones can dent easily.
Some Bread Bins are made of wicker, but they let too much air in — so you end up having to keep the bread in a plastic bag. They are essentially just places to keep bread out of sight, not freshness extender devices.
Most Bread Bins have ventilation holes to allow excess moisture to escape, but some designs don’t, relying instead on ventilation to happen naturally through the edges of the lid. Some plastic ones slide at one end, so that you can shrink the airspace inside as the loaf gets used up.
The downside to Bread Bins is that they do need somewhere to put them, which can be problematic in kitchens with little counterspace.
Store bread in Bread Bins unsliced. Put the bread or baked goods in the bread bin with no wrapping around them — that will impede the natural functioning of the bin.
Freshly-baked bread should be cooled before placing in a bread bin.
If bread goes mouldy, discard the bread, and wash the bin out thoroughly with hot water and soap; rinse with scalding hot water from a kettle, and let dry thoroughly.
Put bread first in a paper bag, then put in a plastic carrier bag (the kind you get from grocery stores), and fold it over or tie loosely. The plastic helps to keep moisture in, while the paper bag will absorb excess moisture and help prevent the bread from getting that “plastic” taste.
Some people swear by storing bread in the microwave.
Literature & Lore
“Bread tins or jars should be washed and scalded twice a week in winter, and every other day in summer; otherwise bread is apt to mould.” — Fannie Merritt Farmer. The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1918.
Also called occasionally “Bread Tins.”