Hardly anything beats bread that’s fresh from the oven and then slathered with newly-churned butter and your favorite homemade marmalade for breakfast.
This morning treat can only be had in restaurants or bakeries with seating unless you are patient enough to bake your own.
But even if you have the fortitude to meticulously measure ingredients, knead your dough, and bake it – the whole process lasting 24 hours, at times – experts say that you should wait a few more minutes before tearing into a piece that’s freshly baked.
Any baker worth his salt will tell you that slicing bread straight from the oven is a no-no because the cooking process is still ongoing even after you take it out from the heat.
The extra thirty minutes of letting it rest allow the water in the starch to occupy the nooks and crannies of the cooked dough, creating the crumbs inside.
Doing this also helps the flavor to develop even further, giving that sour, yeasty taste.
No, this is not just some cruel trick that professionals will tell home cooks to make them drool for half an hour.
This is backed by science – something very important in the baking process.
This is also why precision is a must here, from putting in the exact amount of ingredients to proofing the dough at the right temperature.
Let’s Discuss the Science
There are two basic parts of the bread: the crust and the crumb.
The former is everything that’s exposed to air while the latter is everything that’s inside.
When you take a loaf out of the furnace, it will tempt you to the max – the crust is golden brown, its aroma smelling oh-so-beautifully.
But as aforementioned, the crumb inside is continuing to cook.
What’s specifically happening here is called starch retro-gradation.
Here, the water molecules are slowly moving towards the crust, causing the nice holes inside.
If you slice this too early, that water escapes in the air and you’re left with something soggy at first then gummy in the next few minutes.
On top of that, the actual flavor develops only as the baked good is cooling.
Aside from the mouthfeel, you will taste the difference between a piece that is cooled down and one that has been sliced immediately.
How Long Should the Cooling Down Be?
Several factors may influence this part of the cooking process but letting it cool for at least thirty minutes, whether it’s a whole loaf or a batch of small buns, is good enough.
Whole grain and rye bread should be left in the pan for an hour or two.
Sourdoughs will cool down in the same amount of time but should be rested longer.
Some say the flavors develop better after a day or two so you will need to be more persevering with the wait.
Don’t worry, there are variants which you can eat straight from the oven, due to the good crust and crumb ratio.
The famous French baguette is one of those.
If you figure out how to make this, go ahead and tear into it immediately from the hearth.
What If You Want to Store It?
If you were able to wait an hour or two but decide not to eat it yet, wrap this baked good in parchment paper and keep it in the freezer.
Leaving it in the fridge will speed up the staling and you don’t want that.
Once you’re ready to eat it, say for breakfast the next day, take it out of the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for thirty minutes.
To heat, put it back in the oven.
If You Want Hot from the Oven Bread
The best thing you could do is reheat it in the oven after it has cooled down.
You should follow the instructions to come up with something that comes as close as the ones served in restaurants:
• Preheat your oven to 350 F or around 175 C
This is the best temperature so you can have a chewy crust and soft interior. Anything and you will get something close to a crouton. That’s not so bad too but if you want more chew than a crumb, stick to the temp advised.
• Wrap it in foil
First, you don’t want the crust to get burned. Second, you don’t want a piece of overly dry bread.
• Leave it in the oven for 10 minutes, 15 minutes max
Baguettes should be kept inside the hearth for 10 minutes. Larger loaves should be in for fifteen. If you’re only heating a few slices, five minutes should be enough.
Patience is a Virtue
But in this case, it is a must-have.
Patience is very important when it comes to making bread and, more importantly, waiting a bit after you take it out of the furnace and before you take a serrated knife to it.
Give it a try and you will see how very significant the difference will be.