Traditional Italian bread has a crispy crust and a soft, doughy middle. When baked fresh, it has a very short shelf life. With no preservatives, it remains fresh for only a day or so before turning stale. After that, it can be used to make bruschetta or bread crumbs for use in a variety of dishes. Properly freezing and reheating your Italian bread can keep it soft and fresh for a much longer period of time.
Freeze Italian bread and reheat it carefully to preserve its soft interior.
Freeze Italian bread to keep it soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. First, wrap the bread in aluminum foil so it is completely covered and sealed. This traps moisture inside the bread and prevents it from escaping, reducing the likelihood of freezer burn.
Place the foil-wrapped bread into a zip-top freezer bag for extra moisture preservation and freezer-burn prevention. Squeeze out all the air, place the bag into the freezer and store it for as long as 3 months.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to reheat the bread. Remove the bread from the plastic freezer bag and place the loaf inside the oven with the foil still on. Heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the bread is warm throughout.
Unwrap the bread, let it sit for a few minutes and serve. The crust will have returned to its original state, while the dough inside should be nearly as soft as the day it was baked.
You can cut and serve Italian bread throughout the day as your guests arrive and eat, socialize and return to the kitchen for more. Keep the bread soft for a full day by cutting only what you need. Place the rest of the loaf, cut side down, on the countertop to seal off the open end so the inside remains soft, and let the crust remain exposed to the air to keep it crusty.
Sliced bread becomes stale faster than whole loaves do. Avoid buying a sliced loaf of Italian bread if your goal is to make it last.
Never refrigerate bread. One day of refrigeration has the same effect as leaving the bread at room temperature for up to three days.