Although few foods are as alluring as fresh bread warm from the oven, eating the whole batch at one sitting usually isn't the most practical option. Letting it cool and then wrapping the bread for freezing or room-temperature storage sometimes requires an effort of will, but it's the only way to have fresh bread on hand for later use. The loaves should cool completely before they're wrapped, but the actual time required varies widely.
Judging When It's Ready
Bread cools at different rates, with light and airy sandwich loaves releasing their heat more quickly than a large, dense, country-style artisan bread. The ambient temperature of your kitchen has an effect as well. Usually, your bread won't be completely cool to the touch for at least 20 to 30 minutes, and some loaves need longer. You can place warm loaves in a loose paper bag if you're giving them fresh-baked to friends and neighbors, because the paper allows the bread to finish cooling and releasing steam. If you're packaging the bread in airtight bags for freezing or pantry storage, let it come completely to room temperature. Otherwise, condensation can form in the bag and leave the bread doughy.
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Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.