With 3 teenage boys in the house me and my family go through ALOT of homemade sourdough bread. The only way to keep up, is to make big batches and freeze them in a ready to use format.
So, what is the best way to freeze sourdough bread to lock in taste and texture? The best method from my experience, that doesn’t compromise on texture and flavor in any way is to slice it up, flash freeze it, and bag it up in freezer safe bags with the air taken out.
This way, whenever I need a slice or two, I just pop it in the toaster, and I have fresh sourdough bread at my fingertips.
Here’s a really quick step-by-step how-to, with further explanation below.
- Let loaf cool completely
- Slice entire loaf into even slices
- Lay all bread slices flat onto a tray
- Place tray in the freezer for 10 – 15 minutes
- Take out partially frozen slices, and place in freezer safe bag
- Remove as much air as you can from the bag.
- Store in freezer.
- Take out slices as and when needed and pop straight into the toaster, or defrost on countertop.
Now let’s go into a little more detail about each step and the reason why this method has advantage over freezing a whole loaf when it comes to flavor and texture.
1. Let your Sourdough Bread Cool Completely Before Slicing it.
It’s really important that when you bake sourdough bread, it cools completely before slicing into it. (definitely the hardest part of bread baking; I may or may not have sliced a warm loaf or two in my time).
There are a couple of reasons why you should wait until it has completely cooled down:
Sourdough Bread Continues to Cook While it Cools Down
The inside of the bread is still continuing to cook and developing it’s wonderful texture while it cools. Slicing it open would release both moisture and temperature too quickly.
As a result, it doesn’t cook through for that extra bit of time, giving it a gooey kind of texture.
So no matter how tempting it is, remember that the best things come to those who wait!
It’s Tricky to Slice Sourdough Bread when it is still Warm
Because the bread is still very soft, trying to make even slices would be near impossible. Your bread will be going in all sorts of directions as there is no rigidity just yet, and your knife would be sticking to the inside of the bread while it is still so moist.
So make life easier, and wait for it to come down to at least body temperature before slicing it. If you’d like to know the OPTIMAL time to slice your sourdough, check out my article “When to Cut Sourdough Bread to Get Beautiful Even Slices”
2. Slice Entire Loaf of Sourdough Bread
Once your bread is completely cooled, you will want to slice the whole thing. Normally, it is recommended to slice the bread as and when you need it, in order to retain it’s freshness, but as it will all be frozen, go ahead and slice the whole loaf.
NOTE: A decent bread knife is essential for slicing your bread evenly and efficiently. Check out my “Guide to Choosing a Knife for Sourdough” for more information.
3. Lay all the Bread Slices Flat onto a Tray
I use an ice cube tray from my freezer, but you can use any tray that will fit on a shelf in your freezer.
QUICK TIP: If you run out of space, instead of using up a whole new shelf in your freezer, cover the first layer of bread with plastic wrap, and layer again. This will save you space and save you trying to find an extra tray!
4. Flash Freeze the Bread Slices
Put your tray into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. This is called flash freezing. It will not completely freeze the bread, but it will freeze the outer layers enough make sure the bread doesn’t stick together when you store them in the freezer safe bag.
This is not enough time for your bread to develop any freezer burn, and so the flavor and texture will remain as it is.
5. Store your Bread in a Resealable Freezer Bag
Now that the sourdough bread is partially frozen, you can stack them together in a resealable freezer safe bag, and they won’t stick together.
Remove as much air as possible from the bag to retain freshness in the bread. This is also what will prevent freezer burn.
QUICK TIP: You can use a straw to suck out the air from a corner of the bag before finally sealing it. This will give you an almost vacuum packed bag!
6. Take out Bread Slices As and When Needed and Put Straight into the Toaster.
The slices can be taken out when needed, and put straight into the toaster from frozen. It will taste as good as, if not better than the day after you baked it! (That’s right; the day after you baked it; because you waited for it to completely cool before slicing….right?)
Why is This the Best Way to Freeze Sourdough Bread?
One thing very specific about sourdough bread, is that it contains enzymes that are not found in other breads. This makes sourdough bread suitable to freeze once. You cannot refreeze sourdough bread.
And so, because you cannot refreeze it, it is best to slice it up so you only need to defrost exactly how much bread you need. And the rest of the loaf will stay fresh in the freezer.
Sourdough bread not only maintains it’s freshness in the freezer, but it actually continues to sour at a very slow rate while it is frozen, and so the flavor continues to develop.
When you take it out of the freezer and toast it, it will taste as if it has just been baked and toasted. And depending on how long it has been in the freezer, it may even taste better than it did when you first baked it.
Why Not Freeze the Whole Loaf?
So what is so special about slicing it up first? Why not just freeze the whole loaf. Well you could, but there are few things to consider…
It is Less Versatile to Freeze a Whole Loaf of Bread
When you have a whole loaf in the freezer, you only have the option of defrosting the whole loaf, even if you only needed a slice or two. And then the bread will become stale far quicker once it has been defrosted.
It Takes alot Longer to Defrost a Whole Sourdough Loaf than it does to Defrost only a Slice.
Defrosting an entire loaf will take about 4 or 5 hours, depending on how big it is. And this time is also spent having the loaf out, which decreases it’s freshness further.
Or alternatively, you can rebake it in the oven for a period of time (usually around the same amount of time it took to bake it in the first place!), which will thicken your crust, and increase the risk of your loaf becoming too dry.
What if I don’t want to Toast it? Can I just Defrost the Slice of Bread Instead?
Yes. You can leave slices of frozen sourdough bread out at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and they should then be ready to eat. (depending on how thick the slices are)
Because the defrosting time for slices is so quick, the bread remains fresh in both flavor and texture by the time it is ready to eat.
How long does sourdough bread keep in the freezer?
Sourdough bread keeps well for 3 months or longer if it is kept in a bag with very little air in it. As long you protect it from freezer burn by covering it well, it can last many months longer than this.
Does Sourdough Bread Stay Fresh for Longer than other Breads?
Sourdough bread naturally contains mold resistant properties in it, and also tends to be a bread that contains less moisture, which makes it stay fresher for longer than other breads.
Can I put my Sourdough Bread in the Fridge to make it last longer?
Storing sourdough bread in the fridge will do the opposite of making it last longer.
When bread is stored at cold temperatures, it stales much quicker than at warm teperatures, so keeping it on your countertop will keep it fresher for longer than if you kept it in the fridge.
However, bread kept at freezing temperatures, dramatically reduces the staling process.
QUICK TIP: If your sourdough bread has already become hard or stale, all is not lost! Have a read of my 16 tips on how to use up leftover sourdough bread.