There are few things that are as delicious as a fresh baked loaf of bread hot out of the oven. It's also hard to eat an entire loaf of bread while it is at it's freshest. Keeping bread fresh is a losing battle, from the moment it is done baking it begins to lose it's moisture through a process called starch retrogradation. In the original baking process, the starch began to gelatinize above 150F and absorb moisture. Once absorbed, the starches swell and create the spongy fresh solid texture we associate with bread. As the starches recrystallize over time they loose the moisture that was once locked in in the baking process. By simply reheating your bread your starches will re-gelatinize and reinstall the soft texture we have come to associate with "fresh".
This Instructable will cover three different methods for remoistening your stale bread.
Step 1: Things You'll Need
Stale Loaf of Bread
1-2 Celery Stalks
Step 2: Microwave Method
Moisten a section of paper towel long enough to completely cover your loaf of bread (or the portion that you intend to eat). Do so by soaking your paper towel in cold water, and then squeeze out as much of the water as you can.
Wrap your portion of bread in your damp paper towel snuggly.
Place your covered loaf or slice into your microwave.
Microwave for 10 seconds.
Remove your bread from the microwave.
Remove it's paper towel covering.
Step 3: Oven Method
Preheat your oven to 300F (148.8C).
Tear off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover and wrap your bread loaf/slice in.
Wrap your bread in the aluminum taking care to make sure it is completely covered.
Place your foil covered bread into your warm oven for 5-20 minutes. If you are just heating a slice or small roll, you'll want to warm it for less time (closer to 5 minutes) than if you are warming and remoistening a larger or thicker loaf of bread (closer to 20 minutes).
Remove your bread from the oven and allow it to cool within the foil. You'll want to let your bread remoisten inside the foil so that as it cools it doesn't release it's remaining moisture as steam.
Serve and eat as soon as it's cool enough to touch.
If your bread is really dry, I occasionally dab a couple drops of water along the length of the bread loaf with my fingers. This will help to reincorporate moisture into your loaf beyond just reheating and softening. If you decide to add water, make sure that you don't over saturate your bread loaf otherwise you'll end up with mushy bread. Start small, you can always add more.
Step 4: Celery Method
Slide a celery stalk inside your bread loaf bag.
Seal or close off your bag.
Place your bread bag with celery stalk back into the fridge and let it sit for several hours. I have had the best results when it sits overnight in the fridge.
Remove your celery stalk from the bag. It should be fairly dry and tough by this point having lost most of it's moisture the bread.