Saturday, July 13, 2013

How to protect bread from freezer burn

It's in the bag: A minor make-your-life-easier tip here, but a handy one. 

As part of our freezer-based diet management strategy, I buy all of our bread at Whole Foods and freeze five to ten loaves at a time (because Whole Foods is a 50-mile round trip for us, and I only go once every month or two).
You can see two baskets of it in the center of this pic (from this post). 
Whole Foods bread is so superior to mass-produced bread products that, even after being frozen and thawed, it's still substantially better in terms of taste and texture. 

However, bread is particularly subject to freezer burn, and it should be double-bagged in order to preserve its quality. 

For many years, Whole Foods bagged its artisanal breads in heavy-gauge plastic and I would simply save many those bags, rinse them out, and re-use them for double-bagging until they wore out, and then I'd swap them out for younger bags. 

But a year or two ago, they stopped doing this.  They began packaging their breads in a very thin plastic which is not robust enough for double-bagging. 

Whole Foods probably did that conversion as a waste minimization measure, but it caused me headaches, because you would be amazed at how difficult it is to find a plastic bag suitable for the double bagging of bread loaves.  Zipper freezer bags are not large enough.  Shopping bags are too thin.  I don't know of a commercially-produced new bag that would be optimal for this purpose. 

I finally found a good solution in HEB's branded line of tamales. 
There's an inner bag which is heat-sealed around the tamales, and a heavy-gauge outer bag. 

Also, these are pretty good tamales.  Not organic as I would prefer, but good tasting and not greasy (greasy is usually the kiss of death for mass-produced tamales).  Being already double-bagged, they, too can be popped into the freezer for longer-term storage if desired. 
The outer bag doesn't come into contact with the tamales, so it doesn't even need to be washed before re-use.  After I open the inner bag of tamales, I store the uneaten portion in gallon-size zipper bags rather than returning them to their original too-valuable outer bags. 
Problem solved - the perfect size and plastic weight for bread.  These danged plastic bags ended up being just as valuable to me as the tamales that originally came in them. 

You can suck the air out of your freezer bags if you wish, but I find that, as long as the result is air-tight, it doesn't matter much if there's some air left inside.  I find that bread will store in the freezer for several weeks like this without a measurable loss of quality. 
So that's my suggestion if you're a freezer fanatic as I am: if you can't find a doubling bag to fit your bread or whatever else you're intending to freeze, shop around for another food product which comes in a heavy-gauge bag you can re-use for this purpose.  If you don't live in an area of the country where HEB grocery stores are found, there's probably another bagged food product out there that would work for you. 

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