How Fresh is Five-Month-Old Bread?





by Kemp Minifie


Kemp MinifieKemp MinifieWould you believe that the loaf of bread pictured above has been sitting on my kitchen counter at room temperature for five months? I have the receipt showing I bought the loaf--a well-known brand--on October 12, 2012 to test a recipe for Turkish Spiced Meatballs for Gourmet.com. It looks about as fresh as the day I purchased it.

I'm not one to waste food, but because I prefer the artisanal bread from bakers at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City--I'd planned to give what remained of the loaf to a neighbor. Unfortunately, the loaf got lost amid the clutter of my very small New York City kitchen, and before I knew it, several weeks had passed. By then I assumed the bread had become a fuzzy green mass of mold--the supermarket bread I ate as a kid would have been--and I was about to throw it away, when I decided to check to see just how gross a science experiment I'd accidentally been growing in my kitchen. To my complete shock the bread was pristine.

I checked the ingredient list. It contains 28 items, many of them unpronounceable--one of Michael Pollan's rules for foods to avoid--but I did note that calcium propionate and sorbic acid are included "to retain spoilage." Yum.

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Now I had a mission. I purposefully left the loaf, rewrapped in the same way it had been all along, right in the same place on the kitchen counter, and waited a total of nine weeks. Another examination proved the loaf was still as tender, white, and mold-free as before. At that point I wrote about it in a blog post for Gourmet.com. And I kept going with my experiment.

When I unwrapped my loaf last Tuesday morning, Tuesday, February 25, 2013, I was sure I'd find some mold, but again, amazingly, there was none. One or two of the first slices were getting a tad stale, but they would have been fine toasted and buttered. The rest were still astonishingly white, tender, and ready for PB&J or a slice of bologna!

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What I was witnessing was eerily reminiscent of Morgan Spurlock's movie, Super Size Me, where he keeps MacDonald's French fries in a glass jar at room temperature for ten weeks without a hint of rot. Sadly, Spurlock never was able to see how long the fries would last because they were accidentally thrown out. My husband and daughters are on full alert not to let that happen to this loaf.

As much as it creeps me out to think of bread lasting this long, I'm also a bit giddy with the excitement that sometimes erupts around things that are repellant: I can't wait to see just how long it takes the loaf to become inedible! Either it will eventually rot or dry out, but how long will that take? I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, has anyone else had a similar experience with commercial supermarket bread?

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