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Bread pudding? Basically, staling happens when starches have been moistened, heated and cooled. This changes the crystalline form of the starch granules — they go from hard to soft and then back to hard again, but in a different form than they started. This happens much more rapidly at moderately cold temperatures.
Staling | Baking Processes | BAKERpedia
One group of Spanish scientists analyzed bread staling at different temperatures and found that it was worst at 40 degrees. Which is almost exactly the base temperature for most home refrigerators. Paradoxically, more cold is better. Freezing delays staling. And, to a limited extent, reheating cures it.
Even though retrogradation is a curse for the bread baker, it can be useful too. For example, have you ever tried to fry rice when it has been freshly cooked?
Nasty, right? Sticky, gummy and mushy. And that reason is retrogradation.
Also known as bread aging or product firming
When cooked rice is chilled, the outer starch shell hardens, keeping the grains light and separate when you re-heat them. Once that shell hardens, it also reduces the amount of flavoring the rice will absorb.
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- Causes of bread staling;
And the same thing happens when you make a potato salad. Ever wondered why the texture of a warm potato salad is so different from one served cold?
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Again though, be sure to dress the potatoes lightly before cooling — just a sprinkling of vinegar will do the trick. While it is warm, the bread tends to be soft and squishy — the perfect time for us to go a bit crazy with some butter and homemade strawberry jam!
How bread goes stale – Science & Tricks
However, as the bread cools, the starch molecules gradually begin to realign themselves into the organized crystalline structure that they originally had. With time, the degree of recrystallization increases and the bread becomes firmer, or stale. Now for the mistake that a lot of people make. For perishables, this is ideal since it slows the spoilage process.
When placed in the refrigerator, the rate at which the starch crystals re-form is increased as heat is withdrawn and the molecules realign faster than bread at room temperature. As a result, bread kept in the refrigerator actually stales more quickly than bread that is not refrigerated. If you need to store bread for a prolonged period of time, you should freeze it rather than just refrigerating it.
These very low temperatures are sufficient to almost halt the recrystallization process by freezing the water in the bread and substantially reducing the movement of the starch crystals. The thawed bread will not be as soft as fresh bread, but it tends to be better in quality than if it had been refrigerated. You also need to remember that moisture must be prevented from escaping from the bread by keeping it in a sealed container.
The Complexities of Bread Staling
If not, the bread will simply dry out, which can have a similar undesirable effect to staling. You can use your knowledge about the staling process in reverse if you have some stale bread and want to freshen it up a bit. By heating the bread, either by toasting it or warming it in an oven, you will add enough energy to start the starch crystals moving away from their rigid crystalline structure, which will soften the bread until it begins to cool again.
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