Sourdough Baguettes Come In Brown Bags For One Reason

Mastering the perfect baguette is the sign of a truly great baker. Mastering the fermentation, shaping, and baking of these delectable loaves of bread is notoriously difficult. Having freshly baked loaves to enjoy at home is worth the struggle though.

Baguettes can go great with crowd-pleasing appetizers and dips, make the perfect side for soups and stews, or serve as sandwich bread for banh mi. Busby's Bakery says that roughly 10 billion of these delicious loaves are sold in France alone every year. The modern baguette has only been around for about 100 years, but it may be one of the most popular types of bread in the world.

Like any other delicious treat though, baguettes can go bad. Does It Go Bad says that baguettes usually only last two to three days on average. These delicious types of bread are best enjoyed the day they're baked, and if you wait much longer they might better serve you as an improvised weapon instead. StillTasty says that you can always freeze baguettes to extend their shelf life a little bit longer, but the struggle to make the most of fresh baguettes seems to be a constant challenge.

What causes bread to go stale

Convincing bread to stay tasty and fresh has been a challenge for bakers and industry professionals alike for years. According to The National Parks Service, during the American Civil War, one of the most common foods given to soldiers was a type of bread known as hardtack. It was a simple combination of water, flour, and salt that could stay preserved for longer periods of time, and was eaten with water, coffee, or other liquids to soften its cracker-like texture. DutchCrafters adds that bread boxes were another common tool to help keep bread fresh in the days before preservatives and freezers.

Insider points out that the reason bread goes hard and stale is due to its starches. When the bread is baked, the starches within the dough soften and gelatinize. During this process, the starches absorb much of the moisture present in the dough. Once the dough has finished cooking, the bonds between the water and the starches weaken. Moisture in the bread then moves to other locations like the crust, and the interior crumb is left to become hard and dry.

Keeping bread fresh is more than just keeping it from going stale though.

Why baguettes are sold in paper bags

Another challenge with maintaining baguettes is keeping their signature crispy crusts from going soft. 

The Bread Guide claims that bread can sometimes go soft the moment it has finished cooling. This is due to insufficient airflow as the bread comes to room temperature, and is the main reason that bread needs to cool on wire racks. These give enough airflow around the loaves to help them cool properly, and keep the moisture from softening the crust too much.

The same goes for when you buy bread at a bakery. Southern Living says that bread is sold in paper bags to keep the crust from going soft. The paper bags do just enough to moderate airflow around the bread. This way, as the bread releases moisture, it is able to evaporate properly. If your bread was stored in a sealed plastic bag, that moisture would be trapped inside as well, and cause the crust to go soft. Bread made with preservatives can be sold in plastic bags because they are made to last longer, and thrive even in these conditions. Good artisan bread like baguettes though will not handle these conditions well and is best kept in paper bags. McGill University says that bread boxes are also a great way to allow some airflow without having the baguette completely exposed to the air.