Your questions answered: Slicing fresh homemade bread

Sheila wrote with a question about slicing fresh bread:

Whenever I have made fresh bread, which has been a while, I have never been able to slice it well. It always comes out crooked or in big chunks.

My husband is going to install our old Chambers stove out on the back deck so I can cook/bake without heating up the house. (We live in Texas where it can hit 100 degrees by mid morning!)

I would like to start baking bread again, but was wondering how you slice your bread. Is there a special trick to it?

Hi, Sheila!

I have an electric knife, which is the easiest way for me to slice loaves of bread. The knife was a wedding gift, but I think they are fairly inexpensive ($10 perhaps?).

If I'm just slicing a fresh loaf for with dinner, any sharp, thin serrated knife works pretty well, also. If I have two or more loaves (or a huge loaf of garlic bread!) I get out the electric knife and use that. With practice, the electric knife can produce picture-perfect thick or thin slices of bread -- and it's faster, too.

When the bread is really fresh (cooled or slightly cooled, but not yet bagged) the crust tends to produce more crumbs during slicing.

If you don't need the loaf immediately, you can put the (cool) loaf into a bag, tie it shut, and slice it later. This will mean fewer crumbs since the crust will have softened up.

Here is my current fresh-out-of-the-oven routine:

1. Remove pans of bread from the oven and place pans on cooling racks.

2. Immediately grease or butter the tops of the bread (still in pans).

3. Cover bread with a clean towel (or two).

4. After about 5-7 minutes, remove loaves from the pans (Waiting makes the crust softer, a tip I learned from Tanya's blog!).

5. Cover loaves with the towels until completely cool.

6. Slice bread and place loaves into bags and tie shut. Turning loaves on their side for slicing seems easiest for the knife to get through! :)

If you're not using any dough conditioners and you made several loaves of bread, you can put loaves into the freezer as soon as they're cool and sliced. Thaw loaves in the bag (sealed, to keep out condensation) on the counter several hours before using.

What's your fresh-from-the-oven bread routine? I'd love to hear! :)

Comments

Here is the link to a bread slicer my husband made for me. So easy yet so valuable. Not only can you use this to slice perfect bread any thickness, but you can also use it to cut squash, eggplant, potatoes etc. Anything you can lay in it and need a straight slice. 

I was fortunate enough to get a free Bosch slicer when I got my Bosch mixer and Nutrimill. It is a light weight version of the big electric meat/cheese slicers. I do not use it for anything but slicing bread and it has worked very well now for 2 years. It gives me great control over having the thickness and all the slices being the same. Other than that my routine is pretty well like Tammy's.

You need a bread knife its the one thats Serrated, or else when you cut the bread it will squish down. Hot bread is softer so it can be harder to slice. Don't put a lot of weight on the knife let it cut easy or else it will squish. I worked in a bakery and even putting hot bread through the bread slicer it would squish it.

We use a Cutco serrated knife for our bread cutting. Works well, my favourite knife to use so far.

This past winter my mom shared with me the tip that Tammy mentioned (and I shared then with Kitchen tip Tuesdays) and I have been really happy with the results. :) ~Tanya - mama to 5 :)

When I slice my sandwich style bread, I flip it on it's side and that makes for neater slices. However, this fiddlehead bread knife looks awesome!

Tanya, I got the link to your post put in -- I had meant to do that earlier but forgot! :)

Also, I turn my loaf on the side to slice it, too. I guess I forgot to mention that part! :) It seems like it's easier for the knife to go through the side first rather than the top. :)

No problem! :)

I haven't tried slicing mine sideways... I also cut as we need it. Do you slice it all at once, or as needed. I have thought that slicing it all before freezing would be helpful for the times, you realize you are out of bread, right when it is meal time and the loaf is in the freezer. :) ~Tanya - mama to 5 :)

similar...except I butter mine about 5 minutes before taking it out of the oven so it won't be greasy to the touch. A few less fingerprints to wipe off later;-)!

-Donna-

what a great day for you to blog these tips! i just blogged my foolproof bread recipe today and stopped short of explaining the whole slicing and out of the oven tips. you're awesome! i'll just link them here. thanks!

I'm sorry if I missed this, but do you slice the entire loaf in the beginning or slice as you go? We slice as we go, to prevent it from drying out.

~M

I slice the loaf all at once. We can easily go through a loaf in one day... I don't like the bother of getting out a knife every time we need bread, or leaving one out on the counter where little fingers could reach. :)

That's a good idea. I should do that, too. Our bread knife has been picked up by little ones a few too many times. We stopped letting our older kids slice their own because they often forget to put the knife away again, but sometimes I forget, too. Doing it once a day would help.

I purchased an electric knife and bread slicing guide quite a while ago. It has made all the difference. Now even sandwiches are enjoyable with homemade bread --even, perfect and thickness. I slice all my loaves before putting them in bread bags and freezing them. Now I only deal with crumbs once a week.

When I make bread, I usually get the loaves out of their pans after a couple of minutes and let them cool on a rack. (I keep meaning to try buttering the tops, but I forget!)

I let all of the loaves except one cool then put them in plastic bags. Keep one out and put the rest in the freezer right away.

We usually eat one loaf (or most of one) hot. It is hard to slice, even with a good knife, the pieces squish and are uneven, but you can't beat hot bread with butter and jam - even if it looks bad! This is usually our lunch on "bread day".

We take our bread out of the pan asap so that the outside does not get mushy. That can happen if you leave it in the hot pan too long. I wrap mine in a kitchen towel and leave it on the cooling rack overnight. We can slice it even very thin the next day and it is still as moist as ever.
God Bless,
Michele

My sister has always sliced her bread using a bread slicer and an electric knife. Perfect slices every time. =)

We do a lot of things differently here. :) I think that that is mainly because we almost never eat toast or sandwiches. We don't usually butter the crust because we don't want it to get soft. We shape the bread in long skinny loaves -partly because that gives more crust (our favorite part of the bread), and partly because they stack so nicely in the freezer. I don't freeze our bread after baking; I freeze the dough. So instead of a baking day, I have a dough-making day. And when we bake, we take it from the oven and set it on a rack. We never put it in a bag. They get eaten too quickly anyway, but I used to make large round loaves, and since our bread is sourdough, we still never needed to use plastic bags. Sourdough keeps much longer than yeast-risen bread (5 days is no problem). We just cut off the outer slice that got dried out, and the rest is fine.

Once in a while we make a white bread -we have a yummy braided bread that is made with ricotta. That one does get buttered when we take it from the oven. Yum!

One thing you could do is par bake the bread then freeze it, so when you need it, it will only take 15 mins to bake, thats how most bakerys do it these days. Also you need to take the bread out of the pan asap or else it will stick, and make sure the bread is complety cool before bagging it, or else it will sweat the bag and cause bread to mold.

To par bake: bake your bread until it is about 80% done and then freeze it. When you want to use it bake it and you can bake it frozen. I worked in a bakery and we always cooked it from a frozen state. Or you can let it sit out and thaw, it did'nt make a diffrence in taste just in cooking time.

The problem with freezing dough is the dies when refrigerated or frozen. Not all of it, but a lot of it.
The frozen breads you buy at the grocery store, thaw, rise and bake use a massive overdose of yeast.

I have had bread that I under-cooked, and put it back in the oven about 10 minutes later... I baked it for plenty of time but it still never had the right texture inside.

I grease my bread pans, so the bread doesn't stick even though I don't take it out immediately. :)

I have never tried par-baking. What temperature do they bake at in the bakeries?
Do they throw it frozen into a really high heat?

I'm sure I'll be sticking with the frozen dough method because our freezer is little and already packed :). I have never had any problem with the yeast dying. It's always pretty lively by the time I bake it. Maybe that's because it's sourdough and not regular yeast? I do let it go through the first rise before shaping and freezing it, and I also thaw it thoroughly. I'm sure those steps affect things, too.

I must make a public confession: I never made homemade bread by hand due to my nifty breadmaker. The machine makes wonderful soft bread that can be difficult to slice when warm. Who could resist warm homemade bread with butter? Here is my solution. For those who had trouble slicing warm bread, cut with an electric knife when the loaf has cooled. I also use a "bread slicing guide" for uniform slices. It's worth the investment.. believe me. Here is what it looks like :
http://www.amazon.com/Presto-Bread-Slicing-System-Electric/dp/B000JNK3VE
Good luck!!

I made a triple batch of your wonderful bread this afternoon and it tastes great. My question is in shaping it to get that high top "bakery look". I typically roll the dough into a rectangle then fold it envelope-style and tuck the ends under before placing in the pan. Should I try the jelly roll technique or free form to get the best results?? FYI: I have been baking all our bread products for about two years now.

Thanks!!

I recently purchased two bread slicer devices: the Presto others have referenced and a Bread & Bagel Trap II (alas, discontinued by the mfgr), for less than $4 total.

The B&B Trap II was at a St. Vincent de Paul store, in its original box with instructions; the other at an American Council for the Blind store. Both are in mint condition.

i have one i love to use with my bread machine loaves .. but i have no instructions (got it on ebay !!). what are all the hooks and legs and things for ?? lol

A number of points. First, I never have problems with bread sticking in my bread pans and I've used various types of pans. Before baking I lightly butter the whole inside of the pan making sure to cover the sides all the way to the top of the pan.

I believe the key to non-sticking bread is to thoroughty clean your pans after each use and I mean returning them to new condition. Those little baked on brown spots make perfect anchors for baked bread to stick to. If you can't get your bread pans sparkling clean, break down and buy some new ones and then KEEP THEM CLEAN.

After baking I immediately shake the bread from the bread pan and place the loaf on a wire rack for cooling and let them cool for at least two or three hours. I then place them in a bread sack (I pick up three or four whenever I shop at Winco) and seal tightly and allow them to set overnight. They then cut easily the next morning with my favorite serrated bread knive. With a little practice you can get nice, neat, unitorm bread slices without the need for gadgets.

thanks so much for the electric knife idea!

Just wondering why not???

I got an electric deli style food slicer last year and have been using it for everything. From Tammy's Spicy Pepperoni to shredding lettuce. I make my own roast beef and the slicer is a must for that thin deli style sandwich. Well I make all my own breads also and the slicer does a perfect slice. Thin, regular or thick it doesn't matter. I got the slicer because I have hand issues and was starting to drop knives which would sometimes end up in my hand, Not Good! I wish I had gotten one years ago. Get a decent one so expect to pay at least $80 but there is no better way of cutting a loaf of bread.

If you're not using any dough conditioners and you made several loaves of bread, you can put loaves into the freezer as soon as they're cool and sliced.

Why is this Tammy?

I made for the first time Bread in a Dutch Oven, the no knead Bread recipe. With the Bread I had a problem with slicing. The Crust is very hard. But it tasted very good. If i cut the bread the next day, will it cut better?

I mix up 3 loaves of bread in my Kitchen Aid and then bake all three. I cool my loaves of bread for a couple hours and then I slice each loaf. Place a gallon freezer bag which has the slider on top, on its side. I place four slices in it, then I put a gallon size cheap baggie Slip this in the first gallon bag, above the first 4 slices, slip 4 more slices of bread in this, then slip 4 more slices of bread on top of this. You will have 3 layers of bread and each layer is seperated, you then can freeze this and if you are alone in the house. You can slip out one or two slices out and let thaw to room temp.
Also to have a good bread with texture like boughten bread. I surfed the internet and got this answer. No milk, only water and some instant potatoes. So good.

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