Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Staling takes place in the days following baking, and seems to involve the loss of moisture: the bread interior gets dry, hard, and crumbly. It turns out that bread will stale even when there’s no net loss of moisture from the loaf. This was shown in the landmark study of bread staling in 1852, when the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Boussingault showed that bread could be hermetically sealed to prevent it from losing water, and yet still go stale. He further showed that staling is reversed by reheating the bread to 140°F/60°C: the temperature, we now know, at which starch gelates.