Baking is a form of art. Be it bread or cake, cookies or doughnuts, you can always expect these bakery items to come packaged to you artistically. Not to mention, these products are not just great the way they look, but in terms of taste as well.
One problem with bakery items is that they do not have a very long shelf life. A loaf of bread will only be good for two or three days max before catching mold. The same goes for other sweet or savory baked items like cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pizzas, and so on. And external factors like the weather and temperature play vital roles in this regard.
So let us take a look at some of these important factors that can affect the shelf life of bakery items.
1. The Temperature of the Surroundings
Bakery items should be stored at temperatures between -21 degrees Celsius, to 10 or 55 degrees celsius. You will have to keep the products at these temperatures for a short or long period, depending on the item. Any deviation from this range could seriously affect the bakery products.
Bacterial growth can take place in all sorts of environmental conditions. Thermophiles, for instance, grow in warm conditions, whereas psychrophiles grow better in colder temperatures. Then you have mesophiles and Psychrotrophs that grow in between those warm and cold conditions respectively, leading to the formation of molds on the surfaces of cakes, biscuits, bread, and other items.
The weather can also affect the structural integrity of various bakery products. It can also mess with the way the item tastes, and how long it needs before spoiling. Hence, even bakeries these days need to stay updated on the latest weather developments. To keep an eye on the weather Tomorrow, weather apps and websites are a great option. With real-time data and weather intelligence reports, you can stay up-to-date on the latest weather developments. Besides, it always helps knowing how the weather is going to be before you can set your mind to baking something.
2. Cooling the Products After Baking
All bakery items are baked at high temperatures, which serves two key purposes. Firstly, it helps build the structural integrity of the product. And secondly, it eliminates almost all the microorganisms on the product. However, although microorganisms are eliminated, the products can be contaminated, given the right conditions like moisture and temperature.
Hence, once the products reach a certain temperature, they are allowed to cool down. This helps to minimize the impact of the bacteria on the items, and also allows the products to retain a lot of their moisture, and most importantly the taste. We will get into the details of this cooling procedure in the following section.
3. Chilling and Freezing
Chilling the products means you are taking them to temperatures above the freezing point. Chill storage can alter the type of spoilage as well as its rate of occurrence. Lower temperatures prevent the growth of mesophiles. As a result, the growth and spread of Psychrotrophs are also hindered (since the temperature is not optimum for them). That in turn delays the spoilage process even further.
Chilling leads to a situation known as the cold shock, where the microorganisms are somewhat destroyed as they are during the baking process. While a cold shock may not be as effective as high-temperature baking, it still manages to do its job, and also goes on to prevent further spoilage.
Freezing, on the other hand, is a more generalized preservation process when it comes to improving the shelf life of bakery items. Rapid freezing is important for a lot of bakery products as they help form ice crystals that allow the products to retain and preserve their quality. Freezing rate and time vary from product to product. Under optimal freezing conditions, you can expect the bakery items to last a long time.
Packaging plays a vital role in preventing instant spoilage. They isolate the product from coming in contact with the air and other external factors. Airtight packaging helps the baked items to remain fresh, and free from spoilage for a good amount of time.
Although packaging itself will not be enough unless your products go through baking and cooling, it is still a convenient way to keep the items fresh and free from spoilage.
There are a lot of other factors that influence the shelf life of bakery items. However, for now, knowing just these will do. As you get into baking yourself, you will experience a lot more, and then you can dive deeper into the other factors we did not cover in this post.