Thursday, July 5th, 2018
The fashionable good cause this year seems to be the avoidance of single-use plastics. I’ve been worried about the big increase in the number of freezer bags that I have consumed since starting the B&B. Mostly I’ve been using them to freeze bread and croissants. Homemade bread does not keep for longer than a day or two, and the croissants that I buy from in-store bakeries lose their freshness in a matter of hours. That’s how it should be. I am highly sceptical of the “stay fresh longer” loaves one can buy these days — what do they put in them? Tesco’s croissants, which are made in their stores throughout the day, must be eaten on the day they’re bought. They do not survive well even if purchased the evening before. I freeze them as soon as I am back home and they stay in the freezer until just before my guests come down to breakfast. I toss them into my already hot oven (where the sausages and tomatoes are merrily sizzling) for about five minutes, and tip them out into a basket, ready for eating. As for the sourdough, I freeze it as soon as possible after baking it and let it defrost slowly overnight when it’s needed for the next day’s breakfast. I also freeze individual slices of wholemeal bread, as I don’t make my own — homemade sourdough and yoghurt are enough for me to cope with.
I have tried to re-use polythene freezer bags, but this doesn’t work. It’s impossible to get all the crumbs out, and if they’re left in the bags mould will develop. If I wash the bags, they take ages to dry, crumbs still lurk in the corners and folds, and the kitchen gets strewn with floating plastic bags looking for somewhere to park themselves. It really is more trouble than it’s worth. After much research I decided to try freezing bread and croissants in muslin drawstring bags. It’s worked brilliantly. In the case of longer-term freezing, the contents will dry out sooner than they would in a plastic bag. My solution is to pop the cloth-wrapped contents inside a polythene bag. Crumbs stay within the muslin, and the polythene bags remain clean and can be used more than just once, which is the aim of this exercise. It’s best not to keep items in the freezer for too long anyway, so most of the time, cloth bags popped straight in the freezer will be sufficient. After defrosting the contents, I turn the cloth bags inside out and shake them outdoors. The crumbs brush off easily and provide food for the birds! After a few uses, I throw the bags into the laundry basket along with the hundred and one other items going in the wash that day.