Larry Penkava Column: When is a day 72 hours long?

Published 11:37 am Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving came and went without a word about the holiday in this space. To redeem myself from that gross oversight, I’ve flipped through my archives to find this piece of drivel.

In the interest of all those readers with leftovers from Thanksgiving, I pulled out this old column that provides hints for recycling so-called day-old bread.

Larry Penkava

Linda: Larry, I have this recipe that calls for day-old bread. Just what is day-old bread?

(Linda, a business colleague I dealt with on a regular basis, asked me that a few years ago when I was at her office looking at public records.-LP)

Does day-old mean it’s 24 hours old? Or, does it mean the bread has passed a sell-by date?

Me: I don’t know, Linda. I grew up in a house full of boys and bread never lasted more than a day.

Linda: Well, I need to know so I can use this recipe for bread pudding.

Me: I’ll see what I can find out.


Joyce: Lone Ranger Bakery, this is Joyce.

Me: Hi Joyce. I need to ask you a question. What is day-old bread?

Joyce: We don’t sell day-old bread anymore. Everything here is fresh.

Me: Well, Joyce, that’s fine, but what is it you don’t sell there?

Joyce: OK, bread is fresh for 72 hours. Our drivers take bread to put on store shelves, then bring back what’s left after 24 hours. So, the bread they bring back is still fresh for 48 more hours.

After 48 hours, we get rid of it.

Me: But Joyce, if the bread is 72 hours old, then it’s three-day-old bread, right?

Joyce: OK, when I say day-old bread, it’s still fresh. If you bake bread at home, do you throw it out after 24 hours?

Me: No, if there’s any left after 24 hours.

But where did the term, day-old bread, come from, Joyce?

Joyce: Day-old? Who knows. Long before I ever started in bread.

OK, our bread has two dates on the label. If one of them is, say, the 10th, then we can sell it through the 13th, and it’s still actually fresh.

Me: So, Joyce, why would they call it day-old when it’s more than a day old?

Joyce: I guess they just called it day-old because it sounded better than returned bread.

Actually, what makes bread day-old is that it’s had time to dry out some. That is, the gluten has had time to harden.

You know how soft and gooey fresh bread is? Well, that’s because the gluten is still moist. Once the bread is day-old, or really, more than 72 hours old, it’s dried out some.

Does that answer your question?

Me: I … think so.


Linda: Hello, this is Linda.

Me: Hey Linda. If you want day-old bread, first buy some fresh bread. It can be up to 72-hours old but it’s still not day-old bread. Got that?

Then take it out of the bag and either lay it out in the open air or put it in the oven on low heat. The drying-out process will make your 72-hour-old bread actually day-old because the gluten is fried.

Then you can use it in your recipe that calls for day-old bread — only it’s more than 72 hours old by definition. But it’s really less than 72 hours old since you bought it fresh and then hardened the gluten to make it day-old.


And don’t forget to save me some of that bread puddin’.

Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, often remembers the old roofing crew.