Quick breads and muffins are easy to make and they also generally get eaten pretty quickly, too. But if you have leftover quick breads or muffins—or are wondering how to store a whole baked quick bread (or even an unbaked one)—we have a few techniques for storing them.
How Long Do Muffins and Quick Breads Last?
To begin with, quick breads and muffins are best the day you bake them. They stay pretty good for a day or maybe two after that, but if you keep them that long, you'll start to notice a couple of things.
One, muffins and quick breads can get stale, which is to say, they dry out. That's a normal part of the life cycle for any baked goods and it has to do with moisture loss. Anything baked has moisture in it, but that moisture is constantly being pulled to the surface where it evaporates. Ordinary yeast breads will become noticeably stale within a day or two of taking them out of the oven.
And two, muffins and quick breads can get soggy on the bottom or sticky on the tops. This, too, is caused by evaporation, but unlike unsweetened yeast breads, quick breads and muffins have sugar in them. So what happens is that the moisture that is pulled to the surface combines with the sugar and turns it sticky.
You will especially notice this with cakes and cupcakes, since they contain more sugar than flour. And muffins and quick breads, although they're sweet, generally contain more flour than sugar. Still, it can happen, particularly in recipes with more sugar in them.
So what can you do to prevent this? And what, in general, is the best way to store muffins and quick breads?
The answer is, it depends on how long you want to keep them.
How to Store Muffins and Quick Breads
Up to Two Days: For the first two days, muffins and quick breads are best kept on the countertop, covered loosely by a kitchen towel. Don't worry about them drying out too much. Remember, muffins and quick breads have plenty of fat, whether it's oil, shortening, or melted butter, which will ensure that they stay moist even when ordinary yeast breads would already have gotten stale. Yes, they'll be losing some moisture, but not enough to worry about.
Two to Four Days: At this stage, you're looking to balance the need to slow down the staling process against the need to avoid the sogginess or stickiness we talked about. So while it's a good idea to seal muffins and quick breads up at this stage, as opposed to just loosely covering them, doing so means there is nowhere for the moisture to evaporate, so wrapping or sealing them will tend to encourage sogginess and stickiness.
There are a couple of ways to remedy this. If you've got muffins and a sealable plastic container, line the bottom with a paper towel (folding it as necessary), then add your muffins, place another paper towel on top and seal the lid. The paper towels will absorb the excess moisture, preventing it from collecting at the surface. Store like this on the counter for up to two days (i.e. from day two to day four).
If you have a quick bread, wrap it loosely with paper towels and seal it in a large zip-top bag. (You can do this with muffins as well.)
Note that at no point during these four days should you store your muffins or quick breads in the refrigerator. Doing so will cause the starches to crystallize, turning your treats brittle and crumbly.
Longer Than Four Days: To keep muffins and quick breads longer than four days, you're going to need to freeze them. Fortunately, the freezer is kind to muffins and quick breads. Wrapping them in paper towels before sealing in freezer bags is a great idea, particularly to absorb any condensation when it's time to thaw them. They'll last two to three months in the freezer.
Ideally, if you know you need to store your muffins and quick breads for longer than four days, you'd freeze them right away, as opposed to keeping them on the countertop for four days and then freezing them. But if that's what it comes to, it will be fine.
Thaw frozen quick breads and muffins at room temperature or just heat them up in the oven or microwave.
Freezing Unbaked Quick Breads
While we're on the topic, you can actually freeze an unbaked quick bread. It helps to know in advance that you're going to do this. Line your loaf pan with plastic, pour the batter in, then fold the plastic over and freeze the whole thing. Then you can remove the block of batter from the pan and store it in the freezer for up to three months.
When you're ready to bake, simply unwrap the block, transfer it to your loaf pan and let it thaw overnight in the fridge.
You could also simply pour the batter into a loaf pan, wrap it with foil and freeze the whole thing like that. You won't get as tight a seal, but it will still last a month or two that way.
Obviously freezing unbaked muffins would be trickier, but the principle is the same. Just pour the batter into the cups, cover the entire pan with foil and slide it into the freezer.