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REHEATING BREAD IN THE MICROWAVE

When I microwave bread products, they alway s end up tough and rubbery. Why does this happen? Is there a way I can heat bread in a microwave successfully, or do I have to heat it in the oven?
-Jennifer Stevens, Chicago, IL



Robert Schiffmann replies:
Bread products can be reheated in the microwave without becoming tough. The trick is to wrap them in a paper towel and microwave them very briefly-five to ten seconds per roll or slice of bread. The paper towel acts as a barrier to keep the moisture in, yet it doesn't cause moisture to condense on the outside of the bread the way plastic wrap does. The bread will feel barely warm when you take it out of the microwave because the heat is concentrated in  the center, but by the time you get it to the table, the heat will have redistributed more evenly.

Bread products become tough only when they're microwaved for too long. Food scientists are researching and debating why microwaving toughens bread. Some believe it has to do with the way microwaves act on starch, while others think the gluten proteins may be responsible.

Hard and stale bread products don't reheat well at all in the microwave, so warm them in a regular oven. The heat in a regular oven softens the starch in stale bread and makes it taste moist and tender. For reasons not well understood, the energy from a microwave doesn't.

A final caution: be careful when microwaving baked products with icings, high sugar-based fillings, or dried fruit like raisins. These ingredients can heat very fast and may become very hot while the bread or cake portion stays much cooler. So use very little microwave time, and be careful when you take a bite.



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