An experiment in ‘Best Before Dates’

This is probably the most extreme experiment I have done in testing the supposed ‘best before’ dates.  

Wholemeal Bread Recipe and their expiry dates:

  • Egg (this is within date)
  • Clear honey (ok so it needed microwaving to make it clear.) Best before July 2013!!
  • Lemon Juice (bottle kept in fridge, didn’t kill us on Pancake Day so should be ok) Best before August 2019
  • Wholemeal bread flour (unopened) Best before 23rd July 2018
  • White bread flour (didn’t have any so used a bit of plain flour) ok date
  • Skimmed milk powder.  Best before September 2019.
  • Yeast (checked last week it’s alive, it hadn’t been opened before the test). Best before 6th November 2019
 
 
So I popped the ingredients into the bread maker and left it to work its magic for 4.5 hours.
 
The results of the experiment…
 
Well it looks a bit wonky, looks unmixed on the top.  But when it was still warm we cut a slice to try it and actually, despite it looking hideous it actually tastes ok.  I’m not sure we will be repeating the experiment, but it was worth giving it a go.  I’d say the after taste is quite sweet, probably from the ancient honey! But then I wonder if it is the lemon juice I’m tasting, which makes no sense as that’s bitter!  Hmm it’ll need more taste testing once it has cooled.
 
So I have some questions: 
 
  1. Do you follow best before dates?
  2. How out of date is too out of date?
  3. Which ingredient being out of date do you think caused the wonky, dry unmixed looking top?
  4. Have you done any experiments with food?
 
 

25 comments

  1. I’ve been using out of date flour to make and feed a sourdough starter and it’s been fine so far, also I only ever seem to use in date yeast the first time I open the packet!

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  2. I’d say that looks avery reasonable loaf. What’s the lemon juice for? The bread I make has honey in it, too, and I make it by hand, so employ the sponge method, which makes it easier and quicker to knead. Yeast certainly loves honey!
    My plan for today is to make bread — first time in a while — but I’ll probably end up tipping most of my old bread flour away because (assuming no critters have managed to get into the storage container — which is a thing that happens, nasty as it sounds), the oils in the flour do oxidise, making it rancid. I have some granary flour which I’m sure is now no good to eat, unfortunately.

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    • I don’t know what the lemon juice does, it was just in the recipe for the bread maker for whole meal flour. I opted for the smaller sized loaf option, given how dodgy my ingredients were. I did check for flour mites, as I’ve had that happen when I lived in England. Nothing was moving and it smelt ok. The lemon juice probably had the most suspicious smell…acidic but not fragrant lemon. We’ll still eat it…it’s pretty tiny. I’m hoping to walk up to our farm shop later as they apparently have some bread flour. With white I don’t seem to need half the ingredients the wholemeal needed!? Of course I’m thinking if I buy white flour I may as well make Chelsea buns hahaha. I have icing sugar so old I can’t even think when I bought it, it’s in a Tupperware box as I remember the box gave up!

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  3. Oooh that looks delicious! I so wish that we had a bread machine but our kitchen is a bit small.
    I don’t always follow the best before dates. It really depends on what it is. For meat I ALWAYS follow the best before because I really don’t want to make myself sick. For something like honey, it’s basically just sugar which is a preservative in itself. If it doesn’t smell or look weird I’d totally eat it. I am a big believer in following our senses. If things smell or look bad then it’s best to avoid it. But dry good like lentils or pasta, if I am sure that moisture hasn’t got in I would also not worry about the best before.

    As for the unmixed looking part. My closest guess would be the yeast but that should only affect the rising. Does your bread machine have a manual and does it tell you what order to put the ingredients in? My mom’s does. It could be an issue of the ingredients going in in the wrong order and the machine not being able to mix it properly.

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  4. Liz, sounds like my store cupboard. I am now more confident about using my bag of strong bread flour and yeast lurking in their having read your experiment. Only thing I have which is new is my lemon juice as I use it regularly in an oat crumble recipe.

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  5. I do not go strictly by the dates. For one thing in America we have sell by dates and use by dates. No one actually pays any attention to the difference. My husband would throw everything out but at this point we need to use what we have because I’m not going back to the grocery store for a long time, LOL. If it’s a dry ingredient that is sealed I do not believe dates. Eggs by the way can keep for up to a year. in a life long ago are used to have chickens. If it’s over five years yeah I would toss it.

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  6. Dates do not scare me. Well, unless it is a dairy such as milk. Your wonkiness may be from using all purpose flour in place of bread flour. The gluten in bread flour helps with the rising of the loaf. (Don’t ask me how I learned this lol) I have never heard of using lemon juice in any bread recipe. None of my whole wheat loaves use it. Very interesting. Don’t give up on the bread making. Also, 4.5 hours seems a bit long in the bread maker. For my 1.5 pound loaf it only takes 3 hours. Stay well, Liz

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    • The bread maker is very old and the first 30 mins seems to be it just resting to allow the water to soak into some of the flour. Yes I think the white flour may be the problem as it is a lot lighter at the top as well. White loafs are much quicker it seems, but I know I once did a wholemeal loaf on a white bread setting once and it was a rock hard brick of a loaf. I picked up a bag of malted seeded flour and a bag of brown at our local farm shop so fingers crossed they’ll be better. I have some coconut milk powder as well as skimmed milk powder…may try that in a sweet dough. Experiments galore!

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  7. Glad you were able to find more flour! I follow the best by dates pretty closely, except in things like honey, which mostly lasts forever. It depends on whether the item is very perishable or not. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing how your further experiments go! I’m thinking about starting to do sourdough too.

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  8. Hello !
    Of all the ingredients you listed, the one thing you NEVER have to worry about is Honey. Honey will chrystalize over time but never goes bad unless something gets in it, like a drop of water. The Egyptians used honey as a preservative so, rest easy.

    Your flours will oxidize quickly unless kept in a cool or cold and dry place. You can tell it’s bad if you open the container and it smells sour, most likely to happen with the wholemeal as the white has been bleached.

    Eggs are good up to 14 days after purchase if kept cold the whole time. Check the date on the ends of the egg carton.

    It looks like the only reason your bread was wonky was the bread machine itself. Some ingredients didn’t mix well for some reason and it’s possible that the yeast was not quite “alive” enough.

    So, go ahead and bake ! You’re lucky that you have yeast. Here in the middle of the US all the yeast is bought out because people are learning to bake. So, I’ll be baking a lot of soda breads, bannock and biscuits if supplies of breads get thin.

    Thanks for posting your list, lots of people aren’t sure how long foods are good for. The “Best By” date is the date the manufacturer is saying that the product will taste or work at peak flavor. It’s the “Sell By” Or “Use By” dates that you have you been careful of, after those dates things go bad really fast.

    Wishing you health and a happy home,
    Meg in Arkansas

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  9. I’m not a stickler for BUB dates, but it really can depend on the item. We’ve opened (and bit into) sour graham crackers before and never wanting to repeat that, I’m reluctant to eat old crackers or chips – things like that. And once I made humus with spoiled tahini and that was a serious disappointment. But, most things I give it a smell test and will use if it seems okay. We have some wheat berries with some age on them, but they are unground and have been stored in air tight containers, so I’m looking forward to giving them a try. I expecting to be making bread again before the seige is over. ;^) Who knows… maybe we’ll decide to eat homemade regularly again.

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  10. I don’t follow best by dates unless it is dairy, and then I smell it first to make sure it is bad. I also smell whole grain flours, because they can go rancid quickly. as long as they don’t smell off I use them. I don’t know what would have caused the wonky unmixed top, but I don’t using AP flour instead of bread flour would make it wonky. It would make it a bit more dense and rise less. I’ve been baking a lot, but haven’t been cooking much. My whole family is going to need a carb detox.

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  11. I never really follow the best before dates, I simply forget to check. I just rely on common sense – if in doubt, throw it out. So far, we’ve survived my method, so here’s hoping my good luck will hold. 😉

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