I've been attempting to make white bread using a recipe from my grandmother. However, since she used to bake this bread every weekend and could probably have done it in her sleep, when she wrote down the recipe she was very vague. Recipe is as follows:
In a large bowl:
4 cups boiling water
3-4 tablespoons shortening
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt (this may be left out)
In a medium bowl:
2 cups cold water
2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups powdered milk
In a small bowl:
3 tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup water 110-115 degrees
Let yeast dissolve and begin action. Mix all ingredients in large bowl, making sure hot liquids have cooled enough before adding dissolved yeast. Add flour (not too much) and beat with electric beater for a few minutes. Add enough flour to make a firm dough. Knead approximately 8 minutes. Grease large bowl and place dough in bowl. Grease top of dough. Let rise. Punch down and shape into loaves. Grease pans and place loaves in pan and grease top of loaves. Let rise. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30-40 minutes.
I usually halve the recipe since it results in a lot of bread otherwise. When halved, I add roughly 8-9 cups of flour (I have a flour scoop that picks up just over 1 cup flour) into the dough before rising, then another 2-3 cups that get mixed in while I'm trying to knead and using flour to keep the dough from sticking to everything.
One of the problems I'm having is crust vs interior doneness. Every attempt so far has resulted in a very thick crust which is either painfully chewy, extremely dry and crispy, or both; while the inside of the loaf is doughy and undercooked.
My grandmother's oven was 40-50 years old, beneath a gas stove, and not in the best of shape, so I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't actually baking at 350 degrees. Also, she lived in Michigan while I live in the Pacific Northwest (basically at sea level), so that's probably also not helping things.
What should I do differently to get bread that's fully baked in the middle, without a crust that's difficult to chew?