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This is a challah recipe I inherited:

1 cup warm water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast

Knead, let rise, braid, let rise, egg wash, and bake at 375°F for an hour.

I like the flavor of this and the consistency of the bread inside. However, I don't like how hard and thick a crust it gets. I've tried leaving off the egg wash but it's still crispy and tough. (This hasn't always been a huge deal, it's just how this loaf bakes... but my daughter recently got braces, and she's finding it very difficult to eat!)

Are there tweaks I can make to ingredients, baking time, or oven temperature to get a more pliable crust?

  • How crispy are we talking here? Usually crispy bread is a good thing! – Behacad Jan 13 at 21:22
  • Very -- it crumbs easily, and is unpleasantly dry compared to the inside of the load. Generally challah is shared at our meals by tearing off pieces (each braid portion makes a chunk, sort of) and this doesn't really tear, it requires a lot of effort to break. – Erica Jan 14 at 0:21
  • I'd say it is either overcooked, or cooked at too high a temperature. – Behacad Jan 14 at 1:36
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    Tenting it with foil towards the end will help to keep the outside softer, but I think dealing with the potential over-baking should be the first step. I also can't remember if a milk wash (vs. egg wash) helps. I know it makes it more brown, but I can't remember if it makes it softer or not (it might just be that I pull it earlier because it's more brown, so it's cooked less) – Joe Jan 14 at 15:12
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I make the same Challah bread recipe every year, and mine says to bake at 350°f for 35 min and the crust is chewy but not crunchy or crisp. I've never had it under baked either.

  • I agree, 1 hour is way too long. – GdD Jan 14 at 10:59
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    Yeah, I'm starting to wonder whether Grandma's oven was extremely miscalibrated, and that's why it's so hot/long... – Erica Jan 14 at 16:32
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Another way to ask this question is: how can I cook the exterior of this food less, while keeping the inside cooked? The answer to this question is a lower temperature. This applies to most foods, including meat, cakes, etc. I suggest cooking this bread at a lower temperature for longer. The inside will be cooked and the outside will be relatively less cooked. Perhaps try 325.

Is your oven using convection by chance? If so, turn that off. Convection increases surface temperatures significantly and dries more due to moving air.

  • The convection function isn't running when we bake this. – Erica Jan 14 at 0:21
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As the currently provided information seems to point to overcooking, as the commenters and other answers already found out: you want to cook it until it is "just through" and see what happens. So I would suggest going by internal temperature instead of time.

Stick a meat thermometer in the bread and remove it when it reaches 96C, that should give you a properly baked bread. If that turns out to be too doughy, you can experiment with 98 C or so. But keeping it in the oven until dried out a lot will indeed produce the hard crust you describe.

When you do this, the inside of the bread will change also. Challahs tend to be rather soft-squishy, although this one probably not so much, as it is not overly heavy on egg yolk. But be prepared for a different texture on the inside.

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I've made normal white bread before, and when it came out of the oven I would cover it with a clean dish towel, and the crust would be soft after it had cooled. I'm presuming the steam would be trapped next to the crust and soften it. I remember the loaves I didn't do this to had very hard crusts.

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