“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BBB - Broa

Broa is a nice, rustic corn bread from Portugal. I should probably say "bread with corn", as it's not really anything close to corn bread as we know it, a yellow square of cakey, squishy, moist bread made with honey and corn and highly enhanced when consumed with butter. Although, having said that, this bread is kind of squishy and made with corn and honey and also benefits from a good lick of butter....Heck, maybe it's corn bread after all!

This month's Bread Baking Babe's recipe comes from Elizabeth, who chose the Portuguese bread Broa, a traditional bread made with corn. The bread itself is a dense loaf, rustic on the outside and a moist crumb on the inside. I favor it best a couple of days old and toasted.

Here are Elizabeth's recipe and instructions:

Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread

based on Jane’s (Little Compton Mornings) Pao de Milho
makes one large round loaf or two smaller ones

300gm (~1¼ US c) boiling water
7 gm (~1 tsp) honey
145 gm (~1¼ US c) white cornmeal, finely ground (I used Harina P.A.N)
4 gm (1 tsp) active dry yeast
120gm (~½ US c) lukewarm water
60 gm (~½ c) whole wheat flour
300 gm (~2½ c) unbleached all-purpose flour, not necessarily all of it
15 gm (~ 2 Tbsp) white corn flour (I used yellow corn flour)
10 gm (~1¾ tsp) sea salt

corn flour, for dusting

About an hour before mixing the dough, put the cornmeal (finely ground meal from dried corn, aka maize) and honey into a large mixing bowl. Pour in boiling water and stir well. Set aside to cool until just warm (do the baby bottle test on your wrist to test).

When the cornmeal has cooled, pour lukewarm water into a small bowl; add yeast and whisk well. Set aside.

Add the corn flour, wholewheat flour, 275 gm (~1¾ c) all-purpose flour and salt to the cornmeal mixture (you’ll use some or all of the remaining flour for kneading). Stir well. Check the temperature again to make sure it isn’t hot. Stir in the yeast mixture. The dough should be pulling away from the side of the bowl. Don’t worry if it’s somewhat sticky. Don’t be surprised if it’s down right sloppy.

Kneading: Sprinkle a little of the extra all-purpose flour onto the board. Plop the dough out.

Hand wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Yes, this step is important. It prepares the rising bowl, gets your hands nice and clean AND allows the dough to rest a little.)

Knead the dough until smooth and shiny by hand about 10 minutes. Use your dough scraper to keep the board clean . Add a tiny bit more flour if the dough seems sticky but try not to add too much – the dough should be soft (you don’t have to use up all the extra half cup of all-purpose flour).

Proofing: As best you can, form the dough into a ball and plop it into the clean bowl (there is NO need to oil the bowl!!) and cover the bowl with a plate. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t seem to be all that smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in a non-drafty area of the kitchen for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes has passed, very lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out. If necessary, gently spread the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the dough scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the sloppy left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover the bowl. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. Repeat this step two more times. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) It may not be until the third time that the dough will look like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in those three maneuvres is not more than a couple of tablespoons in all and probably much less (I have never actually measured). It’s the merest dusting.

After the final folding maneuver, cover the bowl again and let rise in a no-draft place on the counter (or in the cold oven with only the light turned on), until it has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours – if your kitchen is around 21C (72F) it will take about an hour. A good way to tell if the dough has doubled is to dip your finger in cold water and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.

Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Press the dough into a rectangle. Fold the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. Place it seam side down on parchment papered peel or cookie tray. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by any old large plastic bag and allow to the bread to rise in the same no-drafty area of the counter until is has about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough. (1 to 4 hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen). 

Preparing the oven: About fifteen minutes before baking the bread, make sure there is a rack on the second to the top shelf. Preheat the oven to 400F.

Baking: Spray the loaf liberally with water then sprinkle with cornflour. Slide the bread onto the stone if using (the parchment paper can go onto the stone) and bake the bread at 400F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F and turn the bread around at the same time to allow for uneven heat in the oven (remove the parchment paper if the bread is on a stone). Bake a further 15 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when knocked or the internal temperature is between 200F and 210F.

When the bread is done, remove to cool on a footed rack. Wait until the bread is completely cool before cutting it (it’s still not finished baking inside when it’s hot out of the oven).

It's not ugly, it's rustic......

Ofcourse, I don't have half the patience Elizabeth has so I added the boiling water to the corn flour, added in the honey and the salt and let it sit for a good ten minutes until the temperature had dropped to about 110F. Then I mixed the rest of the ingredients together, threw in the now warm corn meal mush, mixed it all and let it sit, covered, for twenty minutes. It is indeed a goopy mess, so I added a handful of flour, kneaded the dough as well as could be expected and let it sit for another forty. Turned on the oven, heated the baking tiles to 450F. Kneaded the dough a bit more, then turned it out onto the floured counter, shaped it into a ball and put it on parchment paper. When the oven was up to 450F I turned it down to 400, put the parchment paper with the dough on the tiles, threw in a couple of ice cubes in the tray on the bottom and closed the door. After fifteen minutes, I lowered the temp to 375F, baked the bread for another fifteen minutes and checked internal temp. 199F and rising, so out it came and rested on the metal grid to cool off. Judging from the fact that more than half of it is gone this morning (toasted last night for dinner and this morning for breakfast), I'd say it's worth the hassle!


  1. Rustic is good, very good in your case. Your loaf looks beautiful. Thanks for baking with us!

  2. What a great description of the bread, Nicole! And I love the way the bread looks. Yes, it looks rustic but it also looks beautiful. I'm so glad it turned out well for you.

    Thank you for baking with us!

  3. Sounds a bit like Annadama Bread