Breads and Crackers · Cornmeal

Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread

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Speaking, as we were recently , of Portuguese food, I figured it was about time to put up this post. 

I actually made this bread at some point last spring (you'll see a daffodil and some hyacinths in a little vase on the windowsill) and I don't know why I didn't post it then.  Must have gotten sidetracked by something.

Or maybe I was meant to wait til now.

Now, this recipe for Broa is from one of my trusty bread books – Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein. (I've linked to the revised edition – the one I have is out of print.)  I think I stumbled upon this recipe because it comes right before Potato Bread, which I've made – and messed around with – too many times to count.  The chapter these breads are found in is "Corn and Potatoes – Seeds of the Americas." 

As Mr. Greenstein says in his introduction, "…this loaf is heavy, moist, and crusty."  Yum.

There's a part to this recipe that I've never seen before (which means nothing, really) and I wanted to see if this is typical of Broa or an addition Mr. Greenstein had included for some reason.  (It's the cornstarch part – you'll see it.)  Anyway, so I looked up Broa online, and while I didn't find anything about the cornstarch, I did find this sentence in the entry for Broa in Wikipedia:

"This yeast bread has the wholesome rustic flavor and texture that suitably accompanies soups, especially Caldo Verde, the Portuguese green soup made with tender kale, potatoes, and chouriço sausages."

Like I said, maybe I wasn't supposed to post this until now. 

So, shall we make some?  As I recall, I pretty much followed Mr. Greenstein's recipe exactly, since I'd never made Broa before.

There are three parts to this recipe – the sponge, the boil, and the dough.  Here's the list of ingredients for all three parts.

Sponge

1 cup water

2 pkgs active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups bread flour

Boil

3/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

Dough

1 cup corn flour (see Note)

2 to 3 cups bread flour

1 T salt

Flour, for dusting worktop

Flour or cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet

Potato flour, for topping (I used regular flour – didn't have potato flour)

(Note:  Corn flour is available in some specialty or natural foods stores.  You can substitute stone-ground cornmeal by grinding it, 1/4 cup at a time, into a fine powder in a blender or food processor.)

Let's go…

For the sponge – dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add the flour and stir until it's smooth. 

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Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to double in volume – about 30-40 minutes.

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While the sponge is rising, bring the 3/4 cup of cold water (listed under "Boil") to a rapid (you guessed it) boil.  Slowly add the dissolved cornstarch, stirring all the while.  Bring this mixture to another boil, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

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Now, I have to interrupt myself here because I was totally fascinated by the cooling cornstarch mixture.  It was just so cool!  Gloopy and jelly-ish and gross – I just had to take a bunch of pictures of it.  And then share them with you.

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Awesome stuff, huh?  I was going to say it would work great for slime or mucus or some other grossness at a Halloween party or something.  I WAS going to say that, but it's only gross and slimey while it's still warm.

But as it cools…

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It does this:

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It congeals.  Which is also kind of cool and gross.  It's just not slimey.  But still…it just screams Halloween Grossness, doesn't it?

But I guess we should get back to the bread.

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Once the sponge has doubled, you add the cooled cornstarch mixture, the corn flour two cups of the bread flour, and the salt. 

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I had some blue cornmeal on hand, so that's what I used for my corn flour. 

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Mix everything together with the dough hook until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  You may need to add more bread flour, but don't expect a really firm dough – it should be on the soft side.

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Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth.

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Divide the dough in two and shape each half into a round loaf.  Place them on a floured sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, and dust the tops of the loaves with flour as well.  (Potato flour if you have it, otherwise you can use regular bread flour). 
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Cover the loaves and set aside for an hour or so.
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Hey – here's another sign that I made this bread last spring.  Julia still had long hair.

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Okay, an hour or so has passed.  Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F (that's not a typo – it's a hot oven).

Shall we take a peek at the bread?

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They're looking lovely!

We're just about ready to bake. 

Put a heavy duty shallow metal pan in the bottom of your oven or on the lowest rack about five minutes before it's time to bake.  Heat a couple of cups of water, or just pour two cups of the hottest possible water from the tap.

When it's time to put the bread in the oven, pour the hot water into your shallow pan after you've placed the baking sheet on a rack.  The water will create a burst of steam – close the door quickly and be careful, as you're doing all of this, not to burn yourself.

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Bake the bread about 50-60 minutes.  You want a a very hard, dark crust.  Tap on the bottom of one of the loaves – it should sound hollow.  The rest of the loaf should feel very hard, not soft or squishy.  

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Let the bread cool on a wire rack.

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It will smell really, really good. 

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Slice it up (or tear it apart) and enjoy.  (With some caldo verde, perhaps…)

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One thing we did with the last of the bread, which, while it may not be traditional, was nevertheless delicious, was to make crostini with some of the slices and top with a puree of white beans, olive oil, rosemary and garlic, leftover roasted lamb, and feta cheese.  It was scrumptious.

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Now…I know there are other Broa recipes out there.  Anyone care to share the one they use?  I'd love to try another version!
 

18 thoughts on “Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread

  1. Hi Jayne!

    Great pictures! I bet your Broa or Boroa was absolutly great! 😉

    Some years ago, when it was normal to make Broa at home, on those ovens where you cook with the wood which would itself give some flavor, depending on what the tree was, (we call it “forno a lenha”, I confess I don’t know how to say it in english, sorry!), sometimes they’d put some “presunto”, pieces of “chouriço”, dried figs, or even sardines, to make different kinds of Broa, and also to make it like a whole meal (with some soup, obviously 😀 )

    Being a very Catholic country, (well, at least it used to be that way!), the people making Broa believed that if they marked the batter with a cross,(which was made positioning the hand laterally) before letting it rest and rise, it would grow better and cook nicely! If they didn’t do that, once in the oven, something would go wrong and the Broa would gone bad! Of course this is just an interesting story 😉 and it shows some of our folklore, but it just shows the importance our people gives to food, how it is linked to quality time spent with the family and friends, and every religious holiday has a special dish associated with it, as a way of celebrating!

    Keep those posts coming! eheh

  2. This bread looks so good!

    Coming from Germany, I don’t usually bake my own bread as there’s a huge variety of many different and great breads avaiable everywhere, but maybe I’ll give this recepie a try.

    I’ve been reading your blog on a nearly daily basis now. It’s amazing to see the things you’re whipping up and I especially like how you’re taking the freedom to alter recepies here and there.

    It’s a real inspiration. And everything looks soooo yummy! You’re doing a great job. Please keep it up.

  3. This may sound like a very silly and basic question, but I tried making my first loaf of bread the other night and failed miserably. The yeast didn’t “proof” properly I think.
    I’m on a gluten free diet so I have to make my own bread (or buy icky rice bread) and I found a great recipe that includes sorghum flour, potato starch and millet flour. It tasted okay, it was just mushy in the middle.
    I used dry active yeast… how do I proof it correctly so I can get a proper loaf of bread? I’ve been a month without bread… your help would be greatly appreciated!!
    PS, I’m baking it in the oven and not a bread machine.

  4. I don’t think it’s a silly question at all! I’ll start by admitting that I’ve never made a gluten free bread, so I may be ignorant of some things specific to making that sort of bread.

    As far as proofing the yeast, dry active yeast should be fine and not really need proofing as long as you’re within the expiration date. But, to make sure your yeast is good, sprinkle it in, say, half a cup of warm water, whisk so that all the yeast gets wet, and let it sit for about fifteen minutes. You could even sprinkle a bit of sugar in there to give the yeast something to eat, but it shouldn’t be necessary – after fifteen minutes the yeast/water mixture should look creamy and bubbly.

    When you say mushy in the middle, do you mean uncooked, or it just didn’t rise up?

    I’m also thinking the sorghum flour and millet flour might just take longer to rise, period, since you don’t have the strength and support of gluten that you’d have in wheat-based bread.

    Would you want to share the recipe? I’d like to try it out, since I’ve never made a gluten-free bread before.

  5. When making baked goods that are gluten-free, I’ve found that 1tsp of xantham gum per cup of flour (I use an equal mix of white rice,brown rice, corn and millet)is necessary – the gum replaces gluten. No, it’s not perfect, but it works!

    Also, I personally stay away from any mixtures with garbanzo bean flour — i find it has a very metallic aftertaste and ruins the entire batch.

    Also, I use a bread machine and they come out pretty well… I’d recommend getting one at Wal-mart for $50 b/c GF bread dough tends to be VERY sticky and thinner than regular so it’s hard to knead… let the machine do it.

    Hope this helps!!

    Funny thing…. I’ve never been able to bake but since having to become gluten-free, I have been exploring baking!

  6. I think more like it didn’t rise properly. When it came out of the oven it tasted fine (and like normal bread which made me rather excited) but when I went to cut it, the loaf didn’t hold it’s shape too well and shrank after cooling off. Bummer.

    Here’s the recipe.

    1 C sorghum flour
    1 C potato starch
    1/2 C millet flour
    2 tsp xanthan gum
    1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
    1 tbs instant dry yeast – or rapid yeast
    sesame seeds (to top bread, optional)
    1 1/4 – 1 1/3 C warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)
    4 tbs EVOO
    2 tbs honey (or raw agave nectar)
    1/2 tsp mild rice or white wine cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    Ener-G Egg Replacer for 1 egg whisked with warm water

    This is the site I found the recipe on:
    http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2009/02/delicious-gluten-free-bread.html

    I followed the non-bread machine directions.

    Thanks a bunch! With Thanksgiving coming up I’d like to make it for my family.

  7. Here is the recipe that I have found to be the closest to the “real” broa from Northern Portugal (I’ve tried about five different ones!).
    2 tablespoons sugar
    2 packages active dry yeast
    1 package (8 oz) barley cereal (about 4 1/2 cups. You can find barley cereal in the baby food section of the supermarket), uncooked
    2 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal, preferably white
    4 teaspoons salt
    about 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

    1. In a small bowl, stir sugar and yeast into 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F.); let stand until yeast mixture foams.
    2. In large bowl, combine barley cereal, cornmeal, salt and 4 cups flour. With wooden spoon, stir in yeast mixture and 2 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F) until combined. With floured hands, shape dough into a ball in bowl.
    3. Cover bowl with kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (80-85 degreesF.) until doubled, about 1 hour.
    4. Punch down dough and turn onto well-floured surface. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes, working in more flour (about 3/4 cup) as necessary while kneading.
    5. Grease a large cookie sheet with olive oil. Cut dough in half and shape each half into a 6-inch round. Coat each round with flour, place on cookie sheet. Cover loaves with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
    6. Preheat oven and pizza stone to 400 degrees F. Bake loaves until golden brown, a total of about 35 minutes, using a spray bottle to spritz the loaves and inside of oven with water after first 5 minutes of baking, and again every 10 minutes thereafter. Alternatively, you can soak a brick in water and place it in the oven with the baking bread to create the steam.
    Cool on wire rack.

  8. So what do you think the cornstarch goo do to change the bread at all? Is it just necessary if you are doing it in a bread machine?

  9. My husband and I just returned from a trip to Lisbon and Porto. The broa was his favorite food of Portugal, thus I found myself the day after our return on this website looking for a recipe for broa. Your comment about putting a cross on the bread before baking relates very well to the many beautiful churches we visited in Portugal. I am going to look for a day off from work to try making broa, and a happy husband who will appreciate my effort, if not the final product. Thanks also to the Barefoot Kitchen Witch for posting this recipe. Thank you again for your comment, it adds much to our recent stay in Portugal. Sincerely, Louise

  10. My mom used to make broa when I was growing up and of what I can remember she used to pour boiling water over the corn flour (stone ground white, I think she used to use King Arthur) then let that cool a bit before adding yeast mixed with barely warm water then wheat flour and a little rye flour and salt then needed it and let it rise. then when it was time to bake she would sprinkle a bowl with flour and toss a portion of the risen dough in the bowl until all covered with flour then gently our into a pie plate so the loaf would be higher. we used to eat it with barbequed sardines and many times there would be some Caldo Verde.

  11. This bread is like the bread i used to eat as a child in the country when i would go with my friends and work in the fields and at lunch we would have home made corn bread with our meals, the bread is baked in some pretty large wood furnace. Sometimes they included fresh sardines whole with the bread.
    Yummy

  12. Wowsers! I have never in my life seen a bread recipe that requires goo! Oh well, I guess goo is good in some recipes. I was looking for a Portuguese cornbread and came across your site and I’m glad I did. Thanks for this recipe. I’m going to try it and report back to you… making caldo verde!

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