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.
1 cup water
2 pkgs active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
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.)
For the sponge – dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add the flour and stir until it's smooth.
Cover the bowl and allow the sponge to double in volume – about 30-40 minutes.
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.
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.
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…
But I guess we should get back to the bread.
I had some blue cornmeal on hand, so that's what I used for my corn flour.
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.
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).
Cover the loaves and set aside for an hour or so.
Hey – here's another sign that I made this bread last spring. Julia still had long hair.
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?
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.
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.
Let the bread cool on a wire rack.
Slice it up (or tear it apart) and enjoy. (With some caldo verde, perhaps…)
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.