Monday, October 18, 2010

Bread Baking Babes bake: Broa

I suspect my posting is of such frequency these days that you hardly notice that I was gone but just so you know; the husband and I were in Paris for 10 absolutely fantastic days and returned yesterday, more or less accidently managed to bypass the strikes in France and Belgium by travelling by train on Sunday morning. Carefully hand carried the fresh croissants and pain au chocolat we bought that morning to the boys for an afternoon snack.

It is just a short trip from Parisian French and their baquettes and croissants to the Portuguese and their Broa. We had the opportunity to sample the first for real but had to bake the latter myself.

Late again, late for my Babes post. Sigh. When will I ever learn? Of course the baking of this bread was on my list to bake long before we left for Paris but somehow my to-do-before-we-leave-list was expanding forever and the bread positioned itself to the bottom of that all by itself.  (Well I think it was me after all).

Elizabeth kindly opened up her kitchen to us this month and presented us with her choice of Portuguese Broa or maybe Pao de Milho.

I was surprised to find the white corn meal in the little Turkish supermarket so all was ready to go. I didn’t bother to find corn flour…. for the 2 tbs that are used. (And to be real honest, I am not entirely sure that I had the right corn meal.. I think I did but my dough was very very soft. Ish. Gooey even.) This bread starts out with a corn meal mush/porridge which is then kneaded with additional flour.
Baked it for longer than the recipe said to get a good color on it, so mine took about 45-50 minutes. Haven’t cut into it yet. I suspect from the heavy feel of the loaf the crumb will be very moist. Hum. Not sure.IMG_3129

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 ground²
  • 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 ³
  • 10 gm (~1¾ tsp) sea salt
  • corn flour, for dusting
  1. 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)
  2. When the cornmeal has cooled, pour lukewarm water into a small bowl; add yeast and whisk well. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Kneading: Sprinkle a little of the extra all-purpose flour onto the board. Plop the dough out.
  5. 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.)
  6. Knead the dough 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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 maneuvers is not more than a couple of tablespoons in all and probably much less (I have never actually measured). It's the merest dusting.
  9. 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.
  10. 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)
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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).

2.) and 3.) Corn meal is what is used to make polenta. Corn flour should NOT be confused with "corn starch"; it is dried corn that has been finely milled to look just like flour.


  1. It looks exactly right, Karen. And it sounds like the crumb will be correct if it feels heavy. (The bread is quite dense.)

    I'm looking forward to hearing how it tastes. Good idea to proof it in a basket so it gets those lovely lines.

    (I'm suitably envious of your trip to Paris, croissants and pain au chocolat.)

  2. Lovely loaf, Karen! Great colour.
    I am so envious of your trip! Next time take me with you...
    That's the nice thing about Europe, all those countries are smaller and so close together. I could drive for days and still be in Canada.

  3. I want to go BACK! I'm in real life again and it hurts! Hehe, no it is good to see the kiddos again but walking through Paris,an occasional stop for coffee or wine... that is eh different.

    I wish you gals could have been there! Also driving for days and be in Canada sounds nice to me too. Up for a switch Natashya?

  4. Looks perfect Karen! (I envy you Paris and the lovely croissants, but not the labor disputes.) Let us know how the crumb was once it cools, OK?

  5. Welcome back, Karen! Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Paris. Will you be posting any vacation pictures? I love Pain au Chocolat. There's a new pastry shop that opened not too far from here that I heard good things about.
    Your bread looks great. I like the lines on it from the basket you used. Will you be posting a picture of the inside view?

  6. I'm jealous, ah Paris... 10 days... ah...
    so well done that you made the bread so quick and posting too, your bread looks just perfect!

  7. That looks perfect! I am so envious that you can take the train to Paris.

  8. you've been to Paris for 10 days?gaAAAah=( I'm jealous. Broa is my kind of bread. Super like=)

  9. Looks lovely - and Paris... We only had 3 days. It was wonderful and I'm jealous LOL

  10. Perfect lookin bread. I loved the lined texture on the bread...Thanks for dropping by my space.


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